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Thailand in Yellow... (King)

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World view: Thailand honours the King



Yellow T-shirts bearing the royal emblem of King Bhumibol have become the fashion statement of the year for Bangkokians and are reportedly in short supply given the huge demand.

Yellow is the colour of the king's birthday on December 5, 1927, a Monday. Thais associate a different colour for each day of the week, yellow for Monday, pink for Tuesday, and so on.


His Majesty was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in Amreica, where his father, Prince Mahidol, was studying medicine at MIT.


He ascended to the throne on June 9, 1946, on the same day his elder brother King Ananda died.


His official coronation was on May 5, 1950, after four years of study abroad in Switzerland, where he switched majors from literature to political science and law in preparation for his new, unexpected role as Thailand's ninth monarch in the Chakri dynasty.


The highlight of the celebrations will be the Royal Barge Procession, a re-creation of the royal fleet of long rowing boats that were used for battle and ceremonies when Thailand's capital was still in Ayutthaya, and was also launched to mark the king's 60th birthday in 1987 and to mark his 50th year on the throne 10 years ago.


Among the royal audience, who will be observing the barge procession at the Royal Navy Conference Hall, will be Japan's Emperor and Empress, the kings of Bahrain, Cambodia, Lesotho, Jordan, Sweden and Swaziland, the Sultan of Brunei, Sheikhs of Kuwait and Qatar, two hereditary rajas from Malaysia, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the prince of Monaco and hereditary prince of Liechtenstein.


The visiting royalty will attend a banquet hosted by His Majesty and Her Majesty the Queen on June 13.


The King was honoured by the international community last month when United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan visited Thailand to present a Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award on May 26 to commemorate his well-known dedication to the welfare of the Thai people, particularly the poor and downtrodden.


King Bhumibol, upon his return from Switzerland in 1951, launched his now famous rural development schemes that took him to every remote district in his kingdom, often travelling eight months a year. Over six decades he has initiated more than 2,000 development projects, many of them involving irrigation but all of them devoted to the concept of promoting economic self-sufficiency, now a popular theme among United Nations economists.


"As the world's 'Development King,' Your Majesty has reached out to the poorest and 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," Annan said in an apt summery of the King's lifework.



Thais toast king's 60-year reign


For five days the nation will celebrate the 60th year on the throne of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch whose name means "Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power".

He has had to live up to the name on many occasions. From bloody civil unrest to thorny political deadlock, the king has had to steer his 63 million people through many trials.

"The king is someone the people of Thailand trust implicitly to act for the good of Thailand and not for himself. And that has been backed up by what he has done," said Supavud Saicheua, head of research at Phatra Securities.

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Splendid! .. full fleet of the Royal barges in Chaopraya river.. centuries old tradition that the King make merit by giving essentials to temples, mostly reachable by river as Siam was then called "East Venice"...

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UN secretary general honours Thailand's king


Bangkok, May 26 (DPA) The UN honoured Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej Friday with an inaugural award marking the 78-year-old monarch's lifetime achievement in human development, said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.


King Bhumibol's early development work, which took him and Queen Sirikit to many of Thailand's most remote districts in the 1960s through 1970s - when the kingdom was threatened by a communist insurgency and rampant poverty - are legendary and earned him descriptions as the 'Soul of the Nation,' 'Working Monarch,' and the 'Development King'.


'As the world's 'Development King', His Majesty reached the poorest and the most vulnerable people of Thailand, listened to their problems, and empowered them to take their lives into their own hands,' said Annan.


King Bhumibol's development paradigm of 'sufficiency economy' was recognised by the 10th UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), held in Bangkok, and his initiatives with crop substitution programmes for opium farmers in northern Thailand have been imitated elsewhere.


'In Afghanistan, the royal projects of alternative development were applied in reducing opium cultivation to provide sustainable livelihood to people in post-conflict reconstruction,' noted Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.


A New UN Award for Thailand?s King


Visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised Thailand?s King Bhumibol Adulyadej as ?the world?s development king,? on Friday, as he prepared to present him with the UN?s first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award.

