By Peter Cummins,
Special Correspondent, Chiang Mai Mail
Photos: Courtesy of the Bureau of the Royal Household
His Majesty the King and HM Queen Sirikit, wave to the crowd during
ceremonies Friday, June 9, 2006, in Bangkok. (AP PHOTO)
It is very difficult
to encapsulate the incredible
achievements of our beloved King in this short article. The writer, rather,
has highlighted just some of the events, honours and accolades which have
been dedicated to His Majesty, particularly in this auspicious year of his
Born on Monday, the fifth of December, 1927
at the Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts, HM King Bhumibol
Adulyadej the Great reaches his eighty-first birthday just two years after
celebrating sixty years on the Thai Throne.
As the Thai people - and, in fact, people all
around the world - honour this year’s anniversary of the birth of the
world’s longest-reigning Monarch, the Pattaya Mail presents this
supplement, prepared by special correspondent Peter Cummins, as a “Happy
Birthday” tribute to our beloved King.
In his Coronation Oath, promulgated on the
fifth of May 1950, the newly-crowned King Rama the Ninth vowed that, “We
will reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese
people” and in all the years which have passed since that auspicious day,
the concept of “righteousness” has dominated his reign. In fact, HM the King
has, throughout his more than six decades of rule, constantly revered the
age-old Buddhist concept of ‘Kingship’ as defined in the “Sutta Pitaka” of
the “Tripitaka” in which a King is defined as “Mahasammata” - a King of
Righteousness. The Buddhist scriptures also define the genesis of the
universe and the progression of evils which befall mankind: greed, stealing
and lying and the inevitable repercussions of censure and punishment.
Our King has steadfastly reigned by these
principles, embodying good kingship in his own life and example and often
speaking out against the affliction of the evils so clearly spelled out in
the Buddhist philosophy - evils and afflictions which seem to have become
progressively worse in the past tumultuous years.
There will inevitably be some familiar
material in parts of this story, for HM the King’s development projects have
been ongoing for more than 50 years and there is, of course, a historical
perspective which has been incorporated.
A ‘Simple’ Approach
HM the King’s philosophy to
development problems has been to “keep it simple”, relying on an intimate
knowledge of Nature and her immutable laws, such as using fresh water to
flush out polluted water or dilute it through utilization of normal tidal
fluctuations. The ubiquitous water
hyacinth, too, can be ‘harnessed’ to absorb pollutants.
The results of any development, HM the King
asserts, must reach the people directly as a means of overcoming immediate
problems, translating into “enough to live, enough to eat”, while looking at
a longer-term result of “living well and eating well.”
His Majesty compares this to using “adharma”
(evil) to fight evil, observing that both pollution and the water weed are a
menace, but they can be used to counteract each other, thus lessening the
damage to the environment.
HM the King himself practices this “simple
approach” and brings a down-to-earth approach to which the people can
readily relate. He studies and deliberates exhaustively on the particular
project and then reveals his thinking in short, easy-to-grasp titles. The
very simplicity belies the profundity of the philosophy, for each title
reflects a much deeper insight into a given problem and often, at the same
time, hints at the mode of operation to be employed.
A major working principle has been a true
knowledge of and reliance upon the immutable laws of Nature in solving
problems and resolving abnormal conditions, such as using fresh water to
flush out polluted water, as in his analogy “good water chases bad”,
referring to the hyacinth/water pollution problem in the Chao Phraya, for
It was in 1969 that HM the King, vitally
concerned about the Hill Tribes’ cultivation of and addiction to opium,
established the Royal Project, the first manifestation being a Hmong village
on Doi Pui in Chiang Mai Province. Development has now spread to Chiang Rai,
Lamphun and Mae Hong Son.
Over the years, the Projects have been
instrumental in the conversion of the poppy fields being turned into groves
of temperate fruits and vegetables. It is under the dynamic direction of HM
the King’s close colleague, friend and confidant, Prince Bhisadej Rajanee
who manages the projects from his base at Chiang Mai University, that there
are now five research stations and 35 Royal Project Development Centres
which incorporate some 300 villages, comprising 14,000 households and
approximately 90,000 farmers.
The Royal Development Projects Board, under
the Office of the Prime Minister, also serves as the secretariat for the
Chai Pattana Foundation which is directly responsible for the work related
to the Royal Development Projects.
Thus, more than three decades later, the
results can be seen in the new life that has come to many of the mountain
villages. Greenery has returned to areas once denuded of forest cover
through the highly-destructive slash-and-burn agriculture, leaving only
barren hills in its wake, and opium cultivation, a cause of extreme national
concern, is relegated to the dust-bin of history.
“The key to the success of the Project lies
in His Majesty’s guidelines,” explains Prince Bhisadej. “They focus on
obtaining knowledge, through research, avoiding bureaucratic entanglements
and swift action to respond to the villagers’ needs, while promoting
self-reliance,” he adds.
The effectiveness of this approach has been
applauded internationally. For example, in 1998 the Royal Project won both
the “Magsaysay Award for International Understanding” and the “Thai Expo
Award for the Highest Quality Standard of Thai Goods for Export.”
HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej shakes hands with The United Nations Secretary
General Kofi Annan at Klai Kangwol Palace in Prachuab Khiri Khan province,
May 26, 2006. Annan presented a human development lifetime achievement award
to His Majesty as the country celebrated the 60th anniversary of His
accession to the throne. Looking on is HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
HM the King’s own views are that development
must respect different regions’ geography and people’s way of life. “We
cannot impose our ideas on the people - only suggest. We must meet them,
ascertain their needs and then propose what can be done to meet their
expectations,” HM the King pointed out recently.
A Royal loss this year
It is with heavy hearts
that the people of the Kingdom mourned with His Majesty the King and the
Royal Family when, in January this year, HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana, the
late beloved sister of HM the King died of abdominal cancer at the age of
In November this year, Their Majesties the
King and Queen hosted the grand six-day farewell funeral ceremony for the
Beloved Princess. The Royal Cremation started on November 14 when the His
Majesty the King led the Royal Family in a ceremony at the Grand Palace,
beginning with religious rites for HRH the late Princess at the Dusit Throne
Hall inside the Grand Palace. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great
lit joss sticks and candles as Her Majesty Queen Sirikit looked on during
the religious rites.
The grand cremation ceremony for HRH the
Princess was held on Saturday, Nov. 15 at the Phra Maen Royal Ground in
Bangkok. HM the King, accompanied by Her Majesty the Queen, HRH Crown
Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, HRH
Princess Chulabhorn, Her Royal Highness Srirasm, Princess Sirivannavari, and
members of the Royal Family attended.
In the morning, the body of HM the King’s
sister was carried to a seven-story pyre where she was cremated. His Majesty
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-serving monarch, accompanied by
Her Majesty the Queen paid their last respects, then kindled a fire beneath
the funeral pyre after a day of Buddhist and Hindu rites for HRH the late
During the day, the royal cremation
procession for the late Princess Galyani Vadhana slowly moved past the Grand
Palace towards the crematorium. The Royal Great Victory Carriage carrying
the urn and remains of HRH the Princess was pulled by soldiers dressed in
A Brahmin priest helped elevate the urn of
the late Princess Galyani Vadhana on to the crematorium during the royal
Tens of thousands of Thai people placed
sandalwood flowers in front of a photo of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana at
Sanam Luang near the royal palace, as did millions of people throughout the
Kingdom at their local temples, during the funeral ceremony.
On November 18, Their Majesties the King and
Queen, accompanied by HRH Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, HRH Princess Maha
Chakri Sirindhorn, HRH Princess Chulabhorn and Royal Family members traveled
from Chitralada Palace to attend a religious ceremony to make merit for the
relics of HRH the late Princess at the Dusit Throne Hall, Grand Palace. HRH
Princess Ubolratana was on hand to receive the Royal Family members upon
arrival. Their Majesties then paid respects to HRH the late Princess’s
relics by performing religious rites with offerings.
one would expect from a Monarch defined as “Mahasammata”, or a “King of
Righteousness”, by all the people and who, upon his accession to the Throne
in 1950, embraced the “Tenfold Moral
principles of the Sovereign”, His Majesty has ruled quietly and without
Starting very early in his reign and
continuing to this day, HM the King, usually accompanied by HM the Queen and
second daughter HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, travelled to the far
corners of the Kingdom to learn first-hand from the farmers and peoples of
the rural areas about their problems.
Again, as with all his other interests, the
Monarch studies, observes, photographs and imbues himself with all the
relevant knowledge and facts that he needs to move forward with
recommendations, implementation of beneficial projects and follow-up.
The Thai Monarch is probably best known,
universally, for his unbending resolve to improve the lives of each and
every one of his people - a singular dedication to their welfare which has
been acclaimed from all corners of the world.
A lasting image of HM the King is that of a
man, often kneeling or sitting on the ground, poring over charts and
topographical maps of the area, while surrounded by local farmers and
villagers discussing their problems.
It has been recorded that HM the King has
spent more than 200 days per year, for more than three decades, in rural
areas where he has initiated some 2,000 projects aimed solely at improving
the well-being of his people.
Thus, through the illustrious decades of his
rule, HM the King has been the very embodiment of his “Oath of Accession”
that “We will reign with Righteousness for the Benefit and Happiness of the
The world’s longest-reigning Monarch, this
week celebrating his eighty-first birthday, and now sixty-two years on the
Thai Throne, continues to be, as he has been for the six decades of his just
reign, “The light of his land, the pride of his people and a shining example
to all peoples of a troubled world.”
It was during a visit to New York, as a young
King, accompanied by his stunning bride, Queen Sirikit, that HM the King’s
words were prophetic. Addressing a committee of the Metropolitan Museum in
1967, HM the King said: “Our world today is full of propaganda. Therefore,
before we believe anything, we should first look closely at the underlying
reasons. The Lord Buddha taught people to use their consciousness and
intelligence to study, seek and consider whether His teachings were the
truth that is believable rather than to believe (simply) because someone has
That was over forty years ago and, as we look
around at the sorry state of our contemporary world, HM the King’s words
still ring true.
All of us at the Chiang Mai Mail and
our family publications the Pattaya Mail, Pattaya Blatt, and
Pattaya Mail on TV extend our humblest wishes for a most happy 81st