Considered one of the most important days of the Thai people, December 5th is the king’s birthday and the day is also regarded as the nation’s Father’s day. Buildings and homes throughout the country are adorned with portraits of H.M. the King and flags, and the streets are decorated with fairy lights.
An alms-giving ceremony in the morning is followed by a festival of music and cultural performances and in the evening, the whole nation joins in the Candle Lighting Ceremony and witnesses a spectacular fireworks display. Road is closed to traffic on 5 December to enable people to walk and admire the beauty of the displays of portraits of H.M. the King and colourful illuminations. Most of all, this event provides the opportunity to witness the love and respect that the Thai people have towards their beloved King.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, on 5 December 1927, youngest son of Their Royal Highnesses Prince Mahidol of Songkla and the Princess Sri Nagarindra, the Princess Mother (formerly Miss Sangwal Talapat), and is the direct grandson of His Majesty King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and Queen Savang. The Coronation Ceremony came later on 5 May 1950. His Majesty continued his education in Switzerland, and returned to Thailand in 1951. While in Switzerland, he met the aristocratic Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, who has since become HM Queen Sirikit.
During that time, Siam had become Thailand, and was still unstable since the change from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy in 1932. The people of Thailand was still in need of a King who can guide the country into prosperity. The Thai Kingship was, and still is, seen as a strong pillar for the Thai people to hold on to, while there is still uncertainty in the political arena, even to this day. More than 60 years on, many can still remember His Majesty’s Oath of Succession to the Throne.
His Majesty the King has been the guiding light during his more than 60 years as King of Thailand, making him currently the longest reigning monarch in the world. He has seen 27 Prime Ministers come and go, and is currently with the 28th Prime Minister of Thailand. These two dozens or so prime ministers represented different political parties, different thinkings, different view points, so it can be said that His Majesty has seen them all, as he went through so many changes, disruptions, political turmoils and more. As a constitutional monarch, he is above politics. His main focus has thus been trying to better the livelihood of the Thai people, especially in the rural area, and far-reaching corners of the kingdom. He has also played the perfect diplomat between two warring sides of the different governments and political opponents during the many political upheavals in the recent Thai history. With all the political turmoils, the King has stood by the Thai people, and act as a strong pillar of righteousness and guiding light for the people to hold on to.
A constitutional monarch is above politics. He lives under the law of the kingdom, but cannot be involved in politics. In fact, all royals with the ranks of Mom Chao (Serene Highnesses) up cannot be involved in politics, nor have any voting rights, including not being able to join political parties nor become politicians. In addition, the royals should not show their slant towards any particular political parties
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is undoubtedly his people’s King; the Father of the Land. When he moved back to Thailand for good in 1951, he began his visits to his people almost straight away. He is the first Thai King, and Thai individual, to see every single corners of his kingdom. He has visited far-reaching places. Where there were no roads, he used helicopters; where there were no place for helicopters to land, he went by jeeps, horses, as well as on foot. It is said that he is the only individual in Thailand, past and present, and most probably the future, to see every single square inch of his land. Only until recently that the King has not been able to travel to the affected places due to health problems, nevertheless, his team has continued to visit and help out according to the King’s instructions. In addition, he has continued to contribute personal funds quick and fast to the needy, as seen most recently with the flooding disaster around the Kingdom in late 2010, when the King’s team was the first to act the fastest, while government team became the slowest, especially with all the bureaucracies they had to go through before help could be dispatch to the flooding victims. With the continual disputes within the political world, the Thai people are becoming more and more dependent on the King to guide them through everyday lives; a source of simple strength needed to lead a happy life in this ancient Kingdom. A King is the Father of the Land. It’s quite a simple concept, really. A father is expected to look after his children and give them the basic needs to live on, and provide good basic education for them, as foundation to make a living when they are grown up. The good children will then look after their father in old age, so that he will have a comfortable life after he retires. His older and wiser children were to form a group that would continue their father’s work, to better the lives of the younger children and bring peace and prosperity to the family and their home. The King, though, is father to over 60 million children, and growing. He has looked after his millions of children quite well, as witnessed by his actions through his visits, his projects, and his personal funds, all for the betterment of his country.
The Thai people, especially the rural Thais, need someone who really cares just to be there as a comfort among chaos. The King has been just that. Photos of the King and Queen adorn the walls of most homes in Thailand, for that reason. When they feel bad, they look up to the King’s photo for comforting thoughts. When they are happy, they look up to the King’s photo to thank him for having been their King. Happy birthday, King !