Bhumibol Adulyadej (RTGS: Phumiphon Adunyadet; Thai: ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช, Sanskrit: अतुल्यतेज भूमिबोल, Atulyatej Bhumibala; born 5 December 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) is the current King of Thailand. He is known as Rama IX (and within the Thai royal family and to close associates simply as Lek). Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he is the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. He was admitted to Siriraj Hospital in September 2009 for flu and pneumonia. Rumors about his ill-health caused Thai financial markets to tumble in October 2009.
Although Bhumibol is legally a constitutional monarch, and is not legally allowed a role in politics, he has made several decisive interventions in the Thai political sphere. He was credited with facilitating Thailand's transition to democracy in the 1990s, although he has supported numerous military regimes, including Sarit Dhanarajata's during the 1960s and the Council for National Security in 2006–8. During his long reign, he has authorized over 15 coups, 16 constitutions, and 27 changes of prime ministers. He has also used his influence to stop military coups, including attempts in 1981 and 1985. Bhumibol is advised by a hand-picked Privy Council, many members of which have themselves made controversial forays into politics.
Bhumibol is respected by many Thais, although conservative royalists have claimed that there are widespread threats to overthrow the monarchy. Bhumibol is legally considered "inviolable", and insults, claims that he is involved in politics, and criticism of him can result in three to fifteen years in jail. Although he claimed in a 2005 speech that he was not offended by lèse majesté, thousands have been jailed and several governments overthrown due to alleged insults.
Bhumibol is credited with a social-economic theory of self-sufficiency. His personal wealth is tremendous: Forbes estimated Bhumibol's personal fortune, some of which is managed by the Crown Property Bureau to be US$30 billion in 2010. He is the wealthiest man in Thailand and the world's wealthiest royal. He currently holds major shares in several private companies, including, more than 40% in Sammakorn, 30% in SCG, 30% in Thai Insurance PLC and 20% in SCB. The Crown Property Bureau claims that its wealth is held in trust for the Thai nation; however, this claim is controversial, and the exact value of its assets is confidential and reported only to Bhumibol. Bhumibol himself has made donations to numerous development projects in Thailand, in areas including agriculture, environment, public health, occupational promotion, water resources, communications and public welfare. Commemoration of Bhumibol's contributions to Thailand are ubiquitous in the Thai media.
Bhumibol was born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States on 5 December 1927. He was the younger son of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and Mom Sangwan (later HRH Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother: Somdet Phra Si Nakharinthra Boromaratchachonnani). His name, Bhumibol Adulyadej, means "Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power".
Bhumibol came to Thailand in 1928, after Prince Mahidol obtained a certificate in the Public Health programme at Harvard University. He briefly attended Mater Dei school in Bangkok but in 1933 his mother took the family to Switzerland, where he continued his education at the Ecole Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande in Lausanne. He received the baccalauréat des lettres (high-school diploma with major in French literature, Latin, and Greek) from the Gymnase Classique Cantonal of Lausanne, and by 1945 had begun studying science at the University of Lausanne, when World War II ended and the family returned to Thailand.
Succession and marriage
Bhumibol ascended the throne following the death by gunshot wound of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, on 9 June 1946, in mysterious circumstances, prompting suggestions that Bhumibol had been involved in or responsible for his death. Bhumibol returned to Switzerland in order to complete his education, and his uncle, Rangsit, Prince of Chainat, was appointed Prince Regent. Bhumibol then switched over his field of study to law and political science.
While finishing his degree in Switzerland, Bhumibol visited Paris frequently. It was in Paris that he first met Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France.
On 4 October 1948, while Bhumibol was driving a Fiat Topolino on the Geneva-Lausanne road, he collided with the rear of a braking truck 10 km outside of Lausanne. He hurt his back and incurred cuts on his face that cost him the sight of his right eye. While he was hospitalised in Lausanne, Sirikit visited him frequently. She met his mother, who asked her to continue her studies nearby so that Bhumibol could get to know her better. Bhumibol selected for her a boarding school in Lausanne, Riante Rive. A quiet engagement in Lausanne followed on 19 July 1949, and the couple were married on 28 April 1950, just a week before his coronation.
