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Bhumibol Adulyadej (Royal Institute: Phumiphon Adunyadet; Thai: ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช, pronounced [pʰūːmípʰōn àdūnjādèːt]( listen); see full title below; born 5 December 1927) is the current King of Thailand. Publicly declared "the Great" (Thai: มหาราช, Maharaja), he is also known as Rama IX. 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.[1] He was admitted to Siriraj Hospital in September 2009 for flu and pneumonia and has remained in the hospital since.[2] Rumors about his ill-health caused Thai financial markets to tumble in October 2009.[3]

Although Bhumibol is legally a constitutional monarch, he has made several decisive interventions in Thai politics. 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 2006-2008. During his long reign he has seen over 15 coups, 16 constitutions, and 27 changes of prime ministers.[4] He has also used his influence to stop military coups, including attempts in 1981 and 1985.

Bhumibol is revered by many Thais, despite what the Thai government claims are serious threats to overthrow the monarchy.[5] 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.[6] Although he claimed in his 2005 birthday speech that he would not take lèse majesté seriously, and that the king can have flaws, hundreds of cases under lèse majesté laws have proceeded, resulting in numerous jail sentences and censorship measures.

Forbes estimated Bhumibol's personal fortune, including property managed by the Crown Property Bureau, to be US$30 billion in 2010, and he has been consistently placed at number one of the magazine's list of "The World's Richest Royals".[7][8] He has made donations to numerous development projects in Thailand, in areas like 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.

Early life

Bhumibol (center) with his Mother and siblings Ananda Mahidol (left) and Galyani Vadhana (right).Bhumibol was born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States on 5 December 1927 .[9] He was the younger son of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and Mom Sangwal (later HRH Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother: Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani). His name, Bhumibol Adulyadej, means "Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power".[10]

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
Royal Family of Thailand


HM The King
HM The Queen

HRH The Crown Prince
HRH Princess Srirasmi
HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha
HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana
HRH Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
HRH Princess Chulabhorn Walailak
HRH Princess Siribhachudhabhorn
HRH Princess Adityadhornkitikhun
Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya
Khun Ploypailin Jensen
Khun Sirikitiya Jensen

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HRH Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda

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HRH Princess Soamsavali

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HH Princess Inthuratna

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Thanpuying Dhasanawalaya Sornsongkram

v • d • e

Bhumibol and Sirikit after their wedding.Bhumibol ascended the throne following the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, on 9 June 1946. Bhumibol returned to Switzerland in order to complete his education, and his uncle, Rangsit, Prince of Chainat, was appointed Prince Regent. Bhumibol switched over his field of study to law and political science in order to prepare himself more effectively for his new position as ruler.

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.[12]

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.[13][14][15] He subsequently wore an ocular prosthetic. 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 grandchildren, Bhumi Jensen, was killed in the Tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. He was the son of Princess Ubol Ratana.
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Coronation and titles

Bhumibol at his coronation at the Grand Palace.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").[17] 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.[18]

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.[1]

Following the death of his grandmother Queen Savang Vadhana (สว่างวัฒนา, Sawang Watthana Phra Phanvasa Aiyeekajao), Bhumibol entered a 15-day monkhood (22 October 1956 – 5 November 1956) at Wat Bowonniwet, as is customary on the death of elder relatives.[19] 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, the name "Rama" is never used in Thai. The name is used to approximate Ratchakal ti Kao (รัชกาลที่ 9, literally "the Ninth Reign"). More commonly, 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").[20] 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]).

[edit] Role in Thai politics
[edit] Plaek Pibulsonggram era

Marshal and Mrs. Pibulsonggram with Eleanor RooseveltIn the early years of his reign, during the government of military dictator Plaek Pibulsonggram, Bhumibol had no real power and was little more than a ceremonial figure under the military-dominated government. In August 1957, 6 months after parliamentary elections, General Sarit Dhanarajata accused the government of Field Marshal Pibulsonggram of lèse majesté due to its conduct of the 2,500th anniversary celebration of Buddhism.[21][22] On 16 September 1957, Pibulsonggram went to Bhumibol to seek support for his government.[23] Bhumibol told the Field Marshal to resign to avoid a coup; Pibulsonggram refused. That evening, Sarit Dhanarajata seized power, and two hours later Bhumibol imposed martial law throughout the Kingdom.[24] Bhumibol issued a Royal Command appointing Sarit as "Military Defender of the Capital" without anyone countersigning this Royal Command. The said Royal Command included the following statements:[24]