?If human development is about putting people first, there can be no better advocate than his majesty,? Annan said

King Bhumibol?s rural development programs had benefited millions of people, assisting the growth of appropriate farming technologies, sustainable use of water resources and conservation. The king?s crop substitution initiatives had helped to reduce cultivation of opium in Thailand, once a major producer and exporter of heroin. His projects had also improved access to health care and education for rural people, Annan said.

Annan said the king had ?reached out to the poorest and most vulnerable people of Thailand, listened to their problems, and empowered them to take their lives into their own hands.?


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The King as a scientist ;


King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, officially known by his dynastic title of Rama IX, is an extraordinary figure. The longest reigning member of the Chakri dynasty (he came to the throne in 1946), he has earned not simply the love of his people but their profound respect.


More than four decades of intense effort to develop his nation have brought results that are palpable to any visitor. One sees the King's good works everywhere, his daily suggestion for improvement enacted within the constitutional framework of an open and dynamic democracy.


His greatest passion by far has been for rural development. He has visited every province of his country, like no monarch before him. And everywhere, he has suggested where roads could be built, helped create livelihoods, and seen the benefits of water and electricity brought to people whose lives are transformed as a result.


For example, when he visited an irrigation project in Narathiwat's Tak Bai District, one designed to prevent calcium acid from flowing into the Bang Nara River, he was petitioned by villagers seeking his aid to bring a first-ever road to their isolated homes. They had walked two miles through the jungle to present their request. They were heard, and on the spot an attentive and pragmatic King asked the Royal Irrigation Department and the Army to coordinate to meet the need.


Such "projects" in the countryside -- begun with a pioneering trip to the poorest region, the Northeast, in 1955 -- now number over a thousand. One of the best examples: thanks to the King's direct and personal interest, the slash-and-burn agriculture that decimated forests and replaced them with opium cultivation has been widely replaced with new crops. This single but substantial endeavor was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1988, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

But Bangkok also draws the Royal focus and specific, constructive attention. The capital's press recently headlined the King's suggestions to police and city planners for alleviating the sprawling metropolis's gargantuan, and seemingly intractable, traffic tangle.


Underlying this unique Royal role is the King's status as -- what he describes himself to be -- "an amateur scientist". His father, Prince Mahidol, was studying at the Harvard School of Public Health when the King was born. As a young man, the King studied engineering in Switzerland. In fact, no Thais were surprised that his device for a paddle-equipped water aeration device merited a patent, nor was it unexpected that his close study of vetiver grass has seen the King emerge as a leading advocate for its use in hillside planting, to stop soil erosion. His opinion on when, and whether, Thailand should "go nuclear" to meet its burgeoning energy needs grows out of study, not repeating hearsay. Public understanding of science and general knowledge is promoted by the Thai Junior Encyclopedia Project under His Majesty's Patronage, which presents various topics at three levels: for the very young, medium aged children and the general public.


At the King's initiative and with his support, substantial portions of the grounds of his Bangkok residence, the Chitralada Palace, have been turned into living laboratories that work. Livestock is bred, grains are hybridized, milk de-hydration practiced on a model basis. And even techniques are studied for keeping bees to yield income for rural Thais.


Like any good amateur scientist, the King has brought his intellectual curiosity into his own home. In a recent audience granted to a team of representatives from Scientific American and the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), he described an experiment devised by himself on a palace balcony, one in which he created soil from sand through patient cultivation of plants. "After creating my own soil from the sand," His Ma-jesty related, "I put it in water and swirled it. After it settled, I found only sand remaining; the soil had gone." The experiment perfectly demonstrates the quick and deleterious effects of unchecked erosion.

So the King of almost sixty million Thais acts to bring himself close to them and their needs, to teach them how and why to use scientific understanding to improve their lives, and the kingdom they share.i



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60th Anniversary Celebrations of King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great


Also called the Diamond Jubilee, the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne are a year-long series of events marking His Majesty's reign.


Events got under way in April, with rehearsals for a procession of royal barges on the Chao Phraya River, involving 52 royal barges and 2,082 oarsmen. Several rehearsals are held, leading up to the actual ceremony on June 12 that will be attended by the King and Queen and monarchs from other countries.

There are also fireworks displays, banquets, art and photographic exhibitions, performances of dance and music as well as the production of Mahajanaka, a story written by the King and adapted in a musical theatre work.