Bhumibol and his wife Queen Sirikit have four children:
* (Formerly HRH) Princess Ubol Ratana, born 5 April 1951 in Lausanne, Switzerland;
* HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, born 28 July 1952;
* HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, born 2 April 1955;
* HRH Princess Chulabhorn Walailak, born 4 July 1957.
One of Bhumibol's autistic grandchildren, Bhumi Jensen, was killed in the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. He was the son of Princess Ubol Ratana.
Coronation and titles
Bhumibol was crowned King of Thailand on 5 May 1950 at the Royal Palace in Bangkok where he pledged that he would "reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people" ("เราจะครองแผ่นดินโดยธรรม เพื่อประโยชน์สุขแห่งมหาชนชาวสยาม"). Notable elements associated with the coronation included the Bahadrabith Throne beneath the Great White Umbrella of State; and he was presented with the royal regalia and utensils.
In 1950 on Coronation Day, Bhumibol's consort was made Queen (Somdej Phra Boromarajini). The date of his coronation is celebrated each 5 May in Thailand as Coronation Day, a public holiday. On 9 June 2006, Bhumibol celebrated his 60th anniversary as the King of Thailand, becoming the longest reigning monarch in Thai history.
Following the death of his grandmother Queen Savang Vadhana, Bhumibol entered a 15-day monkhood (22 October 1956 – 5 November 1956) at Wat Bowonniwet, as is customary for Buddhist males on the death of elder relatives. During this time, Sirikit was appointed his regent. She was later appointed Queen Regent (Somdej Phra Boromarajininat) in recognition of this.
Although Bhumibol is sometimes referred to as King Rama IX in English, Thais refer to him as Nai Luang or Phra Chao Yu Hua (ในหลวง or พระเจ้าอยู่หัว: both mean "the King" or "Lord Upon our Heads"). He is also called Chao Chiwit ("Lord of Life"). Formally, he would be referred to as Phrabat Somdej Phra Chao Yu Hua (พระบาทสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัว) or, in legal documents, Phrabat Somdej Phra Paraminthara Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), and in English as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He signs his name as ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช ป.ร. (Bhumibol Adulyadej Por Ror; this is the Thai equivalent of Bhumibol Adulyadej R[ex]).
60th Anniversary celebrations
Also called the Diamond Jubilee, the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne were a series of events marking Bhumibol's reign. Events included the royal barge procession on the Chao Phraya River, fireworks displays, art exhibitions, pardoning 25,000 prisoners, concerts and dance performances.
Tied in with the anniversary, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented Bhumibol with the United Nations Development Programme's first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award on 26 May 2006. National holidays were on 9 June and 12–13 June 2006. On 9 June, the King and Queen appeared on the balcony of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall before hundreds of thousands of people. The official royal barge procession on 12 June was attended by the King and Queen and royal visitors from 26 other countries. On 13 June, a state banquet for the royal visitors was held in the newly constructed Rama IX Throne Hall at the Grand Palace, the first official function for the hall. The Chiang Mai Royal Flora Expo was also held to honour the anniversary.
On 16 January 2007, the CDRM officially declared the end of the 60th anniversary celebrations and commenced year-long celebrations of Bhumibol's 80th birthday.
Bhumibol is a painter, musician, photographer, author and translator. His book Phra Mahachanok is based on a traditional Jataka story of Buddhist scripture. The Story of Thong Daeng is the story of his dog Thong Daeng.
In his youth, Bhumibol was greatly interested in firearms. He kept a carbine, a Sten gun, and two automatic pistols in his bedroom, and he and his elder brother, King Ananda Mahidol, often used the gardens of the palace for target practice.
There are two English language books that provide extensive detail - albeit not always verifiable - about Bhumibol's life, especially his early years and then throughout his entire reign. One is The Revolutionary King by William Stevenson, ISBN 978-1-84119-451-6; the other is The King Never Smiles by Paul M. Handley. A third and earlier work, The Devil's Discus, is also available in Thai and English. All three books are banned in Thailand.
