Some time back, a student asked me:
What does Thai King do? Why do so many Thais respect him?
(You know who you are 😉 In fact this also forms a basis for my explanation during Introduction to Thai Culture to a company 2 months ago. — Thank you for asking!)
What does Thai King do? Ok, I should say, what do Thai Kings do, in order to gather so much respect from us. I am not sure if I use the correct terms, but here is my explanation — in a layman’s term:
Several hundreds years ago, Thai Kings lead the army during war time. Commander-in-chief, they fought along with other soldiers. On the horse, on the elephant, or even on foot. Those were the days when colonization by military force was common. The impact was obvious – Kings protected us from the enemy.
There were also peaceful times. Thai alphabets were created, temples were constructed, arts (painting, sculpture, architecture) were developed. This was also to enrich Thais in terms of cultures. Time passed by and many countries surrounding Thailand (Siam – in the olden days) were being colonized by the Western. As Thai Kings, some measures were being encouraged (maybe enforced?) to ensure that Siam stayed independent; for example, princes were sent overseas for further study (probably also to act as an unofficial ambassador) and this can be considered as a way to forge a relationship between Thai and the Western. Or something along the line of “if we cannot get rid of them, we might as well welcome them”. We got them to stay, them included Portuguese, French, English, Japanese, and Chinese. While most of them were trading, some chose to work for Royal Palace and even received noble ranks.
Personally, one of the numerous things that our past kings had done is really worth round and round and round applause is King Rama V’s successful demolishment of slavery in Thailand. Can you believe that it took him more than 30 years to achieve this, without much bloodshed, unlike the western world.
Nowadays, such method of colonization is much less employed. Nevertheless, Kings still lead the army of Thai to fight wars. Wars against poverty, illness, natural disasters. In fact, the current Thai King believes in Sufficient Economics. You can check the term out here
In conclusion, I told her that things that our kings have been doing are not to be realized in such a short time span. Maybe in a case of war, the result is obvious. But certain kind of war, for example, war against poverty, the result cannot be seen overnight, in a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. It takes longer than that to appreciate what they are doing. Nevertheless, some people prefer an easy way out, a quick answer for everything, that’s where politicians come in. //Oops I shall stop my remarks here. 😉
This song is dedicated to our current king, HM King Bhumibol.
This song is dedicated to all our dads.
(More can be viewed from here)
Can you name the kings from the picture above?