As Thailand undergoes the deep mourning for beloved HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, it is quite evident that much of the outside world is not very clear about the deep respect, love and adoration for the Thai Monarchy so much so that many also wonder (some in awe) about the massive turn out of mourners every day at the Royal Grand Palace grounds (some mourners are even camped there), halting or slowing down of businesses (mostly entertainment hubs) and the dressing in black or white for so many days (for some it will be a year) all throughout Thailand to mourn the sad passing of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Those of us outsiders who have been living in Thailand and call this wonderful country our home, those who have visited very often and feel they are a part of Thailand have a deeper understanding of the country, its people, culture and love of the Monarchy and HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Those who have yet to visit Thailand, only read from western media about the country and have never experienced firsthand about Thailand will find it hard to even imagine what all the fuss is about and why would a nation call His Majesty “Father of Thailand”.
Understanding Thailand, its people, culture and love for their Kings and Royalties must first of all be understood from their history. I am not implying that you have to take a full historical course of Thai history before you visit but to at least just know the basics because it is a reflection of what you will see when you visit the country even on ordinary days.
The basic knowledge of Thai history is that Thailand has been a Monarchy since its first day of being Siam (the old name for Thailand). Throughout the ages, Siam was ruled by Kings (which westerners may consider as feudalism) who kept the country safe from warring neighboring countries (by riding out to battle themselves as the head of their country), united the peoples (under a common goal to improve the security, prosperity and living conditions of the people) and introduced a unified religion (Thailand is predominantly Buddhist but has no limitations nor curb of any other religion).
Within Thai history, the country has never been conquered nor colonized by any other foreign country. The Kings ruled with wisdom, creativity (by building many places of worship like temples of different cultures), teaching their subjects the best use of the lands (agriculture for sustainability) and unification by religion and a common cause for the independence of its people. Unification under the various Monarchies ensured a free Thailand where the people became a first in many fields of commerce and science (in the era of the modern Thai Kings).
The Thai Monarchy has through literally blood, sweat, tears and for many at the cost of their lives fought, earned and gained freedom for a unified Thailand as what it is today. Understanding this is a first and integral part to appreciating Thailand, its culture and the people and starting to understand the immense love that Thais have for their Monarchy. It is not a rule that is imposed on them but rather a choice for the Thai people to be led by a Monarchy. It is a deep reverence for the Monarchy that keeps Thailand as one through good times, difficulties and uncertainties that should never be questioned or assumed otherwise by those not familiar with true Thai cultures, which is why Thailand is known as THE KINGDOM of THAILAND.
Anyone who visits Amazing Thailand (as the country is fondly called now by visitors and the tourism board), will see many evidence of these achievements and legacies bestowed upon Thailand by her Monarchs. However it is not just the beautiful temples and iconic monuments, looking deeper into the country, you will also see many ongoing wonderful projects initiated by the Royal families. Many of you would not even have known that each member of the Royal family has at least one task to perform in helping build the nation, be it from being a patron of the arts, education or even social work. No Royal family is without such a task and mind you they do not do it by just sitting in an office and ordering people to go do it. Much like Royalties of old, they walk the path themselves by being soldiers, monks, walking the muddy fields, climbing mountains to ensure the success of each of their tasks. These are the duties as Thai Royalty that sets them aside from other Monarchies or leaders and make the Thai Monarchy much loved by the people (the Thai Monarchy is known to be out volunteering in the field, funding projects from their own pockets and being among their subjects as one of them).
Those from countries who have never had such leaders will find it hard to understand this Thai reverence unless they open their hearts and minds to see and experience what a Thai does when they visit the country. If you want to understand what the real Thai heart is, when you do visit Thailand (or even if you do not or have yet too) just try to understand the works of the recent and late HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He spent 70 years with hardly a day off, trudging through jungles, mountains, rivers and muddy fields to know every village, terrain and knowledge of his land so that he could implement many of his Royal Initiated Projects (many of which were personally funded) to improve the lot of Thailand, its economy and sustainable future. If you can understand this simple sacrifice by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, you will appreciate why people of Thailand loved and worshipped him so much because he is no different to that of being a father and member of their family who only had their interest at heart.
Now, just a very simple thought and question to that. How many Kings or leaders in this modern world that you know off who has accomplished such a feat? His Majesty could easily have sat in a suit in a nice cool office, ordering his underlings to do these things (as is the practice with most leaderships now) and spend almost all his days doing these things even when he was tired, sick without many holidays and having his own children interested in his great love for the country and people through his work. You can read about HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej here.
Therefore, the Thailand that you visit and enjoy today when you visit or have heard about, is the fruit of His Majesty and family’s loving hard labor that has propelled Thailand to a remarkable and amazing Kingdom. Her peoples have prospered, are more unified (as evident from the turnout to his mourning period such as that the world has never seen before) and enjoy a freedom earned by His Majesty and the Kings of Thailand through the ages. The peoples of Thailand revere and steadfast, united in their Monarchy. A true Thainess in each Thai heart that should never be questioned or undermined as they stand proud to be a child of The Kingdom of Thailand under Great King Bhumibol Adulyadej, many great Kings of Thailand before and future Kings of Thailand.
Lucky are those of us who understand even just a little of this Thainess, have experienced it and are touched by being even just a little Thai at heart. Through it we understand the sights of beautiful places we see in Thailand, experience the food of the country, revel in the festivities and enjoy the arts and culture preserved throughout the ages. Understanding this brings you a little closer to understand Thailand, the love for the Monarchy (the immense loss when Thailand lost its Father of Thailand), the feeling of Thainess and most importantly the freedom to explore and love its land, the people, culture, food, sights and traditions.