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The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej

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King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world’s longest ruling sovereign ascending to the Thai throne in 1946.

History of King Bhumibol

king bhumibol adulyadej painting.thumbnail The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol AdulyadejKing Bhumibol Adulyadej was born Monday 5 December 1927 and is the current King and Head of the State of Thailand. Publicly acclaimed “the Great”, he is also known as Rama IX – or the 9th King of the Chakri Dynasty. Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he is the world’s longest-serving current head of state and the longest-serving monarch in Thai history.

Although King Bhumibol is a constitutional monarch, he has made several decisive interventions in Thai politics when there was bloodshed or when Thailand was in turmoil. He was credited with facilitating Thailand’s transition to democracy in the 1990s, although he has supported some military regimes, including Sarit Dhanarajata during the 1960′s and the Council for Democratic Reform in 2006-2008. He has also used his considerable influence to stop military coups, including recent attempts in 1981 and 1985.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Thai full title is “Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Bhumibol Adulyadej Mahitalathibet Ramathibodi Chakkrinaruebodin Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatbophit” (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช มหิตลาธิเบศรรามาธิบดี จักรีนฤบดินทร สยามินทราธิราช บรมนาถบพิตร)

He is reported to be the richest monarch in the world, with a personal net worth of $35 billion. King Bhumibol has used part of his great wealth to fund many royal development projects, particularly in rural areas of the country; many other projects came about at his suggestion and were funded by the Thai government. In 2006, Bhumibol was presented with United Nations’ first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been the only recipient of the award to date. Bhumibol has also set a world record for receiving the greatest number of honorary university degrees.

king and queen of thailand.thumbnail The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol AdulyadejBhumibol ascended to the throne following the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, on 9 June 1946. Bhumibol then returned to Switzerland in order to complete his education, and his uncle, Rangsit, Prince of Chainat, was appointed Prince Regent. Bhumibol switched over his field of study to law and political science in order to prepare himself more effectively for his new position as ruler.

While finishing his degree in Switzerland, Bhumibol visited Paris frequently. It was in Paris that he first met a first cousin once removed, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. He was 21 and she was 15. Bhumibol became a regular visitor to the ambassador’s residence and later married her.

thailand royal family The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej

Bhumibol and his wife Queen Sirikit have four children:

  • (Formerly HRH) Princess Ubol Ratana, born 5 April 1951 in Lausanne, Switzerland
  • HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, born 28 July 1952
  • HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, born 2 April 1955
  • HRH Princess Chulabhorn Walailak, born 4 July 1957

Royal projects

Bhumibol has been involved in many social and economic development projects. The nature of his involvement has varied by political regime.

The military regime of Plaek Pibulsonggram (1951-1957) suppressed the monarchy. However, during that period Bhumibol managed to initiate a few projects using his own personal funds. These projects included the Royal Film and Radio Broadcasting Projects.

In the military governments of Sarit Dhanarajata and his successors (1958-1980), Bhumibol was reportrayed as the “Development King” and the source of the economic and political goals of the regime. Royally-initiated projects were implemented under the financial and political support of the government, including projects in rural areas and communities under the influence of the Communist Party of Thailand. Bhumibol’s visits to these projects were heavily promoted by the Sarit government and broadcast on the state-controlled media.

During the civilian governments of General Prem Tinsulanond (1981-1987), the relationship between the Thai state and the monarch was at its closest. Prem, later to become President of Bhumibol’s Privy Council, officially allocated government budgets and manpower to support royal projects. Most activities in this period involved the development of large scale irrigation projects in rural areas.

thailand bhumibol dam The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej

During the modern period (post-1988), the structured development of the Royal Projects reached its apex. Bhumibol’s Chaipattana Foundation was established, promoting his “sufficiency economy” theory, an alternative to the export-oriented policies adopted by the period’s elected governments. Following the 2006 coup, establishment of a “sufficiency economy” was enshrined in the constitution as being a primary goal of the government.

