Rama IX of Thailand
|King of Thailand|
|A younger Rama IX|
|Reign||June 9, 1946 – present|
|Coronation||May 6, 1950|
|Born||December 5 1927(age 87)|
|Cambridge, United States|
Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
|Royal House||Chakri Dynasty|
Bhumibol Adulyadej (Thai: ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช; IPA: [pʰuːmipʰon adunjadeːt]; Royal Institute: Phummiphon Adunyadet; listen ▶) (born Monday, December 5, 1927 in the Year of the Rabbit), sits as the current King of Thailand. Publicly acclaimed "the Great" (Thai: มหาราช, Maharaja), he has the title Rama IX. The world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-serving monarch in Thai history, Bhumibol has reigned since June 9, 1946.
The root of Bhumibol longevity and endurance lay in his popularity. Although he has supported military dictatorships at times, starting with Sarit Dhanarajata in 1957, he has been wise to support only those dictators who have the support of the people of Thailand. He has been intensively sensitive and responsive to the will of the people when supporting military dictators. In 1992, the king supported the establishment of a democratically elected government. The most recent crisis erupted with the overthrow of democracy by the military in 2006. Bhumibol supported the military coup. He has sought to husband the return of political parties but has failed to sway the military junta.
Bhumibol has enormous influence in Thailand by merit of his hereditary throne, his posture of care toward the people of Thailand, his use of his enormous wealth to support projects that improve the lives of common people, and his accomplishments as an artist, author, and photographer. Similar to other reigning monarchs like Emperor Akihito of Japan and Queen Elizabeth II of England, Bhumibol's monarchy has continued because the people of Thailand want it to continue. As recent events in Nepal show, with the abolishment of monarchy and removal of King Gyanendra on May 28, 2008, even monarchs remain empowered only if the people agree.
Born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States, Bhumibol grew up as the younger son of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and Mom Sangwal (later Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani). At the time of his birth, the people of Thailand knew his as Phra Worawongse Ther Phra Ong Chao Bhumibol Adulyadej (พระวรวงศ์เธอ พระองค์เจ้าภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), reflecting his mother's commoner background. Had he been born a few years earlier, before his uncle King Prajadhipok passed a law allowing children of a prince and a commoner to be called Phra Ong Chao (a prince of a lesser status than Chao Fa, he would have been called Mom Chao (the most junior class of the Thai princes), like his older brother and sister. His name, Bhumibol Adulyadej, means "Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power".
Bhumibol came to Thailand in 1928, after Prince Mahidol obtained a certificate in the Public Health program at Harvard University. Bhumibol finished his primary schooling at Mater Dei school in Bangkok and then left with his family in 1933 for Switzerland, where he received his secondary education at the École Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande in Chailly-sur-Lausanne. He received the baccalauréat des lettres (high-school diploma with major in French literature, Latin, and Greek) from the Gymnase Classique Cantonal of Lausanne. He studied science at the University of Lausanne when his elder brother, Phra Ong Chao Ananda Mahidol, received the crown as King of Thailand in 1935. King Ananda Mahidol then elevated his brother and sister to Chao Fa status, the most senior class of the Thai princes and princesses. They came to Thailand briefly in 1938, but returned to Switzerland for further study, remaining there until the end of World War II in 1945.
Bhumibol ascended to the throne following the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, on June 9, 1946. Ananda Mahidol's death resulted from a gunshot to the head while in his bedroom in the Baromphiman Palace in the Grand Palace, under circumstances that remain a mystery. Bhumibol then returned to Switzerland to complete his education, and his uncle, Rangsit, Prince of Chainat, reigned as Prince Regent. Bhumibol switched over his field of study to law and political science to prepare better himself for his new position as ruler.
While finishing his degree in Switzerland, Bhumibol visited Paris frequently. In Paris he first met a first cousin once removed, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. Twenty one years old, Bhumibol became a regular visitor to the ambassador's residence visiting 15-year-old Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara .
