December 5 was Father’s Day in Thailand, established during the premiership of General Prem Tinsluanonda on the birthday of HM King Bhumibol who was being recognized as “Father of the Country”. The day was listed as Thailand’s national day on the United Nations calendar, and Thai embassies around the world were accustomed to have celebrations attended by the countries’ leaders.
December 5 is widely mentioned as Father’s Day, and a night-time celebration in Bangkok featured the late King. Because December 5 fell on Saturday, Monday was on all calendars as the “make-up” holiday with government offices closed, but after Covid-19 disrupted all the normal April and May holidays, the government announced that Thursday December 10 (Constitution Day) would be a full-fledged holiday, and Friday December 11 would be a holiday, as well, in place of the birthday commemoration on December 5. That would make December 10 to 13 a 4-day weekend and would encourage travel to aid the suffering tourism sector. But the King conducted traditional ceremonies and the government went ahead with a big ceremony, concert, and fireworks and drone display at Sanam Luang outside the Grand Palace on December 5. For the past couple of years attention has been shifting, at the instigation of the Palace and government, to memorialize HM King Bhumibol the Great on October 13, the date of his death, as is traditional, along with his Grandfather, HM King Chulalongkorn the Great on October 23.
Around here, after dark on the fifth, our nearest neighbor was the only one celebrating. He shot off 8 or 10 loud firecrackers terrifying our cats and arousing neighbors. I went to suggest he hold off, but he said it was a tradition he was upholding. I pointed out he was the only one doing so and he declared his veneration of the king who gave him a place to live. I think his conspicuous consumption of alcohol had a lot to do with his reasoning.
What I conclude, as an observer, is that the late King has 3 holidays this year. It is not yet time to pare-back public adulation. But this year I have not been able to find any mention of Thailand’s National Day on Thailand’s official websites. The government may have gone ahead with embassy events, pretending Thailand has a National Day although with the late-King gone the day is no longer as noteworthy as the day Great Britain troops the colors to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday in June (her real birthday anniversary is in April). Other nations have declared their independence days as their national days.
As for Constitution Day, coming on Thursday, December 10, we will wait and see what happens. Thailand has had 20 constitutions and charters since the revolution in 1932, and the current constitution is the subject of nationwide protests going on for nearly 6 months mostly by student groups. The protestors object to the way the constitution was imposed by a military dominated parliament, ratified by a contrived referendum, and then unilaterally amended by the King to his benefit. Those groups are very likely to try to make this year’s Constitution Day a matter of ridicule. (The idea that constitutional democracy still exists is what is being lampooned in the cartoon above of the Democracy Monument blasting off and going far, far away.) However, the government has been taking an increasingly ominous hard line against the protests and the days of big protests for constitutional change are being seriously challenged.
It’s been a difficult year to plan holidays. Still, I’m pretty sure Christmas will still be on December 25.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.