The World’s Longest-Reigning Monarch
On this most auspicious occasion
of His Majesty the King’s 7th cycle, 84th birthday, all of us at the Chiang Mai
Mail, part of the Pattaya Mail Media group, which includes the Pattaya Mail,
Pattaya Blatt and Pattaya Mail on TV would like to join the entire Kingdom of
Thailand in wishing His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great a very happy
birthday. Long Live His Majesty the King!
By Peter Cummins, Special Correspondent, Pattaya Mail and
Chiang Mai Mail Photos: Courtesy of the Royal Household
The World’s Longest-Reigning Monarch
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, over the
long years of his reign, culminating in this auspicious year of his Seventh
Cycle, 84th birthday.
Born on Monday, the fifth of December, 1927 at the Mount Auburn Hospital,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great reaches his
eighty-fourth birthday, also celebrating sixty five years on the Thai Throne.
In his Coronation Oath, promulgated on the fifth of May 1950, the newly-crowned
Rama the Ninth vowed that, “We will reign with righteousness for the benefit and
happiness of the Siamese people” and, in the six decades which have passed since
that auspicious day, the concept of “righteousness” has dominated his reign. In
fact, HM the King has 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 few 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.
As His Majesty reaches his Seventh Cycle eighty-fourth birthday this day, 05
December 2011, the Thai Nation celebrates again, in a thousand different ways,
with every person from the youngest to the oldest renewing the pledge of loyalty
and devotion to the beloved King who, during this year also celebrated his
sixty-first year of marriage to Queen Sirikit.
This past year also inaugurated a year-long celebration of the sixty-fifth
anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the Thai Throne, on 9 June 1946, as
the Ninth King of the Rama Dynasty, making him now the world’s longest-reigning
Born on Monday, the fifth of December 1927, at the Mount Auburn Hospital,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej was named “Baby Songkhla”
by the hospital staff, for there was not an official name for the future King.
The Chiang Mai Mail presents this supplement, prepared by special correspondent
Peter Cummins, as a “Happy Birthday” tribute to our beloved King.
Tributes Pouring In
There have been so many tributes to our King from all corners of the world over
the past couple years, that here it is only possible to outline some of them.
One of the most pervasive has been in the form of Musical Tributes, not
surprisingly, as His Majesty is an acknowledged composer of classical music and
an exceptionally-talented jazz aficionado.
An Austrian ensemble who, despite never having worked together, recently
succeeded in producing an album - the Royal Lullaby - that is faithful to the
integrity and authenticity of the original pieces, and in the process created a
musical repertoire of international calibre.
“It all started last December where we all met for the first time. I played for
Her Majesty the Queen and was asked to include His Majesty’s Love In Spring in
the programme. I didn’t know the music or what to expect so was very curious and
I came here and just fell in love with the music,” said Austrian solo violinist
Wolfgang David, one of the musicians who performed for the album.
David and the album’s producer Chris Craker were recently in Bangkok to discuss
the assembled work. David also arrived to perform a few pieces from the album at
the launch held recently at the Sukhothai Hotel.
The Royal Lullaby album also showcases the talents of the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra, Swiss Conductor Emmanuel Siffert and local pianist Indhuon
Srikaranonda. Revered Thai National Artist Prof Manrat Srikaranonda was also
involved in the musical production.
Commissioned by Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, the album
highlights 10 compositions that reveal HM the King’s musical ingenuity,
including the well-known Lullaby and Summertime.
“These works are very important, because I believe Thai musicians have gleaned a
lot of influence from Western music, but I think that American and European
listeners will appreciate this type of music too,” said David explaining the
necessity of creating an album of this stature.
On HM the King’s compositions, David said, “The music is uplifting, which makes
it very human. That’s why I love to play it because I also believe that music
should lift people’s minds - it’s not just about having a good time for an hour
in a concert.”
Craker acknowledged that while His Majesty the King is already a respected
figure in the international community, these newly-arranged pieces will further
enable Western audiences to enjoy the music.
Craker also noted that the album’s juxtaposition of classical and jazz
compositions was quite unusual. “There are elements of Thai folk music in the
melodies, but I think His Majesty is greatly knowledgeable on Western music and
he has been able to embody all those styles and influences with his own
concepts,” he added.
“It’s different in that most of the pieces were already written, but the
arrangements were not. The melodies have been around for many years, but this
orchestration of them is new. There are no right or wrong arrangements, only how
people will feel towards the music.”