On October 4, 1948, driving a Fiat Topolino on the Geneva-Lausanne highway, Bhumibol collided into the rear of a braking truck 10 km outside of Lausanne. He hurt his back and incurred cuts on his face that cost him sight in his right eye. He subsequently wore an ocular prosthetic. While hospitalized in Lausanne, Sirikit visited him frequently. She met his mother, who asked her to continue her studies nearby so that Bhumibol could get to know her better. Bhumibol selected for her a boarding school in Lausanne, Riante Rive. A quiet engagement in Lausanne followed on July 19, 1949, and the couple married on April 28, 1950, just a week before his coronation.
Bhumibol and his wife Queen Sirikit have four children:
Bhumibol, crowned King of Thailand on May 5, 1950 at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, pledged that he would "reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people" ("เราจะครองแผ่นดินโดยธรรม เพื่อประโยชน์สุขแห่งมหาชนชาวสยาม"). His ceremonial name is:
On the same day, he made his consort Queen (Somdej Phra Boromarajini). Thailand celebrates the date of his coronation, May 5, as Coronation Day, a public holiday. On June 9, 2006, Bhumibol celebrated his 60th anniversary as the King of Thailand, becoming the longest reigning monarch in Thai history.
Following the death of his grandmother Queen Savang Vadhana (สว่างวัฒนา, Sawang Watthana Phra Phanvasa Aiyeekajao), Bhumibol entered a 15-day monkhood (October 22 -November 5, 1956) at Wat Bowonniwet, following custom at the death of elder relatives. During that time, Sirikit served as his regent, later appointed Queen Regent (Somdej Phra Boromarajininat) in recognition of that service.
Although some refer to Bhumibol as King Rama IX in English, none use the name "Rama" in Thai. The name approximates Ratchakal ti Kao (รัชกาลที่ 9, literally "the Ninth Reign"). More commonly, Thais refer to him as Nai Luang or Phra Chao Yu Hua (ในหลวง or พระเจ้าอยู่หัว: both mean "the King" or "Lord Upon our Heads") or Chao Chiwit ("Lord of Life"). Formally, he held the title Phrabat Somdej Phra Chao Yu Hua (พระบาทสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัว) or, in legal documents, Phrabat Somdej Phra Paraminthara Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), and in English as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He signs his name as ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช ป.ร. (Bhumibol Adulyadej Por Ror; the Thai equivalent of Bhumibol Adulyadej R[ex]).
Plaek Pibulsonggram era. In the early years of his reign, during the government of military dictator Plaek Pibulsonggram, Bhumibol had no real power, acting as little more than a ceremonial figure under the military-dominated government. In August 1957, six months after parliamentary elections, General Sarit Dhanarajata accused the government of Field Marshal Pibulsonggram of lèse majesté due to its conduct of the 2,500th anniversary celebration of Buddhism. On September 16, 1957, Pibulsonggram went to Bhumibol to seek support for his government. Bhumibol told the Field Marshal to resign to avoid a coup; Pibulsonggram refused. That evening, Sarit Dhanarajata seized power, and two hours later Bhumibol imposed the martial law throughout the Kingdom. Bhumibol issued a Royal Command appointing Sarit as "Military Defender of the Capital" without anyone countersigning that Royal Command.
Sarit Dhanarajata era. During Sarit's dictatorship, the monarchy revitalized. Bhumibol attended public ceremonies, toured the provinces and patronized development projects. Under Sarit, the practice of crawling in front of royalty during audiences, banned by King Chulalongkorn, revived in certain situations and the royal-sponsored Thammayut Nikaya order revitalized. For the first time since the absolute monarchy had been overthrown, a king conveyed up the Chao Phraya River in a Royal Barge Procession to offer robes at temples.
Other disused ceremonies from the classical period of the Chakri dynasty, such as the royally-patronized ploughing ceremony (Thai: พิธีพืชมงคล), revived.. Upon Sarit's death in 8 December 1963, an unprecedented 21 days of mourning had been declared in the palace. A royal five-tier umbrella shaded his body while laying in state.
Thanom Kittikachorn era. Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn received the appointment as premier a day after Sarit's death in 1963. He continued most of Sarit's policies for a decade. During the 1970s, Bhumibol became a key figure in the Village Scouts and Red Gaur paramilitary organizations. In October 1973, after massive protests and the deaths of a large number of pro-democracy demonstrators, Bhumibol opened the gates of the Chitralada Palace to fleeing protesters, and held an audience with student leaders. Bhumibol subsequently appointed the Thammasat University Rector Sanya Dharmasakti as the new Prime Minister, replacing Thanom. Thanom subsequently moved to the United States and Singapore.
