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Enduring love of the King and Thais
By Andrew Drummond
Worlds longest-reigning monarch is still revered as he celebrates 60 years on the throne
MONARCHIES around the world may be struggling to retain the love and allegiance of their people, but not in Thailand. Kings, queens and princes of many nationalities will fly to Bangkok this week to join King Bhumibol Adulyadej in celebrating 60 years on the throne.
For the Thai people, the worlds longest-reigning monarch remains the most revered figure in their lives, save for Lord Buddha himself.
Thailands strict laws forbidding criticism of the King are hardly necessary. An accomplished jazz musician, yachtsman, artist and author, the 79-year-old monarch also devotes great energy to helping his countrys poor and has repeatedly used his immense moral authority to save his country from turmoil.
King Bhumibol, the great-grandson of King Mongkut, of The King and I fame, was born in Massachusetts in 1927. He was thrust upon the throne in 1946 after his brother, Ananda, was murdered in the palace in Bangkok with his own pearl-handled revolver.
The new King departed for Switzerland to study political science, and during the early years of his rule his influence was curtailed by the military dictator Plaek Pibulsongkram.
But when students demonstrated for democracy in 1973, and the Army opened fire on them, the King earned his subjects devotion by opening his palace as a refuge to them.
In 1992, when troops again fired on pro-democracy students, he summoned the leaders of the coup and the pro-democracy movement to his palace to warn them of the harm being done to the country. Pictures of both men crawling on their knees in front of the monarch were flashed around the world. General Suchinda Kraprayoon, the coup leader, resigned and democracy was restored.
King Bhumibol intervened again this year as the Peoples Alliance for Democracy demonstrated against the alleged corruption and cronyism of Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire Prime Minister. He summoned Mr Thaksin, who duly announced that he would not be running again for office. My main reason is because this year is an auspicious year for the King, and I want all Thais to unite, he announced.
Mr Thaksins party called a snap election, which was boycotted by opposition groups as they had no time to prepare. Again the King stepped in. In a televised speech he called on the courts to sort the matter out. The election was declared void and a new one will take place in October.
After each incident the countrys leaders have thanked the King for his advice, albeit through gritted teeth. Indeed, Mr Thaksin will be master of ceremonies for the celebrations taking place over the next ten days. These have already started in Bangkok with exhibitions of the Kings work.
Over the next week the celebrations will continue with candlelight ceremonies and fireworks displays around Bangkoks golden-spired temples. Millions of Thais will don armbands with the message Long live the King. The climax will be a well-wishing ceremony in the Ananta Sarnakorn throne hall and a massive and colourful barge procession along the Chao Phraya river.
The finale will be a royal banquet for the worlds royalty and final well-wishing ceremony. This will be attended by the heads or representatives of the royal families of Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Mon- aco, Brunei, Bhutan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Nepal, Cambodia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Samoa, Tonga, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Morocco. Britain will be represented by the Duke of York.
When the celebrations are over, King Bhumibol will continue to offer sage advice to his most loyal subjects, even if it is dispensed through books describing the model conduct of his dog, Tongdeang. The monarch uses the dogs loyal and pragmatic behaviour in parables to inspire the Thai people. "
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