As an interpreter of the melodies, Chris Craker understood the responsibility
that he had in communicating HM the King’s music to an international audience.
Another tribute to HM the King’s musical talents came from the Nagoya
Philharmonic Orchestra which, during the annual Toyota Classics concert featured
the internationally-acclaimed Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of
Tatsuya Shimono, showcasing two of HM’s musical masterpieces in its programme;
namely Kwam Fun Un Soong Sood (A Dream Most Noble) and Paendin Kong Rau (Our
HM the King is also well-known as a songwriter who has more than 40 published
songs to his credit. Kwarm Fun Un Soong Sood, a symphonically-conceived piece,
was written in 1971 and has since become one of HM’s most popular and loved
Yet another musical evening was held by the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra to
celebrate His Majesty’s 69th birthday. The Orchestra performed a special concert
under the baton of Hikotaro Yazaki, featuring soloist Pornphan Banternghansa on
the piano, at the Thailand Cultural Centre.
The programme comprised Fanfare and Rhapsody for a Royal Celebration, a
specially-composed piece for the celebration by UK composer Simon Wallace, which
was followed by Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43 for Solo Piano, by
Rachmaninoff, and concluded with Symphony No. 4 by Brahms.
An evening of HM the King’s music was led by Sasin Alumni Associations in a
concert entitled “The Royal Composition of His Life Journey: The King and His
Music” to celebrate the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King’s accession to
During the presentation, the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra performed His Majesty’s
compositions as arranged in an orchestral style by Rear Admiral ML Usni Pramoj,
who was also the conductor.
So many special events up to and for the King’s Seventh Cycle Birthday
It was five years ago, In 2006, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his
accession to the Thai Throne, HM the King and Queen presided over splendid
festivities as representatives of 25 royal houses from Europe, Africa, the
Middle East and Asia had come to Bangkok to honour His Majesty King Bhumibol
Adulyadej the Great.
The royal guests came from near and far to enjoy Thai hospitality and the
friendship of the Thai Royal Family.
But - and, perhaps, more significantly - to honour this celebration, millions of
people, packed the areas around Bangkok’s Royal Plaza to hear HM the King
deliver a rare public address in which he called for national unity.
“The responsibility to preserve the nation,” His Majesty reminded his subjects,
“does not belong to any particular person but to all Thais who must do their
utmost to develop the country and make it prosperous, stable and peaceful,” he
said. “Therefore, I, as a Thai, have the same responsibility as all Thais do.”
In November, 2006, Time Magazine honoured the King an ‘Asian Hero’ among 65
prominent figures so designated.
“The King’s stewardship has been so masterful that in times of crisis, Thais
invariably turn to one man: King Bhumibol,” writes the article published in the
magazine’s Nov 13, 2006 issue. “On two occasions - October 1973 and May 1992”,
Time editorialized - “with Thailand descending into chaos, the King, armed only
with his moral authority, intervened to end bloodshed.”
Elsewhere, His Majesty had been named the first recipient of the Norman E
Borlaug World Food Prize Medallion in recognition of His Majesty’s outstanding
humanitarian service in alleviating starvation and poverty, presented by the
World Food Prize Foundation on July 23, 2007.
The medallion is named in honour of the World Food Prize founder and Nobel Peace
Prize Laureate Dr Norman Borlaug.
“Since his accession to the throne in 1946, King Bhumibol Adulyadej has
displayed a deep concern that the Thai people have sufficient food and proper
nutrition,” said Ambassador Kenneth M Quinn, president of the World Food Prize
The royal projects have benefited million of people across Thailand, with a
particular focus on aiding ethnic groups and hill tribes in mountainous regions.
“Dr Borlaug tells of his visits to Thailand and the time he spent meeting with
His Majesty and walking through the countryside with him as they discussed
possible new approaches to agriculture,” said Mr Quinn.
The King was also lauded by Kofi Anan, then Secretary-General of the United
Nations, as the “Development King”, acknowledging his dedication to promote
child health, combat iodine deficiency and increase access to education.
At the same time, the United Nations Development Programme presented His Majesty
the UNDP Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award “in recognition of the
global relevance of his call for a sufficiency approach to development” (May,
More recently, the Budapest-based International Federation of Inventors’
Association (IFIA) presented the IFIA Cup 2007 for His Majesty’s Chai Pattana
wheel used to treat water. The IFIA also presented its Genius Medal prize to
honour His Majesty’s Self-Sufficiency Philosophy, and his New Theory, which
revives farming techniques, based on Thai wisdom focusing on minimal use of
resources but aiming for higher agricultural productivity.
