Saturday, February 04, 2006

We love the King!

The King of Thailand has got to be the best loved Monarch ever. All through Thailand there are huge colourful pictures of the king, statues of the king and paintings of the king. Every shop and business has a framed portrait of the King, and his wife and if the shop owners are elderly they usually have a picture of the old King as well...I guess old habits die hard.

Now although the current King is adored, I have to say just quietly he doesnt look very kingly. While his dad was a rather handsome, striking looking man the current king with his gangly frame, awkward body language and thick glasses looks more like a computer programmer for an insurance company or a bank clerk. I suspect he must be a bit of a frustrated artist as well as many of his standard portraits feature him in a safari suit which a large black camera slung around his neck. In fact just about every picture of him being casual you can be guaranteed that camera will be there too.

There are shops that are purely dedicated to selling King stuff but the devotion doesn't stop there. In the cinemas everyone has to stop and stand while the national anthem is played usually accompanied by a visual homage to the king. Sometimes it is a sweeping shot accross a faux photo album showing a montage of pictures of the king with his beloved camera, another cinema chose to depict the pictures of the king as a series of fat rain drops falling across the screen while a very emotional choral version of the national anthem played. It was so sweet I didn't know whether to giggle or to cry.

And even right now as I sit at this computer there is a photo tacked to the wall above my head, it is a black and white picture from the late fifties showing Elvis Presley (in full army uniform) sitting with who else but the King of thailand. The King with The King! Legendary stuff, but I bet I can make a safe guess about who is more popular with the people of Thailand.


Blogger Alex said...

Hi Kate,

Perhaps you should've been more inclined to cry when listening to that national anthem being played in the cinema that day.

A guy called Paul Handley wrote a biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej late last year, entitled "The King Never Smiles". It's expected to be published by Yale University Press later this year. I would recommend it to you, but I sincerely doubt you'll be able to lay your hands on a copy whilst in Thailand. The Thai Ministry for Information & Communications has banned the book & blocked its website.

Check out this site, if time permits:

The Thai people may appear to love their current monarch. But in reality the situation is bittersweet, at best.

11:00 PM  

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