A succession of civilian governments followed, but the return of Field Marshal Thanom and his ordination as a novice monk at Wat Bowonniwet in 1976 led to renewed conflict. Protests against the ex-dictator escalated and came to a head when two newspapers (one English language and one Thai) published allegedly doctored photographs depicting Thammasat students hanging someone with a close likeness to the Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn in effigy. With the public convinced and being told so by pro-government agencies that lèse majesté had been committed, military and paramilitary forces attacked the University, leading to a bloody massacre on October 6, 1976. The official death toll stood at 46, but the actual figure may have been in the hundreds. No proper government report was ever issued.
Prem Tinsulanond era. A military coup ensued during the chaos that same evening. The junta submitted three names to the king to choose for the next Premier: Deputy President of the king's Privy Council Prakob Hutasingh, right-wing Bangkok Governor Thamnoon Thien-ngern, and conservative Supreme Court judge Thanin Kraivixien. Bhumibol chose Thanin as the most suitable. Thanin proved right-wing, causing student protesters to flee to join the Communists in the jungle. A military coup in October 1977 led by General Kriangsak Chomanan overthrew Thanin. The popular Army Commander-in-Chief, General Prem Tinsulanond, later the Privy Council President, succeed Kriangsak in 1980.
Bhumibol's refusal to endorse military coups in 1981 (the April Fool's Day coup) and 1985 (the Share Rebellion) ultimately led to the victory of forces loyal to the government, despite some violence, including in 1981, the seizure of Bangkok by rebel forces. The coups led many to believe that Bhumibol had misjudged Thai society and that his credibility as an impartial mediator between various political and military factions had been compromised.
Crisis of 1992. In 1992, Bhumibol played a key role in Thailand's transition to a democratic system. A coup on February 23, 1991 returned Thailand back under military dictatorship. After a general election in 1992, the majority parties invited General Suchinda Kraprayoon, a leader of the coup group, to serve as the Prime Minister. That caused vigorous dissent, escalating into demonstrations, the military responding by killing many protesters. The situation became increasingly critical, as neither side would back down and the violence escalated. Army and paramilitary forces loyal to the army and monarchy shot and killed many university students and political activists in Bangkok.
Bhumibol summoned Suchinda and the leader of the pro-democracy movement, retired Major General Chamlong Srimuang, to a televised audience. At the height of the crisis, the sight of both men appearing together on their knees (in accordance with royal protocol) made a strong impression on the nation, and led to Suchinda's resignation soon afterwards. The event marked one of the few public occasions Bhumibol directly intervened in a political conflict directly and publicly. A general election, held shortly afterward, led to a civilian government.
Crisis of 2005–2006 and the September 2006 coup
Background to the coup. Weeks before the April 2006 legislative election, the Democrat Party-led opposition and the People's Alliance for Democracy petitioned Bhumibol to appoint a replacement prime minister and cabinet. Demands for royal intervention met with much criticism from the public. Bhumibol, in a speech on April 26, 2006, responded, "Asking for a Royally-appointed prime minister is undemocratic. It is, pardon me, a mess. It is irrational". After publicly claiming victory in the boycotted April parliamentary elections, Thaksin Shinawatra had a private audience with the king. A few hours later, Thaksin appeared on national television to announce that he would be taking a break from politics.
In May 2006, the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned Manager Daily newspaper published a series of articles describing the "Finland Plot," alleging that Thaksin and former members of the Communist Party of Thailand planned to overthrow the king and seize control of the nation. The newspaper never produced evidence to verify the plot, and Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations, suing the accusers. In a rare, televised speech to senior judges, Bhumibol requested that the judiciary take action to resolve the political crisis. On May 8, 2006, the Constitutional Court invalidated the results of the April elections and ordered new elections scheduled for October 15, 2006. The Criminal Court later jailed the Election Commissioners.
