I watched the sad news unfold of the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on twitter before letting the rest of my household know just prior to the official announcement from the Royal Palace which was broadcast live on TV here in Australia.
Apart from my wife and kids watching, I also have my Thai niece living full time with us and that particular night had another Thai friend sleeping over due to work commitments.
We all knew it was coming but it was interesting watching everyone processing the information in a different way.
My first visit to Thailand was planned for 1994. I cancelled it just before I was due to leave (long story) but did enough research to understand how special the King was to the Thai people. A very special friend by the name of Valerie Bock who had worked in Thailand for 20 years had also given me a lot of information about him. At first I was incredulous about it all. I figured that the Thai people must have been brainwashed or threatened for there to be such an amazing amount of respect for just one man.
Eventually, after visiting many times and then living there full time I began to understand that the love and the respect was indeed genuine and well deserved.
Just now I read this simple but heartfelt email from Greg Lange who is the owner of Sunbelt Asia. It summed up, in just a few paragraphs, the type of man King Bhumibol Adulyadej was and will remain for a very long time.
Many of you may have heard about the death of beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej who passed away on October 13, 2016 the age of 88 and during the 70th year of his reign.
You may have heard through the news about the nation’s deepest grief. Not a single face is without tears. Not a single word can be enough to express the sorrow we feel. The whole nation has once again united as one to share one of the darkest hours in its history; losing the heart of the nation who Thais love unconditionally and wholeheartedly.
For those who are not familiar with the strong bond between the Thai people and the Royal family, especially HM King Bhumibol, you may not understand why Thais had and continue to have such deep sorrow on His Majesty’s passing. In the rest of the world, there seem to be two kinds of Kings : those with absolute power, and those whose function is ceremonial and symbolic. The King fell into neither of those categories because on the one hand, he did not wield political power, yet on the other, he possessed a moral authority more powerful than that of any government this country ever had; he was literally the fabric that held this country together, the living embodiment of this country’s identity. Let me proudly and humbly share with you some of his stories I know…
His Majesty was born on the 5th of December 1927 in Cambridge, MA in the U.S. He was named “Bhumibol” which means “The Strength of the Land” by his mother who was originally born as an ordinary person and raised him well along with his brother and sister in a simple ordinary way, not in a royal luxurious way.
At the age of 2, he lost his father from a severe illness. At the age of 19, he lost his brother, HM King Ananda Mahidol from a mysterious accident. So, he had to accept the request from the government to start his service on the throne ever since. At the age of 20, he lost one eye from a car accident and he has used only one eye to work for his people throughout the long service of his monarch ever since….. 70 years of service without a rest.
His first royal statement as a king was “I will rule the land with righteousness for all the good and well-being of all Thai people” …. And he has done what he promised every single day of his life until his last breath.
Throughout 70 years of his reign, he traveled to almost every bit of the kingdom, mostly remote areas whose names are unknown to us, in order to visit his people and help them rid themselves of the problems they had and raise their quality of life. He created thousands of Royal projects to create foods, jobs and wealth for his people.
His Majesty’s palace is the only palace in the world where there are testing farms, agricultural inventions, cows, a school, satellite radio station and other inventions you wouldn’t imagine other kings would have in their palaces. He sacrificed his happiness, time, money and devoted his service for one single purpose; to create good lives for his beloved people. He had unconditional love for all the people, regardless of race and religion. His support was equal for Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. This is why Thailand is considered one of the freest religious countries in the world. He was a great teacher, creator, scientist, commander, farmer, and musician and above all, he was the only man in the country who could truly unite all the people as one.
He once said “My place in this world is to be among my people.” He taught us with words and through his actions to love, help, and give peace to each other.
He was someone who could have had a happy luxurious life if he wanted, instead he chose a very simple life and rough road to complete his given mission. His reward and life-time achievement was only one thing, the happiness of his people.
This is why Thais love him so much. In the end it was not his exalted status that commanded all this love – it was he, himself – his actions, his selflessness, his heart.
In remembrance of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej 1927-2016