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Book Review

Book Review: Dr. Iain Corness

The King of Thailand in World Focus

The king relaxes with his famous and lucky dog, Tongdaeng. The adopted dog became even more admired after the king used her unusual characteristics and loyalty as a vehicle for his own parables about personal virtue and social order in a book. (photo: Kraipit Phanvut)

The royal couple in Sydney get to meet some pure Australiana-a koala and a baby kangaroo. The queen is holding a native dog from New Guinea. (photo: The Daily Telegraph)

The King of Thailand plays with the King of Jazz, Benny Goodman (photo courtesy Royal Palace)

King Bhumibol Adulyadej and President Dwight Eisenhower discuss the carved teak elephant the king presented to him before a state dinner at the White House in 1960. The king is wearing the Legion of Merit awarded to him by the American president earlier on the same visit. (photo: AP)

The Royal Family attend a private New Year ceremony in 1960 (photo: John Dominis-Time Life Pictures/Getty)

“Simplify all things,” the king once told a foreign reporter. “If one entrusts a project to expert, they write up big files, which no one understands”. (photo: John Everingham)

The King engaging in photography, long one of his favorite hobbies, with his young family in the palace grounds in 1960. (photo: John Dominis-Time Life Pictures/Getty)

Armed with his trademark maps, King Bhumibol confers with local officials high in the hills of Chiangmai. His focus is irrigation, new crops, farming techniques, and the complains of locals-sometimes against the self-same officials. He terms all this “preventive medicines.” (photo: John Everingham)

“The King of Thailand in World Focus” (ISBN 978-974-7348-54-5, editions Didier Millet, 2007) encompasses articles and images from the international press from 1946-2006. 60 years is a lot of ground to cover, especially on a man who has always been in the eye of the international media for all that time.
As we approach the 80th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, it is an auspicious time to look at the impact of this man on the world stage, and what better way than through his media coverage. This has been done by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT) collating some of the many articles that have been published about HM the King.
This new book is actually the second edition, the previous one having been published in 1988 to coincide with HM King Bhumibol’s 60th birthday. However, much has flown down the Chao Phraya since 1988. 11 of the 22 prime ministers who have been nominally in charge of the country during his reign, being just one example.
The contents are arranged to cover his younger years, the coronation, formative decades, the royals abroad, the turbulent years (which of course encompasses the deposed Thaksin administration), the working Royals, the Renaissance Man (showing the multiple talents of HM the King), the various milestones he has passed (and surpassed), Royal asides and then many appendices covering the Chakri Dynasty, Royal emblems and a chronology of his life and times. There is also an index that follows the names of the journalists who have contributed, including the Pattaya Mail’s yachting correspondent Peter Cummins, a man who has raced against HM the King, with his report of HM the King’s and his daughter’s dead heat for the gold medal at the South East Asia Peninsular Games in 1967.
As well as HM the King, the media coverage includes the Royal family with his parents and his children being featured, plus the unfortunate drowning of his grandson in the tsunami. One can very quickly see the respect that the world’s press has had for his children, with HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and her devotion to her father and her royal duties strongly featured. The People’s Daily in 2006 covering her visit to the village of Zhuang in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, noting that was HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s 23rd visit to China.
Robert Woodrow, writing for Asiaweek in 1982, showed wonderful perspicacity when he wrote, “Kingship is fundamental to the Thai perception of themselves as a proud and free people; without it, they would lose that identity; their cohesion and self-esteem would be shattered. While the Thais have pride, their monarchy will endure.”
Underscoring the turbulent years and HM the King’s part in defusing one of the worst scenarios as regards public peace, Time magazine gave many pages over to the Thailand situation. That HM the King managed to avert further bloodshed has been looked upon as almost a modern-day miracle. While others in power were losing their reason, HM the King did not. This is well illustrated by the Time article written by Jay Branegan and Peter Jansson.
Every page is illustrated with photographs, many being full color plates and the paper stock is heavy and high quality. Each item is dated and the publication named, as well as the writer if there was a by-line originally.
This very large, hardback reference tome is only 1450 Baht and is one of the finest books on the life of His Beloved Majesty. For that reason alone, every household should strive to get one of these limited edition books. With 60 percent of the profits going to HM the King’s charity and the rest to the FCCT’s educational funds, is just another stimulus, but the book stands tall on its own. Get one (if you can).
The book is available through all leading bookstores in Thailand including B2S, Asia Books, Bookazine and Kinokuniya.