NO 13

by Sarah-Jane Williams

An Entire Nation Mourns The Loss of Their Beloved Monarch

Previously the longest living reigning monarch in the world, and Thailand’s longest serving king, HRH King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX, was the ninth Thai king from the Chakri Dynasty.

Born in the USA, on the 5th of December 1927, and educated in Switzerland, he became Thailand’s king in June 1946, at the age of 18. As a young boy he never expected to become king, but events, including the death of his short-reigning older brother, led to him being next in line for the throne.

He was Thailand’s king for more than seven decades, with a reign that lasted exactly 70 years and 127 days. He passed away on the 13th of December 2016, following a period of sickness and several years of worsening health.

A much-loved and revered monarch by many Thai people, an entire nation mourns his loss.

Emotions Run High Following the Death of Thailand’s King

The news of the King’s passing hit the country hard, with hundreds and thousands of people taking to the streets, overcome by grief. A sea of yellow and pink shirts fills the roads, the colours associated with the King, and tears flow freely as people weep intensely for the deceased King.

Some people are in a state of shock, unable to comprehend, or unwilling to accept, the devastating news, with some refusing to believe the news and praying ardently for a miracle that will restore the King to life.

For many Thai people, young and old alike, the Thai King was the most stable influence in a land that has seen political, social, civil, and economic uncertainty. The loss has been keenly felt by many, with a pain likened to that of losing a close relative, such as a parent. Except the parent was one who many Thais had never actually met nor spoken with, just adored and worshipped from afar. The painful emotions are, nevertheless, very real, with some people fainting in the streets, some unable to function, and others continuing life in a daze.

People hold aloft placards emblazoned with the King’s image, and profile pictures on social media have changed to shades of black and grey, or, in some cases, simply a black square. For many Thais, it is as though a bright shining light in their lives has been suddenly, tragically, and heart-breakingly blown out. There is currently only sorrow in the Land of Smiles.

Thailand’s King as a Person

An accomplished individual with many skills, Thailand’s King was an author, linguist, translator, artist, poet, photographer, sailor, composer, and musician, amongst other things. He could play the saxophone, clarinet, guitar, piano, and trumpet. An avid traveler in his youth, he was also an inventor, holding several patents.

Often seen as a great leader responsible for many developments in Thailand, despite the country being a constitutional monarchy, the king is credited with numerous advances in various fields, such as agriculture, sustainability, irrigation, education, transportation, land reform, engineering, and healthcare provisions.

Conditions in rural parts of the country improved greatly during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a major reason why so many Thai people looked upon the King as a father figure. He was a monarch that genuinely cared about his subjects.

Love for Thailand’s King

Any visitor to Thailand could not fail to have noticed the many images of the King all over the country. Huge pictures stand outside governmental buildings and in many prominent public places, and stores, restaurants, schools, and various businesses proudly display pictures of the King. Pictures can even be found within lots of private homes, such was the love for the King.

Slogans such as “Love the King” and “Long Live the King” are equally ubiquitous, adorning anything from rear car windscreens and bumpers, to motorcycle helmets, book covers, t-shirts, and stationery.

The National Anthem plays every morning at 8 am and 6 pm, with people standing still and silent out of respect for the King and country, and the Royal Anthem plays before every single movie screening in all cinemas around Thailand.

The King’s birthday, December the 5th, was cause for nationwide celebrations each year, with schools, the military, and government departments often holding respectful ceremonies and writing heartfelt notes in books that were to be sent to the palace.

The majority of Thai people admired, respected, and truly loved their King, and ere proud and passionate in displaying their sincere feelings of devotion.

Passion for the King managed to supersede many other difficulties and challenges within the nation, bridging the gap between different social classes and people with opposing political beliefs; adoration of the King was the one uniting factor in the country.

What Next in Thailand?

The official mourning period in Thailand will last for one year from the date of the King’s death, with many entertainment and leisure options severely curtailed for at least a month. Already, TV channels and radio stations are only broadcasting royal news, with no music, movies, or shows being aired. Dark coloured clothing will be more and more noticeable, there is likely to be an increased police and military presence on the streets.

Whilst the funeral has yet to be announced, it is likely to be some time away, with a lavish ceremony that will reignite the acute loss felt by the people. Questions remain about the succession, though it is likely that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, the King’s only son, will eventually ascend to the throne.

Often said to be one of the greatest monarchs that the world has ever seen, may HRH King Bhumibol Adulyadej rest in peace, and may Thai people find their own peace in the wake of the King’s death and the coming months and years ahead.

TOP IMAGE: reuters