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It's rather unusual for
The Guardian to have anything good to say about a monarch. I suppose the fact that King Bhumibol Adulyadej is neither British, nor European, nor Christian, makes it easier for them.
In praise of ... the king of Thailand
Saturday June 3, 2006
Most monarchies lost their divine status centuries ago and are now little more than titular figureheads. In Thailand the reverse is happening. For even though it officially became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-serving monarch who celebrates his diamond jubilee next week, is fast becoming a demigod.
Elevation to a celestial plane should contradict democratic norms. But not in Thailand. King Bhumibol is so revered he only has to comment on an issue for everyone to obsequiously follow his every instruction. This was demonstrated in April when he ordered the courts to resolve a crisis and lethargic judges became icons of energy overnight.
King Bhumibol, 78, was not born into this enviable position. The jazz-loving yachtsman who speaks four foreign languages fluently has worked extremely hard to earn the Thai people's adulation. The king has always looked out for the disadvantaged - whether it is the hill tribes of the northern forests or the people of the predominantly Muslim south in what is otherwise a Buddhist-dominated country. He has also initiated scores of economic projects to revitalise deprived areas.
All this has been done with humility. While traditional bureaucrats try to shield him from his subjects, King Bhumibol has constantly tried to break down the barriers, most notably when he ordered criticism of him to be encouraged rather than punished with imprisonment.