UNDP award

On May 26, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented the King with the United Nations Development Program's first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award, calling the monarch the world's "Development King" in recognition of the King's "sufficiency economy" philosophy and hundreds of royal rural development projects in the areas of irrigation, education, drug control and medical care. The ceremony was held at Klai Kangwon Palace in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.

Visiting royalty

Monarchs or their representatives from 26 countries were expected to join the festivities on June 12 and 13.

Heads of state expected to attend: King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia; Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa of Qatar; Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait; King Abdullah II of Jordan; Emperor Akihito of Japan; Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei; Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia; Albert II, Prince of Monaco; Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg; King Letsie III of Lesotho; King Mswati III of Swaziland; Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein; and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Royal representatives expected: Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark; Crown Prince Sia'osi Taufa'ahau Manumata'ogo Tuku'aho Tupou of Tonga; Haakon Magnus, Crown Prince of Norway; Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange of The Netherlands; Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain; Philippe, Duke of Brabant, crown prince of Belgium; Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck of Bhutan; Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco; Queen Sofia of Spain; Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq Taimour Al Said of Oman.

Private life

King Bhumibol is an accomplished jazz musician and composer. He was awarded honorary membership of the Vienna Institute of Music and Arts at the age of 32. He used to play jazz music on air on the Or Sor radio station earlier in his reign. His songs can often be heard at social gatherings and are performed in concerts.

In addition, he is a painter, photographer and best-selling author and translator. His translated works are "Tito" (The biography of Josip Broz Tito, former Yugoslavian president, by Phyllis Auty) and "Nai In Phu Pid Tong Laang Phra" (A Man called Intrepid by William Stevenson). National best-seller "Phra Mahachanok" is based on a traditional Jataka story of Buddhist scripture. "The story of Thong Daeng" is the story of his dog Khun Thong Daeng. He suggested making this book into a bilingual comic illustrated by a nationally famous comic illustrator Chai Rajawat, and it along with its associated merchandise, sold out quickly. He is the world's first and only monarch to hold a patent, holding one in 1993 for a waste water aerator named "Chai Pattana", and several patents on rainmaking since 1955: the "sandwich" rainmaking patent in 1999 and lately the "supersandwich" patent in 2004.


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Edited by Koku (see edit history)
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A special monarch, in a special kingdom.


Seen on a tourist map, the Chitralada Palace seems only a large square of green, surrounded by a moat and outfitted with ponds. From outside, across that moat and external to the palace walls, one could imagine some sort of European-style arrangement, heavy on display. Perhaps, one imagines, there are formal gardens, luxurious swimming pools, tennis courts, manicured lawns, even stables.


Chitralada is, indeed, a green oasis in intensely built-up Bangkok. But it is altogether another kind of palace. It is, in effect, a complex of laboratories, of experimental agricultural stations and model industrial systems, all within walking distance of where the Royal Family lives and works. Odds are excellent that it is like no other palace on earth, for its chief inhabitant is another sort of sovereign altogether.

The palace grounds, following the orders and inspiration of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, are one great workshop and school for teaching and learning, for acquiring know-how, the expertise based in science and technology for national development.


The Royal Chitralada Projects, all non-profit, are either non-business in scope or semi-business undertakings. The non-business ones receive support from various government agencies and are designed to earn nothing. Their aim is to teach. Take the breeding of Tilapia nilotica, for example. First presented to His Majesty some thirty years ago by the present emperor of Japan, the fish were raised in ponds at the palace and then given to the Department of Fisheries for breeding and distribution to the public.


In 1961, the forest His Majesty created on the grounds (with species from throughout the country) had a new neighbor: rice fields, where experiments were launched on varieties and the use of fertilizers. As Thailand has only recently made the fast transition to a more industrial society, rice cultivation is key. A decade later, upland rice cultivation (drill seeding) was added.