“ Whereas it is manifested that the country administration by the Government under the premiership of Field Marshal P. Phibunsonggram is untrustworthy, and the Government could not maintain the public order. The military under the leadership of Field Marshal Sarit Dhanarajata successfully took over the administration of the country and is acting as the Military Defender of the Capital. I, therefore, have appointed Field Marshal Sarit Dhanarajata as the Military Defender of the Capital. All the people are requested to remain calm while all public servants are to follow the Orders issued by Field Marshal Sarit Dhanarajat. This Royal Command shall come into force immediately. Proclaimed on 16 September Buddhist Era 2500 (1957).
Sarit Dhanarajata era
During Sarit's dictatorship, the monarchy was revitalised. Bhumibol attended public ceremonies, toured the provinces and patronised development projects. Under Sarit, the practice of crawling in front of royalty during audiences, banned by King Chulalongkorn, was revived in certain situations and the royal-sponsored Thammayut Nikaya order was revitalised. For the first time since the absolute monarchy was overthrown, a king was conveyed up the Chao Phraya River in a Royal Barge Procession to offer robes at temples.[25][26]

Other disused ceremonies from the classical period of the Chakri dynasty, such as the royally-patronised ploughing ceremony (Thai: พิธีพืชมงคล), were also revived.[27] Bhumibol's birthday (5 December) was declared the national day, replacing the previous national day, the anniversary of the Siamese Revolution of 1932 (24 June).[28] Upon Sarit's death in 8 December 1963, an unprecedented 21 days of mourning were declared in the palace. A royal five-tier umbrella shaded his body while it lay in state. Long-time royal adviser Phraya Srivisarn Vacha later noted that no Prime Minister ever had such an intimate relationship with Bhumibol as Sarit.[29]

Contemporary thinkers differ in their views about the relationship between Bhumibol and Sarit. Paul Handley, writer of The King Never Smiles views Sarit as Bhumibol's tool, whereas political scientist Thak Chaloemtiarana asserts that Sarit used Bhumibol in order to build his own credibility.[30][31]

[edit] Thanom Kittikachorn era

Thanom KittikachornField Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn was appointed premier a day after Sarit's death in 1963. He continued most of Sarit's policies for a decade. During the 1970s, Bhumibol was a key figure in the Village Scouts and Red Gaur paramilitary organisations. In October 1973 after massive protests and the deaths of a large number of pro-democracy demonstrators, Bhumibol opened the gates of the Chitralada Palace to fleeing protesters, and held an audience with student leaders. Bhumibol subsequently appointed the Thammasat University Rector Sanya Dharmasakti as the new Prime Minister, replacing Thanom. Thanom subsequently moved to the United States and Singapore. A succession of civilian governments followed, but the return of Field Marshal Thanom and his ordination as a novice monk at Wat Bowonniwet in 1976 led to renewed conflict, culminating in the 6 October 1976 Massacre at Thammasat University by royalist paramilitary forces.

[edit] Prem Tinsulanond era
The ensuing chaos was used as a pretext for a military coup. The junta submitted three names to the king to choose from to become the next Premier: Deputy President of the king's Privy Council Prakob Hutasingh, right-wing Bangkok Governor Thamnoon Thien-ngern, and conservative Supreme Court judge Thanin Kraivixien.[32] Bhumibol chose Thanin as the most suitable. However, Thanin proved to be very right-wing himself, causing student protesters to flee to join the communists in the jungle. Thanin was himself overthrown in a military coup in October 1977 led by General Kriangsak Chomanan. Kriangsak was succeeded in 1980 by the popular Army Commander-in-Chief, General Prem Tinsulanond, later the Privy Council President.

Bhumibol's refusal to endorse military coups in 1981 (the April Fool's Day coup) and 1985 (the Share Rebellion) ultimately led to the victory of forces loyal to the government, despite some violence - including in 1981, the seizure of Bangkok by rebel forces. The coups led many to believe that Bhumibol had misjudged Thai society and that his credibility as an impartial mediator between various political and military factions had been compromised.
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Crisis of 1992

Royal intervention on the night of 20 May. Left to right: Chamlong Srimuang, Suchinda Kraprayoon and the King (seated).Main article: Black May (1992)
In 1992, Bhumibol played a key role in Thailand's transition to a democratic system. A coup on 23 February 1991 returned Thailand back under military dictatorship. After a general election in 1992, the majority parties invited General Suchinda Kraprayoon, a leader of the coup group, to be the Prime Minister. This caused much dissent, which escalated into demonstrations that led to a large number of deaths when the military was brought in to control the protesters. The situation became increasingly critical as police and military forces clashed with the protesters. Violence and riot spread out in many areas of the capital with rumour on the rift among armed forces.[36]

Amidst the fear of civil war, Bhumibol intervened. He summoned Suchinda and the leader of the pro-democracy movement, retired Major General Chamlong Srimuang, to a televised audience, urged them to find a peaceful resolution. At the height of the crisis, the sight of both men appearing together on their knees (in accordance with royal protocol) made a strong impression on the nation, and led to Suchinda's resignation soon afterwards.

