Monarchy

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Monarchy

The institution of the monarchy in Thailand is in many ways unique, often difficult for outsiders to fully comprehend. Not only does it have a history going back more than seven hundred years, but it has also managed to preserve its relevance and vitality in the contemporary world. Even though the monarchy in its absolute form ended in 1932, the institution today continues to command deep, universal respect and serves as a unifying element for the country. This was evident in the unprecedented outpouring of public pride and affection that greeted such occasions as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 60th anniversary of Accession to the Throne and his 80th Birthday in 2006 and 2007, respectively, and is also apparent in countless other ways, big and small.

The love and reverence the Thai people have for their King stem in large part from the distinctive form the modern monarchy has taken under King Bhumibol’s reign, one that involves a remarkable degree of personal contact. At the same time, it is rooted in attitudes that can be traced to the earliest days of Thailand as a nation and in some of the past rulers who continue to serve as models of kingship.

Background to a Modern Kingship
Thai concepts of monarchy have their origins in Sukhothai, founded in the early part of the 13 th century and generally regarded as the first truly independent Thai kingdom. Here, particularly under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great (1275-1317), was born the ideal of a paternalistic ruler alert to the needs of his people and aware of the fact that his duty was to guide them, a view markedly different from the divine kingship practiced by the Khmers.

The paternalistic ideal was at times lost during the long Ayutthaya period, when Khmer influence regarding kingship reappeared and the monarch became a lofty, inaccessible figure, rarely seen by most citizens. Nevertheless, the four-century era witnessed the reigns of some remarkable rulers whose achievements were far reaching.

With the founding of the Chakri dynasty in 1782 and the establishment of Bangkok as the capital, kingship was based primarily on adherence to Buddhist concepts of virtue. The Bangkok period has produced a succession of unusually able rulers, capable of meeting a variety of challenges both to the country and to the monarchy itself.

Presently, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic form of government. Since 1932, kings of Thailand have exercised their constitutional legislative powers through a bicameral National Assembly, which currently comprises a House of Representatives elected by popular vote and a senate, with one half elected and the other half appointed through the constitutional process. Thai kings exercise executive powers through the cabinet headed by a prime minister, and judicial powers through the law courts. While not directly involved in Thailand's political life, the King exerts a strong moral influence on carefully selected issues.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej: The Working Monarch
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States, where his father, Prince Mahidol of Songkhla, was studying medicine. After his father’s death, he lived mostly in Switzerland with his family. He had a relatively normal youth, displaying notable talents in both music and engineering and becoming fluent in 3 European languages – English, French and German – as well as being at ease in different cultures. When his brother died, he became the 9th Chakri king. Married to Queen Sirikit, King Bhumibol is the father of four grown children. Like the King, all members of the Royal Family perform duties in the interest and welfare of the Thai people.

In his Oath of Accession to the Throne, King Bhumibol Adulyadej pledged to “reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people”. In 1955, the King and Queen made a pioneering trip to the impoverished northeast, then an impoverished, remote region that had never seen a ruling monarch in person and that also, with reason, felt neglected by the central government. The response was overwhelming. The decision to bring the monarchy into direct contact with the provincial population was perhaps the most important of all those taken by His Majesty. He has become the most traveled monarch in Thai history, as well as the best informed about a wide range of rural problems and issues.

To the world, Thailand's face is that of its beloved Monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Admired for his efforts to advance the well-being of the Thai people, particularly those in rural areas, he has provided inspiration far beyond Thailand's borders. The more than 3,000 projects he has initiated have caught the attention of foreign governments and global development experts seeking innovative solutions to poverty, uneven distribution of income and related social problems. Those contributions have been recognised in a multitude of honours-including more than 30 international awards and 20 plus honorary degrees-bestowed upon him for his work. Time Magazine has also featured him on its covers.

More recently, the US-ASEAN Business Council, Inc. in a resolution from the Executive Committee recognized His Majesty's constant work to improve the education, health and welfare of the workers and people of Thailand as well as promote and nurture ties to governments throughout the world. In addition, the United Nations has honoured His Majesty with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award 2006 "for his dedication to develop and industriously uplift the living condition of Thai people all through his 60-year reign". The award was presented by Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations during his visit to Thailand on 26 May 2006.

