With the passing of the world’s longest-reigning monarch last year, Thailand mourned the loss of a symbol of unity and nationhood. Yet behind that was a family man, jazz enthusiast, sailor and animal lover. Here are some lesser-known facts about Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
1. King Bhumibol – 5 December 1927 to 13 October 2016.
2. Reigning for 70 years and 127 days.
3. He is the only monarch ever born in the United States
4. His US birth certificate reads simply “Baby Songkla”, as his parents had to consult his uncle King Rama VII, then head of the House of Chakri, on the name. The king choseBhumibol Adulyadej, meaning ‘strength of the land, incomparable power’.
5. His interest in public health had its roots with his parents. His father studied public health at Harvard and his mother was a nurse.
6. The King was a jazz enthusiast who played the clarinet, piano, guitar and saxophone and was also a writer and musician and translated several works of literature into Thai.
7. He lost his vision in his right eye after a car accident in 1948, but despite this, he was a skilled sailor and navigator winning a gold medal at the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games in 1967.
8. King Bhumibol was originally studying science at Lausanne University but moved to law and politics to better prepare for his role as King.
9. He found his queen in Switzerland, Sirikit Kitiyakara, the daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. The couple married in Bangkok a week before his coronation on 5th May 1950. They went on to have three daughters and a son.
10. King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Thai full title was “Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Mahitalathibet Ramathibodi Chakkrinaruebodin Sayamminthrathirat which was referred to in the chief legal documents; and in general documents. The title was shortened to “Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatthabophi” or just “Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej”.
11. He actively supported a war on drugs taking a strong position against anybody implicated in the act or illegal trade.
12. He was beloved by the people of Thailand, most homes and shops and even street vendors displayed a photo of him out of honour and respect.
13. During his reign, Thailand’s economy boomed and achieved middle-income status and the country took steps toward democracy. Thailand remains under military rule since 2014.
14. King Bhumibol’s love of dogs is legendary. He memorably took in a stray dog he named Thongdaeng and even wrote a book about her that became a bestseller.
15. A year of mourning has been declared in his honour and he will always be missed.
For more on Thailand read the Amazing Thailand SA blog.
28th July: H.M. King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday commemorating the birthday of the King of Thailand, Vajiralongkorn, also known as Rama X.
13th Oct: King Bhumibol Adulyadej Memorial Day is the memorial day of the passing away of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX)
** Photos of the young King from cnn.com and that other courtesy of the University of Washington.