The King's response to the Thai people's needs took the palace grounds ever-more into the heart of problem-solving of the most practical, hands-on kind. Operated by Mahidol University, a biogas production plant uses animal excreta to fuel the on-the-grounds dairy plant. Upgraded, it now fuels a fruit juice-canning operation and a milk collection center. Thailand suffers problems with swamp soil, so - at the palace - compost and organic fertilizer projects began in 1987. The king's intellectual curiosity and pragmatism expanded the Projects' scope: a medicinal herb garden (1985); experiments to propagate economically useful rattan (1987); soil-less plant culture (1987).


Another series of projects are commercial, but not-for-profit. Here the Royal Projects go directly into demonstrating ways for Thais to earn their livings better. The dairy plant, and its sizable herd, is now thirty years in operation, engaged in breed improvement and promoting the consumption of fresh milk. A demonstration rice mill (1971) and a rice-husk compressing plant (1977) are fully operational and an old pasteuring machine laid the foundation for an orange and sugar-cane juice plant. Cheese-making, fruit-drying, candle-making and honey-making -- all to be found at Chitralada.


Of course, the king is a constant traveller up and down the kingdom. In every province, he has been seen with map in hand, charting where new roads can be built, a dam installed - a one-man nation-building force, understood and loved for having dedicated a lifetime to his people.


Perhaps one of the most noteworthy and ambitious of his out-of-Bangkok Projects has concerned opium-growers. The king's goal was to curtail poppy-growing and bring legitimate livlihoods to Thailand's hill tribes. The viable alternative: temperate-climate cash crops that would lure farm families away from drug production and also arrest the destruction of forests and watersheds. Slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal cultivation had to be stopped, not simply by prohibition, but by implementation of a constructive plan for change.


Today, nearly 300 upland villages benefit from the Royal Project, working from 28 extension stations, affecting the lives of at least 50,000 people. The initiative (which won the 1988 Ramon Magsaysay Award) has also introduced schools, cooperatives, rice banks and primary medical services.


Necessary infrastructure was not omitted: village roads and electricity, small irrigation systems. Assistance has come from United Nations agencies, the United States, Taiwan and New Zealand. The Project buys the farmers' produce, then grades, packages and markets it. It turns a profit for the villagers, also by their processing jams and wines, frozen strawberries, canned vegetables and dried fruits and flowers for export. Opium cultivation has declined by 85% as the farmers have become vegetable, fruit and coffee growers.



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Highlights of Thailand's celebrations of HM the King's accession to the throne

BANGKOK, June 12 (TNA) - Although Thailand's grand celebrations of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne is being organized throughout this year, the highlights are on June 12 and 13 when state and Royal ceremonies are held marking the auspicious occasion and members of the world royalty are invited to join.


Programmes on June 12 start in the morning at Ananda Samakom Throne Hall, where monarchs and Royal representatives from 25 countries offer their best wishes to His Majesty the King, according to a press release of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Following the ceremony, His Majesty the King and the Royal guests will proceed to the Royal Thai Navy Convention Hall, where His Majesty the King will open an exhibition featuring his Royal activities and projects over the past 60 years of his reign.


The next programme will be a grand Royal Barge procession along the Chao Phaya River at nighttime.

Up to 2,082 oarsmen in traditional costumes will row 52 Royal Barges from the Wasukri Landing to the Memorial Bridge in Bangkok.

His Majesty the King and the Royal guests will view the spectacular Royal Barge procession at the Royal Navy Institute near the Royal Thai Navy Convention Hall.

On June 13, His Majesty the King will host a banquet for the visiting world monarches and Royal representatives at Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall within the Grand Palace.





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Tomorrow: Roger Cohen on the joys of German.


BANGKOK Kings and queens from around the world gathered here this week to honor the longest- serving monarch of them all, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who celebrates the 60th anniversary of his rule on Friday.


Amid elaborate ceremonies with their roots deep in Siamese history, the royal visitors will witness the almost mystical devotion of Thailand's people to the man who is the anchor of their culture and traditions within a chaotically modernizing world.


At the auspicious moment of 19:19 on Friday, June 9, his subjects will pause with lighted candles to honor the ninth monarch of the Chakri dynasty, whose name means "strength of the land, incomparable power" but whose role is distilled in one of his titles, "Soul of the Nation."


In the days to come there will be incense and elephants and prayers and parades, culminating on Monday with a rare procession of 52 royal barges with 2,200 chanting oarsmen.


