Edit: This post as first published 3 days after the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej – now that the cremation ceremony is about to take place this month we felt it would be appropriate to highlight those thoughts once more.
In the past few days, I’ve seen many controversies both offline and online regarding the passing of our beloved King Rama IX.
It has come to my understanding that most people, especially foreigners from countries with no monarchy, find it hard to understand the situation in Thailand for the time being.
Why are Thai people so sad?
Why do Thai people love this King so much?
Isn’t 30 days mourning a little bit too much?
Now. I would like to ask you to be more considerate and try to put yourself in our shoes.
I highly hope that this article would help some of you to get a better understanding of our situation.
First of all, I would like to state that it is not government order that every shop closes down for the time being. The government just ‘suggest’ the mourning should be avoiding entertainment due to Thai culture.
Many might think that it’s overrated for over 70 million Thai people to be so sad over one person that, the chances are, has no personal connection with any of them. To understand this part, one must learn the core characteristic of Thai people.
Thailand is one big family.
I think that one of the core values of Thainess is the familiarity we offer to everyone. It’s in Thai culture that we treat everyone as our own family member. And that’s what special about Thailand too. The reason behind the ‘Thai smile’ is that we offer this smile to every stranger, no discrimination.
We treat strangers on the street as relatives. We call waiters and waitress, bro/sis. We call the taxi driver, uncle. We call the old lady selling food, grandma.
And we call our King and Queen, Father and Mother.
With this connectedness nature, all Thai citizens lost their dear father on 13th.
We truly love him as our own father! We are not exaggerating. He is everyone’s father figure. Someone we hold dear. Someone we respect.
But if he is just any ordinary king, it wouldn’t result in this much emotional effect.
Of course! He is not. He is one of those Kings you can put ‘the Great’ after his title.
The Greatest King Thailand ever had.
Unlike some country’s monarchs or Thailand previous Kings that receive respect just because of their status, King Bhumibol Adulyadej has truly earned the love and respect from Thai citizen. He was the King of development and self-sufficiency.
Maybe it’s because he was not King by birth. He was not an in-line king. That’s why he had been working extra hard to prove himself. For whatever reason, he changed the concept of kingship in Thailand forever.
Some excuse Thai people of still living in a fairytale with the whole monarchy situation, but I refuse that statement completely. King Rama IX was, most certainly, not like a King in fairytales.
If he was the monarch that just sits on the golden throne and enjoys luxuries from taxes, he would not receive this much love.
Our beloved king’s well-known outfit was a camera around his neck, a map on his hand and body full of sweat. That’s the King we lost. The King who was out there on the road, really inspecting the well-being of the country. The King who knew every river, every mountain and every village in this country by heart. The King who improved Thailand in so many ways which result in the developed Thai society nowadays.
There was a saying that ‘Wherever his sweat falls, the land improves‘. That’s not just a faithful saying about him being divine or magical either. Those areas really improved.
Firstly, because he brought the means and people to develop the area.
Secondly, because he united the people and gave them hopes to improve their own lives.
With or without the Lèse-majesté law, it is impossible not to love the late King Rama IX.
- He initiated agricultural projects that encouraged people in the rural area to work for royal farms. So that they won’t have to cut down trees or do any illegal activities.
- He innovated artificial rain to help with droughts.
- He ordered many dam projects to solve flood and drought problems.
- He taught us to be self-efficient and live with contentment.
And we don’t view him as God or semi-divine. No.
It’s true that some people still think of him as a higher class person with the King status. But it’s the things he had done for Thailand that really made the difference.
I found the comment in 9gag the other day which might give you a better picture. The 9gagers asked why Thai people love their King so much, and one Thai member answered
‘I have to write an essay about him and it would be a thousand pages long. That’s how much we owe him.‘
This might be a long article. But I hope you would understand the feeling of loss all the Thais are feeling right now. It’s just the feeling of losing a father. Who wouldn’t be sad if they lose their father? King Bhumibol was a father to more than 70 million citizens, and we love him still.
Please give us time to deal with this loss and the whole in our lives where the late King used to be. And I believe that, apart from the grieving, everything should be just like normal. Sooner or later this children, as a nation, shall find ways to move on….