Example Projects:

  • Rama VIII Bridge. Suggested by Bhumibol, funded by the government.
  • Huai Ongkod land reform project, Kanchanaburi province. Suggested by Bhumibol, using government-owned land.
  • Royal Medical Team. Bhumibol’s private physicians accompanying him on village tours are encouraged to provide medical care for local residents. In addition, Bhumibol sponsors physicians who volunteer to serve in hospitals in provinces where royal palaces are situated.

King Bhumibol Awards

In 1960, Bhumibol was a recipient of the Royal Victorian Chain, a personal award of Queen Elizabeth II, the British Monarch. Also on June 28, 1960, President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower presented him with the Legion of Merit, Degree of Chief Commander and Bhumibol presented President Eisenhower with the Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri.

Bhumibol, who serves as head of The National Scout Organization of Thailand, was presented the Bronze Wolf award on 20 June 2006, the highest award of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, for his support and development of Scouting in Thailand by Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden and Honorary President of the World Scout Foundation. The presentation took place at Chitralada Palace in Thailand and was witnessed by Chairman of the World Scout Committee Herman Hui.

Bhumibol set a world record for receiving the greatest number of honorary university degrees (136) in 1997.

In May 2006, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, presented the United Nations’ first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award to Bhumibol.

kofi anna king bhumipol The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej

60th Anniversary celebrations

Also called the Diamond Jubilee, the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty the King’s Accession to the Throne were a series of events marking Bhumibol’s reign. Events included the royal barge procession on the Chao Phraya River, fireworks displays, art exhibitions, pardoning 25,000 prisoners, concerts and dance performances.

royal monarchs The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej

Tied in with the anniversary, on 26 May 2006 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented Bhumibol with the United Nations Development Programme’s first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award. National holidays were on 9 June and June 12 -13, 2006. On June 9, the King and Queen appeared on the balcony of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall before hundreds of thousands of people. The official royal barge procession on 12 June was attended by the King and Queen and royal visitors from 26 other countries. On 13 June, a state banquet for the royal visitors was held in the newly constructed Rama IX Throne Hall at the Grand Palace, the first official function for the hall. The Chiang Mai Royal Flora Expo was also held to honor the anniversary.

On 16 January 2007, the CDRM officially declared the end of the 60th anniversary celebrations and commenced year-long celebrations of Bhumibol’s 80th birthday.

Private Life of King Bhumibol

Many do not realize that King Bhumibol has many talents. Bhumibol is a painter, musician, photographer, author and translator. His book Phra Mahachanok is based on a traditional Jataka story of Buddhist scripture. The Story of Thong Daeng is the story of his dog Thong Daeng.

In his youth, Prince Bhumibol was greatly interested in firearms. He kept a carbine, a Sten gun, and two automatic pistols in his bedroom, and he and his elder brother, King Ananda Mahidol, often used the gardens of the Baromphiman Palace for target practice.

Music

Bhumibol is an accomplished jazz musician and composer, particularly the alto saxophone. He was the first Asian composer awarded honorary membership of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna at the age of 32. He used to play jazz music on air on the Or Sor radio station. In his travels, he has played with such jazz legends as Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Lionel Hampton, Maynard Ferguson, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band. His songs can often be heard at social gatherings and are performed in concerts.

elvis thai king The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej

Sailing

Bhumibol is an accomplished sailor and sailboat designer. He won a gold medal for sailing in the Fourth Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games in 1967, together with HRH Princess Ubol Ratana whom he tied for points. This accomplishment is all the more remarkable given Bhumibol’s lack of binocular depth perception. Bhumibol has also sailed the Gulf of Thailand from Hua Hin to Toey Harbour in Sattahip, covering 60 nautical miles (110 km) in a 14-hour journey on the “Vega 1,” an OK Class dinghy he built.

