THOUGHTS ON THAILAND’S NATIONAL DAY AND FATHER’S DAY
December 5 is both the Thai National Day as well as Father’s Day. These designations were made by the Thai government during the time Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda was prime minister. December 5 is the birthday anniversary of HM King Bumiphol, Rama IX. It is customary in Thailand to celebrate the birthdays of reigning monarchs, but Prem wanted to honor the King as “Father of the Nation” on his birthday, and HM Queen Sirikit as “Mother of the Nation” on her birthday, August 12. So, even after the coronation of King Rama X, December 5 stays on the calendar as Father’s Day, and on the UN Calendar as the Thai National Day (noticed mainly in Thai embassies abroad).
Two kings of the present Chakri dynasty in Thailand have been awarded the title Maha Raj during their lifetimes, HM King Chulalongkorn, the Great and HM King Bumiphol, the Great. As it happens, both died in the month of October and both are commemorated on those dates which are national holidays, October 23 and October 13, respectively.
They have much in common, which (I believe) is why they are venerated more “greatly” than other monarchs in modern Thai history.
1. They preserved the nation from threats. King Chulalongkorn maneuvered skillfully to prevent the Thai heartland from being colonized by either the British or the French. King Bumiphol is given credit for coalescing ethnic groups and convincing communist insurgents to become fully integrated with the rest of the country.
2. They developed affinity with people throughout the land by visiting, listening, and responding to concerns and needs for development. This is not the modus operandi for most kings here or elsewhere.
3. They both saw that (at least in their own times) agriculture was the nation’s greatest sustainable economic asset. King Chulalongkorn engineered a plan to turn land ownership over to the people living on the land and deriving livelihood from it, and he more than doubled land available for farming. King Bumiphol devoted his professional attention to royal projects that focused on crop diversification and water management. [The picture accompanying this essay is of HM King Bumiphol with American Baptist Agricultural Missionary Dick Mann in one of their several visits.] It is remembered that during his 70 years on the throne he averaged one new Royal Project per week.
These three accomplishments were in a complex context that included political and cultural factors and controversies, and they both did much more. Over the past 9 years I have posted several blogs on these topics and there is no need to repeat those comments. For those who are interested here are some links:
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.