On July 20, Bhumibol signed a royal decree endorsing new House elections for October 15, 2006. In an unprecedented act, the King wrote a note on the royal decree calling for a clean and fair election. That very day, Bhumibol underwent spinal surgery.
The coup. In the evening of September 19, the Thai military overthrew the Thaksin government and seized control of Bangkok in a bloodless coup. The junta, led by the Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Commander of the Army, called itself the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, accused the deposed prime minister and his regime of many crimes, including lese majeste, and pledged its loyalty to the Bhumibol. Declaring martial law, the military repealed the Constitution and canceled the October elections. Hundreds of Bangkokians came out to flock around the coup makers' stationed forces. The military officers received flowers or asked to take photographs with them. The military banned protests, arresting protestors. On September 20, Bhumibol endorsed the coup, and ordered civil servants to take orders from Sonthi.
The King's role in the coup drew much speculation by Thai analysts and the international media. The King had an audience with Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, ordering at the same time the mobilization of the First Special Forces. Anti-coup protestors claimed that Prem acted as a key mastermind of the coup, although the military claimed otherwise and banned any discussion of the topic. On Saturday September 23, 2006, the junta warned they would "urgently retaliate against foreign reporters whose coverage has been deemed insulting to the monarchy." The President of Bhumibol's Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda, supported the coup. The junta later appointed Privy Council member General Surayud Chulanont as Prime Minister.
After the coup. The junta appointed a Constitutional Tribunal to rule on the alleged poll fraud cases concerning the Thai Rak Thai and Democrat political parties. Guilty rulings would have dissolved both parties, Thailand's largest and oldest, respectively, and banned the parties' leadership from politics for five years. The weeks leading up to the verdicts saw rising political tensions.
On May 24, 2007, about a week before the scheduled verdict, Bhumibol gave a speech to the Supreme Administrative Court (the President also a member of the Constitutional Tribunal). "You have the responsibility to prevent the country from collapsing," he warned them in the speech shown on all national television channels simultaneously during the evening. “The nation needs political parties.” Bhumibol, who spoke standing but in a weak, rasping voice, was careful not to say where he stood on the merits of the case. "In my mind, I have a judgment but I cannot say," he said. "Either way the ruling goes, it will be bad for the country, there will be mistakes." The Tribunal later acquitted the Democrat Party but dissolved the Thai Rak Thai party and banned over 100 of its executives from politics for five years.
The junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Assembly later tried to use the King in a propaganda campaign to increase public support for its widely criticized draft constitution. The CDA placed billboards saying, "Love the King. Care about the King. Vote in the referendum. throughout the Northeast of Thailand, where opposition to the junta remained greatest.
Bhumibol retains enormous powers because of his immense popularity and the ambiguous boundaries of his powers. He vetoed legislation very rarely. In 1976, when the Parliament voted 149-19 to extend democratic elections down to district levels, Bhumibol refused to sign the law. The Parliament refused to vote to overturn the King's veto. In 1954, Bhumibol vetoed parliamentary-approved land reform legislation twice before consenting to sign it. The law limited the maximum land an individual could hold to 50 rai (20 acres) at a time when the Crown Property Bureau was the Kingdom's largest land-owner. After General Sarit overthrew the elected government in a coup, the military government repealed the law.
Bhumibol demonstrated his popularity following the 2003 Phnom Penh riots in Cambodia, when hundreds of Thai protesters, enraged by the burning of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, gathered outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. Police General Sant Sarutanonda told the crowd that he had received a call from royal secretary Arsa Sarasin conveying Bhumibol's request for calm, resolving the situation peacefully. The crowd dispersed.
Bhumibol has the constitutional prerogative to pardon criminals. There have been criteria for the selection of the convicted, including age and the remained serving time. But the 2006 pardoning of several convicted paedophiles, including an Australian rapist and child pornographer, caused controversy.
Bhumibol participated in many social and economic development projects, the nature of his involvement varying by political regime. The military regime of Plaek Pibulsonggram (1951–1957) suppressed the monarchy. During that period Bhumibol managed to initiate a few projects using his own personal funds. Those projects included the Royal Film and Radio Broadcasting Projects.