Bhumibol's creativity in, among other things, music, art, and invention, was the focus of a 2 minute long documentary created by the government of Abhibisit Vejjajiva that was screened at all branches of the Major Cineplex Group and SF Cinema City, the two largest cinema chains in Thailand.
Estimates of the post-devaluation (circa 1997–1998) wealth of the royal household range from 10 billion to 20 billion USD. In August 2008, Forbes came out with its 2008 version of The World's Richest Royals. King Bhumibol took first place on the list with an estimated wealth of $35 billion. A few days later the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand issued a statement that the Forbes report erred in attributing wealth owned by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) solely to Bhumibol. In the 2009 version of its list, Forbes acknowledged the government's objections, but justified the continued inclusion of the CPB's assets on the ground that Bhumibol was its trustee. The 2009 estimate was down to $30 billion due to declines in real estate and stocks.
The wealth and properties of Bhumibol and the royal family are managed by the Crown Property Bureau and the Privy Purse. The CPB was established by law but is managed independently of the Thai Government and reports only to Bhumibol.
Through the CPB, Bhumibol and the royal family own land and equity in many companies and massive amounts of land, including 3,493 acres in Bangkok. The CPB is the majority shareholder of Siam Cement (the largest Thai industrial conglomerate), Christiani & Nielsen (one of the largest Thai construction firms), Deves Insurance (which holds a monopoly on government property insurance and contract insurance), Siam Commercial Bank (one of the largest Thai banks), and Shin Corporation (a major Thai telecommunications firm, through the CPB's holdings in Siam Commercial Bank). The CPB also rents or leases about 36,000 properties to third parties, including the sites of the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, Siam Paragon and the Central World Tower. The CPB spearheaded a plan to turn Bangkok’s historical Rajadamnoen Avenue into a shopping street known as the “Champs-Élysées of Asia” and in 2007, shocked longtime residents of traditional marketplace districts by serving them with eviction notices. Bhumibol's substantial income from the CPB, estimated to be at least five billion baht in 2004 alone, is exempt from taxes. The CPB receives many state privileges. Although the Ministry of Finance technically runs the CPB, decisions are made solely by Bhumibol. The CPB's annual report is for the eye of Bhumibol alone; the annual report is not released to the public.
In addition, Bhumibol has numerous personal investments independent of the CPB. He is personally the majority shareholder of the Thai Insurance Company and Sammakorn, as well as many other companies.
The CPB has a fleet of three aircraft for the use of the royal family, including a Boeing 737-800 and an Airbus A319. The newer Airbus had been purchased by the Thaksin Shinawatra government for government use, but after the 2006 coup, the junta offered it to the king. The other planes are used by members of the royal family.
Among other vehicles, Bhumibol owns two custom-built stretch limousines from LCW Automotive Corp. The Golden Jubilee Diamond, the largest faceted diamond in the world, was given to him by businessman Henry Ho.
American journalist Paul Handley, who spent thirteen years in Thailand, wrote the biography The King Never Smiles. The Information and Communications Ministry banned the book and blocked the book's page on the Yale University Press website in January 2006. In a statement dated 19 January 2006, Thai National Police Chief General Kowit Wattana said the book has "contents which could affect national security and the good morality of the people." The book provides a detailed discussion of Bhumibol's role in Thai political history and also analyzes the factors behind Bhumibol's popularity.
William Stevenson, who had access to the Royal Court and the Royal Family, wrote the biography The Revolutionary King in 2001. An article in Time says the idea for the book was suggested by Bhumibol. Critics noted that the book displays intimate knowledge about personal aspects of Bhumibol. However, the book has been unofficially banned in Thailand and the Bureau of the Royal Household warned the Thai media about even referring to it in print. An official ban was not possible as it was written with Bhumibol's blessing. The book has been criticised for factual inaccuracies, disrespecting Bhumibol (it refers to him by his personal nickname "Lek"), and proposing a controversial theory explaining the death of King Ananda. Stevenson said, "The king said from the beginning the book would be dangerous for him and for me."
From : www.wikipedia.org