Upon a close examination of the  history  of  Thailand’s monarchy, two  of  the Kingdom’s monarchs  truly  stand  out  as  being  difference  makers  in  their  noble  efforts  to  serve  the Thai nation and people: King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and King Bhumibol (Rama IX).

Two great kings
Although the two monarchs ruled the nation during different periods and  under  quite different circumstances, Their Majesties’ reigns shared many prevailing characteristics, in particular in their efforts to modernise the Thai nation.

The importance of a quality education was instilled in King Chulalongkorn by his father, King  Mongkut  (Rama  IV). King Chulalongkorn shared this ideal with his son, HRH Prince Mahidol, who in turn passed it on to his son - King Bhumibol. Both grandfather and grandson embraced the value of education and proceeded to pursue further studies in the sciences and political science.

King Rama IXEarly years
King  Chulalongkorn  and  King  Bhumibol  both  inherited  the  throne  at  relatively young ages - 17  and  18  years  old,  respectively.  However, instead  of immediately acceding to the throne, both took time to travel overseas to learn about Western civilisation, modern technologies  and systems  of  governance - information  which  they  believed  will  enable them to not just carry out their duties as Head of State effectively, alomg with contributing to the greater good of the country in the long term.

Adopting   the   vast   knowledge   and   expertise   accumulated   from   their   travels,   King Chulalongkorn and King Bhumibol were determined to  modernize the nation in order to keep  up  with  the  global  standards  of  their  respective  eras.   Their  Majesties  shared  a common ultimate goal of improving the people’s lives by enabling the country to become self-sufficient, sustainable and prosperous.

Early travel
Before the reign of King Chulalongkorn, the most common modes of transportation used throughout the Kingdom were   simple   river   boats   or ‘beasts   of   burden’ and horses. King   Chulalongkorn recognised   the   limitations of   this and   sought to   ease   the   inconvenience   by rapidly developing  the  country’s  railway  system. This  significant  improvement  in  the  country’s transport infrastructure helped prepare the nation to face the big challenges of the early twentieth century.

When  King  Bhumibol took  the  throne,  the  country’s  infrastructure  was growing  rapidly within  the  central  region  and  in  major  cities  throughout  the  Kingdom. However, as  with most developing economies, much of the benefits of the economic growth failed to reach the  nation’s  rural  grassroots  population. In  the  country’s  most  remote  zones,  access  to these people was virtually impossible. Yet, King Bhumibol made it his personal mission to travel to all regions within the Kingdom in order to reach his loyal subjects regardless of their location. Throughout his travels his Majesty initiated projects to build roads to the country’s most remote and isolated regions.

Improving health & education
To improve the  quality  of  life  for  his  subjects,  King  Chulalongkorn  built  the  country’s first decent hospital, which was based upon medical institutions and practices. he had learned during his travels to Europe.  King Bhumibol then went on to create the Kingdom’s first medical school and established a national education system.

Similarly, King  Bhumibol  also  understood the  importance  of  achieving a  higher  quality of  life  for  His  subjects.  To  help  improve  their  lives,  His  Majesty  established  a  vast number  of royal  projects  that  helped  to  expand  knowledge  and  innovation  in  areas  as diverse as health, welfare, and agriculture. The late King Bhumibol was also involved in setting  up  numerous  scholarship  programs,  including  the  Ananda  Mahidol  Scholarship Foundation, which   was   supported   directly   by   the   King’s   private   funds.   Since   its inception,  the  foundation’s  scholarship  program  has  expanded  significantly.  Originally focused on the field of medicine, the program now covers eight fields of study: medicine, science, dentistry, agriculture, law, veterinary science, art and engineering.

King Rama IX

Being careful
As  well  as  enhancing  the  country’s  infrastructure  and  improving  the  well-being  of  the Thai  people,  both  King  Chulalongkorn  and  King  Bhumibol  used  their  wisdom and diplomatic skills to protect the country’s sovereignty from negative external influences.

During   the   late   1800s, the   major European   powers   were   aggressively   colonizing Southeast    Asia and most    of    Thailand’s neighbors had already been colonised. King Chulalongkorn  was  very  careful  in  His  dealings  with  foreign  countries.  While  he understood the importance of the innovations and technologies these countries could offer the Kingdom, King  Chulalongkorn was very careful in  terms  of how  much influence  He would allow each of them in relation to any projects undertaken. It is fair to say that King Chulalongkorn’s knowledge, diplomacy and negotiation  skills ensured  that  the  country avoided any form of colonisation by foreign powers during that period of history.

Likewise,  King  Bhumibol faced  difficult challenges  posed  by  the  spread  of  communism  in Cambodia,  Laos  and  Vietnam during  the  1960s  and  1970s. King Bhumibol  made several state  visits  abroad  and  established  stronger  relations  with  several  key  countries.   His Majesty helped  to  ensure that Thailand  through  this  difficult  period,  enablied  the  country  to re-emerge stronger with its constitutional monarchy still intact.

There  is  no  doubt  to  the  fact  that King  Chulalongkorn  and  King  Bhumibol  Adulyadej epitomise great leadership by demonstrating actively how benevolent but powerful heads of state can contribute to the improvement of their country and people. Today their genuine efforts are well appreciated and their beliefs are still alive today in the heart of Thailand.

Bhumibol Adulyadej ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช was born on 5th December 1927 and passed away on 13th October 2016. He was conferred with the title King Bhumibol the Great in 1987 (officially conferred by King Vajiralongkorn in 2019), and was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri dynasty, titled Rama IX. Reigning since 9th June 1946, he was the world's longest-reigning current head of state from the death of Emperor Hirohito of Japan in 1989 until his own death in 2016, and is both the second-longest reigning monarch of all time and the longest-reigning monarch to have reigned only as an adult, reigning for 70 years and 126 days. During his reign, he was served by a total of 30 prime ministers beginning with Pridi Banomyong and ending with Prayut Chan-o-cha.

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