The King of Thailand’s Birthday
King Bhumipol Adulyadej was born on December 5, 1928. This is celebrated every year with a public holiday. In 2010 this holiday will take place on Monday, December 6, as this year December 5 falls on a Sunday. Displays and exhibitions honouring the King and his achievements are often organised for this period, and many local authorities will organize firework displays for the evening. The King’s Birthday is also celebrated as Father’s Day in Thailand (the King is often seen as a father of the nation and its people), so you may see restaurants full of Thai families taking the head of the household out for a treat. Similarly, the Queen’s Birthday, usually celebrated on August 12, is Mother’s Day in Thailand. One thing tourists may notice is that bars will shut and restaurants will not serve alcohol on this day, although this particular restriction is by no means universally observed.
King Bhumipol Adulyadej
Bhumipol Adulyadej (pronounced: Boomipon Adun Yadet) is the world’s oldest living monarch, and the world’s longest longest serving head of state. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, where his princely father was studying Public Heath at Harvard. The family later returned to Thailand, but at a time of rising political tension in Thailand, his mother took the young Bhumipol and his older brother to Switzerland, where they were forced to stay until the end of the Second World War. The king ascended the throne, following the untimely death of his older brother, on June 9, 1946. Only seventeen at that time, he returned to Switzerland in order to complete his studies, leaving an uncle as regent in his place. On graduation, he returned to Thailand, where the official coronation ceremony took place on May 5, 1950. This date, Coronation Day, is celebrated every year as a public holiday.
Respect for the King of Thailand
Although Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, the monarchy occupies a profoundly important place in both the Thai political system and the national psyche. Real, or even imagined, slights to the Thai monarchy are not tolerated as they would be in some European countries, for example. One of the first things foreigners notice about Thailand is the way in which Thai people will stand to attention for the playing of the national anthem and the royal anthem. The national anthem is played in public places such as markets and railway stations at 8 am and 6 pm every day. The royal anthem is played before all performances in the cinema and theatre. Although Thai people will always show toleration to foreigners who are unsure of Thai customs, nonetheless it is a good idea to follow suit and do as the Thais do.
The Popular King of Thailand
Although a constitutional monarch King Bhumipol enjoys huge influence in the Thai political system, mainly as a result of his enormous popularity and personal prestige. He has, on occasions, used these powers to help Thailand through political crises in the past. He has also used his influence to push forward development projects, particularly those aimed at benefiting poor farmers and hill tribe people. One example of a royal project is a crop substitution program designed to provide an alternative to opium poppy cultivation in the highlands. In these areas coffee, temperate vegetables, fruit and fresh flowers are now grown as cash crops instead.