Today marks the 70th anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s ascension to the throne.
The King of Thailand is the longest reigning monarch in the history of Thailand and also the current longest reigning monarch in the world. As has been the case in so many occasions past, Thailand was turned into a sea of yellow as people dressed in the royal colour to show their devotion to the king.
Why is the king so revered in Thailand? In the eyes of many foreigners, this may be difficult to understand; after all, in other countries where liberal democracy is the ideal system of government, a monarchy may sound like an archaic, outdated institution. In Thailand, this is far from the case. The king occupies a central role as the heart of the nation; a unifying symbol of the history and royal tradition of the country, the head of state who has been a pillar of stability in an otherwise tumultuous political system, and a visionary who has placed the country’s development and the well-being of his people as his life’s goal.
The King as a unifying symbol: Thailand is a country that is built on history, tradition and culture. This is all represented by the monarchy, a centuries-old institution that provides a living link for Thailand from the present to the past. The King upholds the tenfold virtues of the king and represents Buddhist moral values, while also holding the title of defender of all faiths.
The King as a pillar of stability: Since Thailand’s transition from absolute monarchy to democracy with a constitutional monarchy in 1932, the country has frequently been in political turmoil, undergoing countless coups and protests. The only constant figure in this chaotic period has been the king, who has many times intervened to help preserve peace and stability.
The King as a visionary: The King is a visionary who has aided Thailand greatly in its development. He holds countless patents for inventions as wide-ranging as rainmaking techniques to water pollution reduction methods. He is the advocate of sufficiency economic theory, calling for moderation while also pursuing development. There is no doubt at all that the King has been a pioneer, blazing a trail for Thailand to follow. For this reason, the King is the only person to have ever received the UN Human Development Lifetime Achievement award; as said by Kofi Annan, “[His Majesty] has reached out to the poorest and the most vulnerable people of Thailand – regardless of their status, ethnicity or religion – listened to their problems, and empowered them to take their lives in their own hands.”
Let us commemorate this milestone and wish for the King to reign for many more years to come.