Like his father, a former naval engineer, Bhumibol was an avid boat designer and builder. He produced several small sail-boat designs in the International Enterprise, OK, and Moth Classes. His designs in the Moth class include the “Mod,” “Super Mod,” and “Micro Mod.”

King’s Patent

Bhumibol is the only Thai monarch – and possibly the only monarch in the world – to hold a patent. He obtained one in 1993 for a waste water aerator named “Chai Pattana” and several patents on rainmaking since 1955: the “sandwich” rainmaking patent in 1999 and lately the “supersandwich” patent in 2003.

King Bhumibol’s Wealth

Estimates of the post-devaluation (circa 1997-1998) wealth of the royal household range from 10 billion to 20 billion USD. In August 2008 the magazine Forbes came out with its 2008 version of The World’s Richest Royals. King Bhumibol took first place on the list with an estimated wealth of $35 billion. A few days later the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand issued a statement that the Forbes report erred, attributing wealth owned by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) solely to Bhumibol. The wealth and properties of Bhumibol and the royal family are managed by the Crown Property Bureau and the Privy Purse. The CPB was established by law but is managed independently of the Thai Government and reports only to Bhumibol.

Through the CPB, Bhumibol and the royal family own massive amounts of land and equity in many companies. The CPB is the majority shareholder of Siam Cement (the largest Thai industrial conglomerate), Christiani & Nielsen (one of the largest Thai construction firms), Deves Insurance (which holds a monopoly on government property insurance and contract insurance), Siam Commercial Bank (one of the largest Thai banks), and Shin Corporation (a major Thai telecommunications firm, through the CPB’s holdings in Siam Commercial Bank). The CPB also rents or leases about 36,000 properties to third parties, including the sites of the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, Siam Paragon and the Central World Tower. The CPB spearheaded a plan to turn Bangkok’s historical Rajadamnoen Avenue into a shopping street known as the “Champs-Élysées of Asia” and in 2007. Bhumibol’s substantial income from the CPB, estimated to be at least five billion baht in 2004 alone. The CPB receives many state privileges. Although the Ministry of Finance technically runs the CPB, it is alleged that decisions are made solely by Bhumibol. It is claimed that the CPB’s annual report is for the eyes of Bhumibol alone; the annual report is not released to the public.

In addition, Bhumibol has numerous personal investments independent of the CPB. He is personally the majority shareholder of the Thai Insurance Company and Sammakorn, as well as many other companies.

The CPB has a fleet of three aircraft for the use of the royal family, including a Boeing 737-800 and an Airbus A319. The newer Airbus had been purchased by the Thaksin Shinawatra government for government use, but after the 2006 coup, the junta offered it to the king. The other planes are used by members of the royal family.

Among other vehicles, Bhumibol owns two custom-built stretch limousines from LCW Automotive Corp.

Succession to the Throne

Bhumibol’s only son, Prince Vajiralongkorn, was given the title “Somdej Phra Boroma Orasadhiraj Chao Fah Maha Vajiralongkorn Sayam Makutrajakuman” (Crown Prince of Siam) on 28 December 1972 and made heir apparent to the throne in accordance with the Palace Law on Succession of 1924.

thailand prince heir throne The Great King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej

On 5 December 1977, Princess Sirindhorn was given the title, “Siam Boromrajakumari” (Princess Royal of Siam). Her title is often translated by the English-language press as “Crown Princess”, although her official English-language title is simply “Princess”.

Although the constitution was later amended to allow the Privy Council to appoint a princess as successor to the throne, this would only occur in the absence of an heir apparent. This amendment is retained in Section 23 of the 1997 “People’s Constitution.” This effectively signaled Princess Sirindhorn as second in line to the throne, but did not affect Prince Vajiralongkorn’s status as heir apparent.

Recent constitutions of Thailand have made the amendment of the Palace Law of Succession the sole prerogative of the reigning King. According to Gothom Arya, former Election Commissioner, this allows the reigning King, if he so chooses, to appoint his son or any of his daughters to the Throne.

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