They will proceed, as one newspaper put it, "at a proper tempo, neither too fast nor too slow," and "they will look as if they are about to float to heaven and merge seamlessly with the Grand Palace, bathed in shiny gold."


But for all the ritual that surrounds him, and despite the absence of a formal political role for the monarchy, King Bhumibol, 78, is far from a ceremonial ruler.


Few other monarchs enjoy the veneration of Thailand's king, and few constitutional monarchs have the moral power of Bhumibol: the power to halt political turmoil with a quiet word and to pull his nation back from possible disaster.


It is known as "reserve power," a carefully husbanded aura that the king has created through the force of his personality and has used delicately and sparingly over the years. "I know things but I shut my mouth," the king said once.


When he speaks, even by indirection as he did at a recent moment of political tension, newspapers carry banner headlines like one in The Nation: "The King Whispers."


His most notable interventions were in 1973 and 1992 when, with words alone, he ended bloodshed and caused the resignation of leaders during uprisings against military dictators.


The royalty gathered here this week have arrived at one such moment of political crisis - though not a violent one. Mass demonstrations and a failed election have left the country with only a caretaker government and without a functioning legislature.


The anniversary celebration is the calm eye in the center of a political storm that has paused in honor of the king and is sure to resume once the visitors are gone.


Visiting royalty represent 25 nations, according to the government: Brunei, Cambodia, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Qatar, Swaziland, Sweden, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Bhutan, Denmark, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Spain, Tonga and the United Arab Emirates.


Along with their presence, and parallel to the palace ceremonies, Thailand is in the grip of a sort of royal fever. Almost everybody seems to be wearing yellow, the color of the monarchy. About 8,400 men are to be ordained as Buddhist monks in honor of the king.


And at precisely 9:09 a.m. on Friday, at prisons around the country, 160,000 inmates and 10,000 wardens will simultaneously perform Vipassana meditation as a gift to their monarch.


When he stepped aside in March in the face of continuing demonstrations, Thaksin Shinawatra, who now calls himself the caretaker prime minister, said, "My main reason is because this year is an auspicious year for the king, and I want all Thais to unite."


Apart from a shared veneration for the king, though, this is not a moment of unity for Thailand's 63 million people.


After Thaksin left office, the opposition boycotted a new election in April that he seemed sure to win and the country was left in limbo, facing only more confrontation.


Another election has been set for October but remains in dispute. Thaksin seems to be sliding back into office despite his promise to stand aside, and the opposition is poised to resume its rallies.


With the executive and legislative branches of government gridlocked, the king called on the courts to find a path to a political solution to what he called "a mess."


"If you cannot do it, then you may have to resign," he told the judges. "You must find ways to solve the problem."


King Bhumibol's role of subtle intervention as Thailand has lurched through 15 constitutions, 17 coups and 21 prime ministers is a delicate one, and it is not clear how well his aura can be passed on eventually to a successor.


He is in effect the inventor of his own monarchy, restoring and redefining its role after the abolition of the absolute rule of kings in 1932.


He continues to redefine it, recently telling the nation that speaks about him only in hushed tones that he was not above criticism. The remarks seemed intended for the ear of Thaksin, whom the king has chastised in the past for arrogance, but they caused a shock among many Thais.


"The King Can Do Wrong" read another banner headline.


The remarks came in his annual birthday speech last December when he said: "When you say the king can do no wrong, that is wrong. We should not say that."


He added: "As a matter of fact, there should be criticism because when we do something we want to know if people agree or disagree."


But this is also a king who understands majesty. He is at the pinnacle of a traditional hierarchical order that underlies the Thai values he represents.


Two years ago he published a small and affectionate biography of a stray dog he had adopted, named Tongdaeng, that could be read as a parable of the classical virtues he represents.


It offered a picture of fealty that many of the visiting monarchs might envy.


"Tongdaeng is a respectful dog with proper manners; she is humble and knows protocol," the king wrote. "She would always sit lower than the king; even when he pulls her up to embrace her, Tongdaeng would lower herself down on the floor, her ears in a respectful drooping position, as if she would say, 'I don't dare.'"


E-mail: pagetwo@iht.com


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