Why Thailand Loves King Bhumibol Adulyadej: The King Among Kings

Shedding Light on the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej

When it comes to kings, Thailand loves King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In a nation so deeply spiritual and polite, it’s no surprise that Thai royalty are afforded a respect far beyond what you might see in other monarchies around the world. However the affection for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej far outstrips mere respect and courtesy; the Thais love and honor their king with a real passion and fervor that might surprise you. We take a look at what made him so special.

Header Image สำนักพระราชวัง [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Spiritual Connection And Love For Bhumibol Adulyadej

In a country as religious as Thailand, having a shared belief in Buddhism and the importance of spiritual wellness shouldn’t be underestimated. King Bhumibol was a devout man, and many Thais looked up to him as their representative from heaven on earth. He outwardly lived the Buddhist values and provided a model for behavior that parents could point out to their children- look at the King! He worships in the right way, and you should too. No wonder many Thais referred to him as ‘father’.

Philanthropy was synonymous with his name.

You can’t go far in Thailand without bumping into one of King Bhumibol’s many ‘royal projects’. He set up and funded agriculture research centers, irrigation projects, schools and pleasure gardens among many other charities in Thailand.

His water-control projects are widely credited with preventing Bangkok from flooding every monsoon season, and his alternative farming research has helped many hill tribe villages to work their way into the modern economy in their own preferred way. Seeing a figurehead so passionately dedicated to improving the lot of his people was inspirational to many Thais and this dedication served to further cement the nation’s love for the king.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej wasn’t just a devout icon.

Having said all this about King Bhumibol’s religious beliefs and philanthropy, he wasn’t just a serious, remote ruler. Instead he oozed coolness in his youth and excelled at decidedly non-traditional royal activities like yachting, jazz music and composing at various points in his life! Not your typical king by any stretch of the imagination. In fact he may be the only monarch to have won a competitive sailing medal, as he bagged gold at the Southeast Asian Peninsula Games in 1967!

This zest for life and playful side was another thing that endeared him to his subjects, as he came across as relatable and fun to be around.

Royal Cremation Ceremony of King Bhumibol Adulyade
Xiengyod~commonswiki [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A Steady Hand

The other aspect of the king that Thais revered was his steadying influence on the sometimes whirlwind politics of the country. Yes, he presided over no less than a dozen coups during his reign, but those were aimed at the government rather than himself. Moreover, when he did choose to intervene it was always decisive, and most often served to resolve or end conflict. An attractive quality in a leader, for sure.

He’s still missed!

If you embark on a conversation with a Thai person about the late King, you’ll gain a small sense of how deeply he was respected and loved for all these reasons. He was the father of the modern nation and presided over the country for most Thais’ entire lifetime! He will be sadly missed for years to come, and embodied the spirit of this wonderful country. He loved Thailand, and Thailand loved him back.

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