|King Bhumibol Adulyadej |
Personified Thailand as The Land of the Free
We are saddened by the passing of one of history's great monarchs, an average guy, born in America, who was reluctant to take the crown following his brother's assassination many decades ago.
He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts while his father was enrolled in the Public Health Program at Harvard University. His name translates to Strength of the LandIncomparable Power, and was in self-imposed exile to distance himself from the political turmoil in Thailand. He had studied -- and partied in Europe, and was attending Harvard University as a music major, and played saxophone in a local band when he was notified he was the new King of Thailand.
He was completely Americanized, spoke little of the Thai language, and was upset when four Thai Military officers showed up at his door to escort him back to Bangkok -- against his protests; his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, had been assassinated, and Thailand needed a King.
Once in Bangkok, newly-crowned King Bhumidol underwent an intense tutorial to learn to speak Thai and to adopt Thai cultural customs so he could play the royal role.
|Thai Longboat [Photo by Adrian Evans]|
Once installed, he gradually became the leader the country needed, and, in the midst of another coup attempt, was smuggled out of the country by his American advisor and protector at the bottom of a long-boat.
He reestablished his position as national leader and developed rapport with a faction of patriotic Army officers who managed the affairs of the country and brought it stability; they overcame a series of coup attempts throughout the King's reign with the assistance of a unique intelligence system created by the King's OSS advisor to monitor his advisors - actual, and potential.
Over the decades, King Bhumibol became an astute student and knowledgeable of world affairs, and maintained a close alliance with the US, recognizing the threat that Communism posed. He was especially concerned when the US abandoned Southeast Asia in 1975 at the direction of Henry Kissinger, leaving the region open to the fulfillment of the Domino Theory in which Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fell to the Communists; Thailand remained the sole survivor as its Military was able to sustain its strength in spite of the withdrawal of US forces.
[Thailand's post-1975 survival resulted from a highly effective counter-insurgency effort by US Intelligence; Kissinger discounted the Domino Theory because Thailand did not fall -- although he had done his best to ensure that it would fall to the Communist Insurgency based in Laos and Cambodia.]
The King's closest advisor -- and guardian, during his reign was a former OSS officer who had earlier smuggled him out of the country during the coup attempt. With that support, the King became a powerful arbiter of the political factions, and the country has been at relative peace for decades.
His son, the probably new King,
has his work cut out for him as he assumes the role of leader of a nation steeped in political turmoil, in the midst of Communist effort to assume power.
We wish him well.