Tuesday, December 04, 2007
LONG LIVE HIS MAJESTY THE KING
hai people are gathering this afternoon outside Chitralada Palace, hoping to catch a glimpse of their beloved monarch, H.M. Bhumipol Adulyadej on the eve of his 80th birthday.
The King was born on Monday, December 5, 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his father, Prince Mahidol studied medicine. In Thai belief, each day of the week has an associated colour -- which for Monday is yellow. Thus the wearing of yellow is seen as an appropriate way to honour His Majesty, and many citizens (and non-citizens too) have been donning yellow shirts each Monday since well in advance of his 60th coronation anniversary in June 2006. The most stirring moment of that occasion -- outshining the many special events, fireworks displays and a river-borne procession of the royal ceremonial watercraft -- was the sight of more than a million well-wishers below the palace balcony, all dressed in yellow and chanting "Song Pra Jarern!" -- "Long Live the King!"
Only a few weeks ago there was great concern for his health when he was admitted to hospital, and tremendous relief when he walked out under his own steam -- wearing a classy pink blazer. One may wonder how a pink blazer can be classy, but he made it so. Suddenly there was a new option to honour him (pink had been chosen an auspicious colour for this year's royal crest), and sales of pink shirts began to rival the ubiquitous yellow. The international media made much of this new fashion trend kicked off by the King, but in truth it's nothing to do with fashion. People simply want to do as much as they can, with one thing in mind: to show, in any possible way, how much they love their monarch -- the Strength of the Land.
I was struck by something former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun said recently. In essence, he said that His Majesty is not only a great king, but even more importantly he is a good man. This is a quality which must be earned, and His Majesty has earned it.
"I have often said that the status that our King has risen to after 60 years' reign is something that he has earned. It is not a hereditary thing. When he was made a King at the young age of 17 or 18, nobody knew what kind of King he was going to make. But I think that by his diligence and by his determination and dedication, he has developed into a very good King," Anand said.There is no relationship on this earth which matches that of the Thai people with their King, and it's extremely difficult to describe with mere words. I feel very privileged to be able to experience it at first hand.
"When you talk about our King, he is not only a great King, but he is a good King. I make this distinction, for you can be great man with so many shortcomings and so many faults, but when you say he is a good man, to me it means more. So to me, the fact that he is a good King personally means to me much more than that he is a great King. To be a good King, to be a good man, is something you have to earn. You do not inherit [it]."
Later this afternoon he will give his annual address to the nation, which is always done the day before his birthday. I've always enjoyed listening to it, even when my language ability was much less than it is now. He has often advised his people to love their language and to speak it correctly -- and he leads by example. It's always a treat to listen.
Here's a short video clip from last Sunday afternoon, as he inspects the trooping of the colours.