Category: Thai King

King Bhumibol Adulyadej 1927-2016

 

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A few selected links from Denis Gray, Paul Handley, and Christine Gray reflecting on the death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol after a 70 year reign:

Denis Gray described his encounter with Bhumibol on a trip up north with him:

The king clearly savored such encounters, bantering with rural dwellers and trying to solve their problems, even marital ones. He once told me the story of a hilltribesman whose wife ran away after he had purchased her with two pigs. The king decided the husband deserved compensation which would allow her freedom. “The only trouble was I gave the money,” he joked. “So the woman belonged to me.”

Paul Handley offered a more sober account of Bhumibol’s reign:

Yet like Tito, Bhumibol failed at securing a stable future for his kingdom. He had made his throne dependent on its alliance with the military, an institution that remains thoroughly corrupt and convinced of its right to arbitrate power. Amid this, the other key institutions of a modern parliamentary democracy have shriveled.

While Christine Gray was more optimistic:

The end of Bhumibol’s reign is an incredible historical moment, one of genuine grief for the late king, if not for opportunities missed during his reign. But also an opportunity for change.

 


Soul of a Nation, BBC 1979

I have heard about this documentary before but have never had a chance to see it and came across it on youtube.  Narrated by the illustrious Sir John Guilgud, we see the mystical Thai monarchy in all its glory with its Brahmin and Buddhist rituals, the king’s service to villagers, and his support of the Thai army’s fight against the Communist insurgency.  I’ve never heard King Bhumibol speak in English so it was a delight to finally hear a voice to all of the images I’ve seen of him in Thailand.  At forty-seven, Queen Sirikit had lost none of her beauty.  There’s a natural humility in this Thai king that you can feel listening to him that is absent from the flat images of him around Thailand that project a more distant persona.

It’s cut off at the end which is unfortunate as I wanted to hear Bhumibol’s candid answer to a provocative question.

This is a must see for anyone interested in Thai culture.