It was one of the few occasions in which Bhumibol directly and publicly intervened in a political conflict. A general election was held shortly afterward, leading to a civilian government.[37]


With then President Vladimir Putin in Bangkok on 22 October 2003.[edit] Crisis of 2005–2006 and the September 2006 coup
Main articles: Thailand political crisis 2005-2006, Finland Plot, and 2006 Thailand coup d'état
[edit] Background to the coup
See also: Thailand political crisis 2005-2006
Weeks before the April 2006 legislative election, the Democrat Party-led opposition and the People's Alliance for Democracy petitioned Bhumibol to appoint a replacement prime minister and cabinet. Demands for royal intervention met with much criticism from the public. Bhumibol, in a speech on 26 April 2006, responded, "Asking for a Royally-appointed prime minister is undemocratic. It is, pardon me, a mess. It is irrational".[38]

After publicly claiming victory in the boycotted April parliamentary elections, Thaksin Shinawatra had a private audience with the king. A few hours later, Thaksin appeared on national television to announce that he would be taking a break from politics.

In May 2006, the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned Manager Daily newspaper published a series of articles describing the "Finland Plot", alleging that Thaksin and former members of the Communist Party of Thailand planned to overthrow the king and seize control of the nation. No evidence was ever produced to verify the existence of such a plot, and Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations and sued the accusers.

In a rare, televised speech to senior judges, Bhumibol requested the judiciary to take action to resolve the political crisis.[38] On 8 May 2006, the Constitutional Court invalidated the results of the April elections and ordered new elections scheduled for 15 October 2006.[39] The Criminal Court later jailed the Election Commissioners.[40][41]

On 14 July 2006, Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda addressed graduating cadets of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, telling them that the Thai military must serve the King - not the Government.[42]

On 20 July, Bhumibol signed a royal decree endorsing new House elections for 15 October 2006. In an unprecedented act, the King wrote a note on the royal decree calling for a clean and fair election. That very day, Bhumibol underwent spinal surgery.[43]

[edit] The coup
See also: 2006 Thailand coup

Soldiers were welcomed with flowersIn the evening of 19 September, the Thai military overthrew the Thaksin government and seized control of Bangkok in a bloodless coup. The junta, led by the Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Commander of the Army, called itself the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, accused the deposed prime minister and his regime of many crimes, including lèse majesté, and pledged its loyalty to Bhumibol. Martial law was declared, the Constitution repealed and the October elections cancelled.[44] Hundreds of Bangkokians came out to flock around the coup makers' stationed forces. Protests were banned and protesters were arrested. On 20 September, Bhumibol endorsed the coup, and ordered civil servants to take orders from Sonthi.

The King's role in the coup was the subject of much speculation among Thai analysts and the international media. The King had an audience with Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda at the same time as the First Special Forces were ordered mobilised.[45] Anti-coup protesters claimed that Prem was a key mastermind of the coup, although the military claimed otherwise and banned any discussion of the topic. In a BBC interview, Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University noted, "This coup was nothing short of Thaksin versus the King... He is widely seen as having implicitly endorsed the coup." In the same interview, social critic Sulak Sivaraksa claimed, "Without his involvement, the coup would have been impossible." Sulak added that the King is "very skillful. He never becomes obviously involved. If this coup goes wrong, Sonthi will get the blame, but whatever happens, the King will only get praise."[46] On Saturday 23 September 2006, the junta warned they would "urgently retaliate against foreign reporters whose coverage has been deemed insulting to the monarchy."[47] The President of Bhumibol's Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda, supported the coup. The junta later appointed Privy Council member General Surayud Chulanont as Prime Minister.

On 20 April 2009, Thaksin claimed in an interview with the Financial Times that Bhumibol had been briefed by Privy Councillors Prem Tinsulanonda and Surayud Chulanont about their plans to stage the 2006 coup. He claimed that General Panlop Pinmanee, a leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, had told him of the briefing.[48][49] The Thai embassy in London denied Thaksin's claims.

[edit] After the coup
The junta appointed a Constitutional Tribunal to rule on the alleged poll fraud cases concerning the Thai Rak Thai and Democrat political parties. Guilty rulings would have dissolved both parties, Thailand's largest and oldest, respectively, and banned the parties' leadership from politics for five years. The weeks leading up to the verdicts saw rising political tensions. On 24 May 2007, about a week before the scheduled verdict, Bhumibol gave a rare speech to the Supreme Administrative Court (the President of which is also a member of the Constitutional Tribunal). "You have the responsibility to prevent the country from collapsing," he warned them in the speech, which was shown on all national television channels simultaneously during the evening. “The nation needs political parties.” The actual meaning of Bhumibol's advice was not clear, and interpretations varied. Some observers saw it as suggesting the judges should not make a compromise ruling. Others saw it as a warning against dissolving the two major parties. Bhumibol, who spoke standing but in a weak, rasping voice, was careful not to say where he stood on the merits of the case. "In my mind, I have a judgment but I cannot say," he said. "Either way the ruling goes, it will be bad for the country, there will be mistakes."[50][51][52] The Tribunal later acquitted the Democrat Party but dissolved the Thai Rak Thai party and banned over 100 of its executives from politics for five years.

The junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Assembly later tried to use the King in a propaganda campaign to increase public support for its widely criticised draft constitution. The CDA placed billboards saying, "Love the King. Care about the King. Vote in the referendum. throughout the Northeast of Thailand, where opposition to the junta was greatest.[53]

[edit] 2008 crisis
Main article: 2008–2010 Thai political crisis
The new constitution passed the referendum, and elections were held in December 2007. The People's Power Party, consisting of many former Thai Rak Thai MPs and supporters, won the majority and formed a government. The People's Alliance for Democracy reformed and started protests, eventually laying siege to Government House, Don Muang Airport, and Suvarnabhumi Airport. Although the PAD claimed they were defending the monarchy, Bhumibol remained silent. However, after a PAD supporter died in a clash with police, Queen Sirikit presided over her cremation. Princess Sirindhorn, when asked at a US press conference whether the PAD was acting on behalf of the monarchy, replied, "I don't think so. They do things for themselves."[54] Questioning and criticism over Bhumibol's role in the crisis increased, particularly from the international press.[55][56][57][58][59][60][61] “It is more and more difficult for them to hold the illusion that the monarchy is universally adored,” says a Thai academic
Constitutional powers
For a historical perspective on how Bhumibol's constitutional powers have changed over time, see the Constitutions of Thailand article
Bhumibol retains enormous powers, partly because of his immense popularity and partly because his powers - although clearly defined in the Thai constitution - are often subject to conflicting interpretations. This was highlighted by the controversy surrounding the appointment of Jaruvan Maintaka as Auditor-General. Jaruvavn had been appointed by The State Audit Commission. However, the Constitutional Court ruled in July 2004 that her appointment was unconstitutional. Jaruvan refused to vacate her office without an explicit order from Bhumibol, on the grounds that she had previously been royally approved. When the Senate elected a replacement for Jaruvan, Bhumibol refused to approve him.[63] The Senate declined to vote to override Bhumibol's veto.[64] Finally in February 2006 the Audit Commission reinstated Jaruvan when it became clear from a memo from the Office of the King's Principal Private Secretary that King Bhumibol supported her appointment.

Bhumibol has vetoed legislation very rarely. In 1976, when the Parliament voted 149-19 to extend democratic elections down to district levels, Bhumibol refused to sign the law.[65] The Parliament refused to vote to overturn the King's veto. In 1954, Bhumibol vetoed parliamentary-approved land reform legislation twice before consenting to sign it.[66] The law limited the maximum land an individual could hold to 50 rai (20 acres), at a time when the Crown Property Bureau was the Kingdom's largest land-owner. The law was not enforced as General Sarit soon overthrew the elected government in a coup and repealed the law.

Bhumibol has the constitutional prerogative to pardon criminals, although there are several criteria for receiving a pardon, including age and remaining sentence. The 2006 pardoning of several convicted paedophiles, including an Australian rapist and child pornographer, caused controversy.[67][68][69]

[edit] Network monarchy and extraconstitutional powers

City decoration in observance of King Bhumibol's birthday in Phitsanulok, ThailandSeveral academics outside of Thailand, including Duncan McCargo and Federico Ferrara have noted the active political involvement of Bhumibol through a "network monarchy," whose most significant proxy is Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanond. McCargo claimed that Bhumibol's deeply conservative network worked behind the scenes to establish political influence in the 1990s, but was deeply threatened by the landslide election victories of Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001 and 2005.[70] Ferrara claimed, shortly before the Thai Supreme Court delivered its verdict to seize Thaksin Shinawatra's assets, that the judiciary was a well-established part of Bhumibol's network and represented his main avenue to exercise extra-constitutional prerogatives despite having the appearance of being constitutional. He also noted how, in comparison to the Constitutional Court's 2001 acquittal of Thaksin, the judiciary was a much more important part of the "network" than it was in the past.[71]

The network's ability to exercise power is based partly on Bhumibol's popularity and strict control of Bhumibol's popular image. Bhumibol's popularity was demonstrated following the 2003 Phnom Penh riots in Cambodia, when hundreds of Thai protesters, enraged by rumors that Cambodian rioters had stomped on photographs of Bhumibol, gathered outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. Photographs of the stomping were not published in Thailand, but were available on the internet. The situation was resolved peacefully only when Police General Sant Sarutanonda told the crowd that he had received a call from royal secretary Arsa Sarasin conveying Bhumibol's request for calm. The crowd dispersed
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