Seventy years on the throne
On June 9th I got on a crowded overhead train in Bangkok and observed that two thirds of the commuters were wearing yellow. It turned out that the whole nation was wearing the colour of the monarchy, and especially celebrating the 70th anniversary of the reign of their King – Bhumibol Adulyadej. Even after working 35 years with the Thai, I was sobered to think that I had only been around for half of the reign of this longest reigning monarch in the world.
The United States was founded in 1776 just 6 years before the founding of modern Siam/Thailand. During those years there have been a total of 44 US presidents, but only 9 Thai kings. Americans speak of George Washington as the father of the country, but King Bhumibol is not just a widely revered monarch, but a true father figure as shown by the designation of December 5 (the king’s birthday) as Father’s Day in Thailand. As a Constitutional monarch, the king has no formal political role, yet is the main unifying figure within the country.
Today religious freedom is guaranteed in this predominantly Buddhist country due to statutory laws, yet the main reason can be traced back to the positive attitude of Thai kings towards various religions, including Christianity. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2 we are told, “ I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. As missionaries here in Thailand we keenly feel the importance of these verses, especially as we pray for King Bhumibol who over the past six years has spent most of his time in and out of hospital due to various ailments. We would request that all who read this blog would pause to apply these verses to not only your respective countries, but to Thailand as well.
Photo source: AFP