During the past year, building up to the birthday, innumerable events have been
held, ranging from jazz festivals, to a Poh Chang Art Gallery exhibition,
featuring “Paintings to Cherish the Royal Guidance of the King”, to bowling,
golf and yacht-racing events. Pattaya City put forward a number of events, with
the unifying theme of “nine”, to cover many activities. One unusual tribute
comes from Taiwan’s business community which chartered a plane to fly Thai
workers in Taiwan back to Thailand.
Development for the People
HM the King established several Royal Development Study Centres - or, as they
are better known - “Living Museums” - situated in the roughest terrain in their
respective regions. These centres are the locale for experiments in
reforestation, irrigation, land development and farm technology which are
conducted to find practical applications within the constraints of local
conditions, geography and topography. His Majesty’s aim is to restore the
natural balance, to enable people to become self-supporting.
The first centre organized was that of Khao Hin Son, in the rocky area of
Chachoengsao’s Phanom Sarakam District. Here, the centre studies how to turn the
barren soil, caused by deforestation, back into fertile land again.
Other centres are located at strategic places around the Kingdom.
The Pikul Thong Centre at Narathiwat studies the swampy, acidic land of the
southern-most region. The Phu Phan Centre in Sakon Nakhon studies soil salinity
and irrigation in the country’s biggest region, the Northeast, which suffers
from endemic drought. The Krung Kraben Bay Centre in Chantaburi examines the
rehabilitation of mangrove forests and coastal areas following massive
destruction. The Huay Sai Centre in Petchaburi studies the rehabilitation of
degraded forests and shows villagers, in their turn, how to protect the forests.
When he was in doubt, HM the King would fly over a particular area, armed with
aerial photographs and maps of the terrain, noting features as they passed
underneath. And, being a good photographer himself, he also took His own
pictures, later to juxtapose them on area charts to obtain a complete and
detailed image of the specifics which helped his planning of various development
His Majesty’s insightful approach to local prevailing conditions has enabled him
to improvise new theories for agricultural development, to provide guidelines
for educating farmers on self-sufficiency, and to solve problems of goitre by
feeding iodine into salt roads at strategic points.
In all these works, His Majesty has promoted a simple approach using
environmentally friendly techniques and utilizing moderate amounts of locally
available resources. For example, before environmentalism became a major force
in the development equation, His Majesty was using vetiver grass to prevent
erosion, controlling ground water level to reduce soil acidity, and seeding
clouds with simple materials such as dry ice, to produce rain.
A ‘Simple’ approach
The King’s philosophy to development problems has been to “keep it simple” -
relying on an intimate knowledge of Nature and her immutable law, 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, 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
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.
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.
The King undertook the establishment of the Royal Development Projects in 1969,
primarily as a means of arresting the opium growing and deforestation caused by
the Hilltribes’ slash and burn agriculture and to improve their standard of
living. The first was established at a Hmong village on Doi Pui in Chiang Mai
Province and now has 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.
Under the dynamic direction of the King’s close colleague, Prince Bhisadej
Rajani, who is the Director of the Projects, operating from his base at Chiang
Mai University, there are currently four 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. Now, more
than three decades later, the results can be seen in the new life which has come
to many of the mountain villages. Greenery has returned to once-denuded forest
areas and barren hills and the opium cultivation, a cause of extreme national
concern, is virtually a past era.
“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 attaining the quality standard of Thai Goods for Export.
HM the King’s own views are that development must respect different regions,
geography and peoples’ 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.
The King’s ideas are in direct contrast to the bureaucracy’s wish to impose
standards from the top down, with the inflexibility inherent therein. “Don’t be
glued to the textbook,” he admonishes developers “who,” he said, “must
compromise and come to terms with the natural and social environment of the
The King sees no need to spare any sensitivities - if there are any - because he
feels that the government approach is costly and authoritarian which is why it
has “failed miserably to address the country’s problems.”
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 Siamese People.”
The world’s longest-reigning Monarch, this week celebrating his eighty-fourth
birthday, continues to be, as he has been for the half-century 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.
All of us at the Chiang Mai Mail and the other members of the Pattaya Mail
Publishing Company; Pattaya Mail, Pattaya Blatt, and Pattaya Mail TV, join the
Kingdom in wishing His Majesty a most Happy Birthday, long life and our
sincerest thanks for allowing a similar celebration of “Fathers’ Day, 2011"
throughout the Kingdom.