Site logo

The Thai King who Smiles and Never Rests

During his 70 year reign, King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great of Thailand was popularly known as “the Father of all the Land” (พ่อหลวงปวงแผ่นดิน). He wasn’t regarded as a stern parent, but a kind father who always had Thailand’s best interests at heart. This aspect of HM King Bhumibol doesn’t get discussed enough. Historically, Kings around the world often have had reputations of being aloof, and rarely smiling. However, King Rama IX had the reputation (especially among the people of Isaan) as being the smiling King who never rests.

Perhaps no Isaan folk knew King Bhumibol’s kind spirit better than the people of Sakon Nakhon, where the King built his first Isaan Royal Residence Phra Tamnak Phik Mai (พระตําหนักปีกไม้) in 1975, and then several years later Phu Phan Ratchaniwet Palace (พระตำหนักภูพานราชนิเวศน์) — which remains to this day the only Royal Residence in Northeast Thailand (Isaan), a residence he built so as to be closer to the Isaan people and their struggles and hardships.

Starting in the 1950s, the Thai King began visiting Sakon Nakhon regularly, seeing first-hand the progress of his many Royal Initiatives aimed at improving water resource management, agricultural products, animal husbandry, career opportunities, education, health, religious instruction, and more. The smiling king enjoyed meeting with Isaan villagers, greeting them not from the distance of a stage or motorcade, but up close, kneeling down beside them in Buddhist fashion to demonstrate his humble nature.


King Bhumibol Adulyadej With Monk
During his travels through Sakon Nakhon province, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej often visited temples and met personally with revered Buddhist monks.

HM King Bhumibol took very seriously the Buddhist teachings of the Dharma, and had to be extremely skilled at balancing the Buddha’s precepts with the duties and material trappings of being the King of Thailand — a revered institution which he believed was critical for maintaining the stability of Thai society, while also guiding its development (see our post on the King’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy).

After long days and evenings inspecting Royal Projects and meeting with the Isaan people, His Majesty was known to have late night talks with his dear friend and spiritual advisor Phra Ajarn Fan Acharo of Sakon Nakhon (as well as other Buddhist monks), thus earning his reputation as not only a kind and smiling “Father,” but the King who never rests.

Rama IX: The Smiling King of Thailand

The above photos are from an exhibition at the Phu Phan Museum in Sakon Nakhon, which highlights the late King of Thailand’s many development projects and visits to the province.


David Alan