An extraordinarily gifted man in widely varying artistic and cultural fields, his mission to improve the lives of all his people has taken him to all corners of the land. For up to eight months each year, His Majesty used to travel to remote areas to discuss face-to-face with his people their needs and, together with them, devise strategies to resolve their problems and difficulties, often utilizing his personal funds to finance the projects.

His subjects' loyalty is founded not just on respect for the institution of the monarchy but on him personally and the many works he has undertaken on their behalf. In brief, he embodies all that is best in Thai culture and traditions, a symbol of continuity from Siam's storied past, and of its future.

The year 2006 marks the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne, making him the present world's longest-reigning Monarch. World Monarchs and Royalties will travel to Bangkok to join with Thais in a grand celebration to pay tribute to His Majesty's achievements and dedication.

Throughout 2007, the Government and people of Thailand organized year-long celebrations to commemorate His Majesty the King’s 80 th Birthday Anniversary on 5 December.

The Monarchy Under Constitutional Democracy
On 25 May 2007, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the Prachadipok Institute, Chulalongkorn University, and Thammasat University coorganised a seminar entitled, .The Monarchy under Constitutional Democracy,. at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok. In addition to honouring H.M. the King and commemorating His 80th Birthday Anniversary, the seminar aimed to promote appreciation and correct understanding of His Majesty the King’s role in and contribution towards Thailand’s democracy and development. The seminar was opened by Mr. Meechai Ruchupan, President NLA, and attended by members of the NLA, representatives from the diplomatic corps, government agencies, NGOs and academic institutions as well as students and the media. The panellists included, amongst others, three former Prime Ministers (Mr. Anand Panyarachun, Mr. Chuan Liikpai and Mr. Banharn Silpa- Archa), Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Chairman of the Council of National Security (CNS) as well as academicians and those with first-hand experiences in the royal projects. A summary of key points made at the seminar is as follows:
- Currently, 29 countries have monarchies whose status, roles, powers, and means of exercising their powers vary in accordance with respective political, social, and cultural backgrounds. Each country and people also has different perceptions and expectations of their monarch. To look at the Thai monarchy through the same lenses as with European or other Asian monarchies would neither by fair, nor provide accurate understanding.
- Thailand’s successive constitutions contain provisions on the roles and powers of the monarch, which have been crafted on the basis of the country.s tradition, culture, and beliefs. The monarch has no political initiatives and, in issuing royal commands, has to do so upon the recommendations of the National Legislative Assembly and the government which also countersigned and took responsibility for them.
- The Thai people respect and revere H.M. the King not because of any provision in the Constitution. They do so, first and foremost because of the following:
- His deeds and contributions to the country and the people, can concretely be seen through over 4,500 royal projects implemented in different parts of the country, which have improved people’s livelihood, earning him an international recognition as a .Development King.
- His experiences cultivated during the 60-year reign, which has seen 16 constitutions, several elections, 18 coups, more than 20 Prime Ministers and countless cabinet ministers, as well as from his visits to all regions of the country to meet with the people, making him in touch with their problems and concerns.
- As a consequence, while having no political power, H.M. the King has what one may call “reserved powers”, or moral authority, which is not written in any law nor derived from the succession right, but is given to him by the people who respect and revere him for this deeds and experiences.
- As a constitutional monarch, H.M. the King has been conscious of and has adhered strictly to the principles of the Constitution and maintains political impartiality. He conscientiously exercises the conventional prerogatives of a monarch.
- as recognised by western scholars, namely State power in his name - never interfering in politics but having the well-being of the Thai people at heart.
- In the time of crises, the weakness of Thailand’s political institutions and their failures to resolve the impasse has led people to look up to the monarchy as an established institution with moral authority and closely linked with the people throughout the country’s history. In such cases, H.M. the King maintains his role as a constitutional monarch - not saying who or what is right or wrong nor addressing the substance of the matter.
- During the Black May crisis in 1992, H.M. the King summoned the leaders of the two confronting sides to a royal audience and told them to work together because the people would be the loser, without saying who was right of wrong. The then PM decided to resign, and the crisis ended.
- The royal audience after the 19 September intervention was granted on the request by the Leader of the Council of Democratic Reform to report to H.M. the King on the situation and the reasons for the military’s decision to undertake intervention.

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Following the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand on 13 October 2016, a Book of Condolences will be open daily for signing at the Royal Thai Embassy from 14 October 2016 onwards from 0930-1630 hours.


 

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