In the military governments of Sarit Dhanarajata and his successors (1958–1980), Bhumibol reemerged as the "Development King" and the source of the economic and political goals of the regime. He sponsored royally-initiated projects 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. The Sarit government heavily promoted Bhumibol's visits to those projects 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 reached 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 that period involved the development of large-scale irrigation projects in rural areas. During the modern period (post-1988), the structured development of the Royal Projects reached its apex. Bhumibol established the Chaipattana Foundation, promoting the Localism in Thailand theory, an alternative to the export-oriented policies adopted by the period's elected governments.
Bhumibol practices as an accomplished painter, photographer, author and translator. He based the book Phra Mahachanok on a traditional Jataka story of Buddhist scripture. In The Story of Thong Daeng, he relates the story of his dog Thong Daeng. In his youth, Prince Bhumibol had a passionate interest in firearms. Bhumibol suffers from lumbar spine stenosis, a narrowing of the canal that contains the spinal cord and nerve roots, resulting in back and leg pain and numbness in the legs.
Bhumibol, an accomplished jazz musician and composer, excels particularly the alto saxophone. He became the first Asian composer awarded honorary membership of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna at the age of 32. He played jazz 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.
Bhumibol became 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. Like his father, a former naval engineer, Bhumibol was an avid boat designer and builder. He produced several small sailboat designs in the International Enterprise, OK, and Moth Classes. His designs in the Moth class include the “Mod,” “Super Mod,” and “Micro Mod.”
Estimates of the post-devaluation (circa 1997–1998) wealth of the royal household range from 10 billion to 20 billion USD. The Crown Property Bureau (CPB) and the Privy Purse manage the wealth and properties of Bhumibol and his family. Through the CPB, Bhumibol owns massive amounts of land and equity in many companies.Thailand's Royal Wealth: How Thailand’s Royals Manage to Own All the Good Stuff. Asia Sentinel (March 1, 2007). Retrieved February 4, 2009.</ref> In addition, Bhumibol has numerous personal investments independent of the CPB. Bhumibol has a fleet of three personal aircraft: a Boeing 737-800 and two Airbus A319-100's.
Bhumibol receives protection from lèse majesté laws, punishing critics with jail sentences of three to 15 years. As stipulated under the Constitution, lese-majeste only applied to criticism of the King, Queen, Crown Prince, and Regent. Tanin, a former Supreme Court justice, reinterpreted this as a blanket ban against criticism of royal development projects, the royal institution, the Chakri Dynasty, or any Thai King. The reinterpretation has stood to the present day. Thai citizens committing lèse majesté usually receive harsher jail terms than for foreigners.
Bhumibol himself stated that he was not above criticism in his 2005 birthday speech. "Actually, I must also be criticized. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the king cannot be criticized, it means that the king is not human," he said. "If the King can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him because the King is not being treated as a human being. But the King can do wrong." Despite that, few have dared to call for the repeal of the law. Any doing so have been accused of disloyalty and could also be charged with lèse majesté. Accusations of lese majesty are often politically motivated. Academics have been investigated for lèse majesté for even questioning the role of the monarchy in Thai society.
Bhumibol's only son, Prince Vajiralongkorn, received the title "Somdej Phra Boroma Orasadhiraj Chao Fah Maha Vajiralongkorn Sayam Makutrajakuman" (Crown Prince of Siam) on December 28, 1972 and made heir apparent to the throne in accordance with the Palace Law on Succession of 1924. On December 5, 1977, Princess Sirindhorn received the title, "Sayam Boromrajakumari" (Royal Princess of Siam). Her title has been often translated by the English-language press as "Crown Princess," although Thais use simply "Princess" for her official English-language title.
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, that allows the reigning King, if he so chooses, to appoint his son or any of his daughters to the Throne.
In May 2006, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, presented the United Nations' first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award to Bhumibol. In 1960, Bhumibol recieved of the Royal Victorian Chain, a personal award of the British Monarch. Also on June 28, 1960, President Eisenhower presented Bhumibol 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, received the Bronze Wolf award on June 20, 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, witnessed by Chairman of the World Scout Committee Herman Hui.
|House of Chakri
Born: 05 December 1927;
|King of Thailand
1946 – present
All links retrieved May 30, 2014.
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