Old Friends and New

While we were in Thailand Bob and I made many new friends. We first met one of our new friends,  “Mr. A.”, a truly genuine young man who  drives his own taxi for a living, purely by chance. We were out walking one day, passed him on the beach, said g’day, and got talking. In the course of conversation we mentioned that we were staying at the Manathai in Surin Beach. “Mr. A.” gave a surprised laugh, and told us that Dome, a manager  at our hotel and another of our new friends, happened to also be his best friend.

For a good part of our stay in Surin Beach  “Mr A.” was our constant companion. He’d drive up in his taxi straight after breakfast and take us exploring for the day. He introduced us to his friends, told the locals to look after us, and was never short of suggestions about marvellous places to visit. Some of the places he took us to were known to tourists. Other places were off the beaten track and known only to the Thais: mostly, these were “nature” places, the forest hideaways, the rivers and creeks and swimming holes and waterfalls, and the forest walks and clearings that the local Thais took their own families to for picnics and swimming on Sundays and holidays.

With “Mr. A.”, we poked around, talked to the people, discovered beautiful and fascinating places that are virtually unknown to tourists, and learnt a great deal about the Thai culture, the people, the local history, and the traditions and customs.

One of the beautiful spots that “Mr. A.” took us to was  a natural sea-channel that is almost hidden from view.  During bad storms, super tides, and tsunamis, the Thais use this natural channel as a safe haven for their long-tail fishing boats.  Running alongside this sea-channel is a narrow, stone-walled road that opens out to end on the beach. If I understood our history lesson correctly, the local Thais built this walled road by hand.

 

 

 

We explored tiny secret bays and beaches.

 

 

In the forest, we saw a great many coconut palms and a lot of different  kinds of edible fruit bearing trees. Some of the trees, such as the mango trees for instance, we already knew, and others, such as the durian, we recognised instantly even though we had never seen one in our lives before.  The durian has quite a distinctive smell. No-one could possibly mistake a durian tree for anything other than a durian tree–the stink of its fruit hangs in the air and instantly lays you flat. In the forest, many of these fruit  trees grow wild, and many more are planted there by the local farmers. In the forest, we climbed steep, rocky, mountain paths, marvelled at  huge edible fungi that are a highly prized delicacy in Thai cuisine, and learnt to identify the various gingers and other edible plants.

 

Below, left: An act of nature; the dead canes of the giant bamboo fall to the ground and become pipes that channel ground water down the hillside. 

Then there are the waterfalls and the hidden creeks and the leafy, tropical glens.

  

                         


On another day, we drove along rural back roads beside rubber-tree plantations,

 

met some of the local farmers,

looked at great stretches of swampy land where water-buffalo once wallowed, and were shocked to see how it is now being cleared ready for future building developments–luxury villas, apartment blocks, and hotels–

and drove through country villages

before finally stumbling upon the inevitable and coming back to the reality of globalisation and commercial-wrappers on heart-attack hamburger buns …

Another of the places  we explored with “Mr. A.” was Old Phuket Town. He took us through the old French Quarter and the old Chinese Quarter and the other quarters and sections, told us the history of the town and its quarters, then dropped us off to walk down an old, old street made famous by the traditional silk merchants.  In this street, nothing much has changed for centuries. The modern-day silk-merchants  still conduct the same businesses their forebears had established long before. Silk-businesses were passed down through the families from generation to generation. At the bottom of this old street we rejoined “Mr. A.” and his taxi, and the three of us went looking for somewhere fairly reasonable to have lunch.

We drove around looking, found a restaurant, and while we were waiting for “Mr. A.” to find a parking spot for his taxi and join us, Bob and I  walked around a corner and bumped into Ronald–a familiar and somewhat vivid character whom we had already met in Australia.  It is widely known that Ronald is an American, and a globe-trotter. Or perhaps I should say he has clones all over  the world in places one would least expect. He has even set up a camp at the base of the great pyramids in Egypt, so I’ve been told.  In any case, Ronald is also a bit of a clown by nature and he couldn’t stop grinning when we met him in Old Phuket Town. In fact, he seemed so delighted to see us that Bob decided to brave the fierce, hot, dust-laden wind that threatened to blow us away, and renew the acquaintance by getting up close and personal.

 

 

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Following Up…

Well, following on from my post of last week, it seems that in America the presidential election race is now done and all over bar the shouting, and it seems to me from what I’ve heard on radio and television here on the north coast of Eastern Australia that there is a whole lot of shouting going on. But for all this, I suppose that what it comes down to in the end, is, the people of the USA as well as world trade, world economics, and every other thing these presidential matters affect, now have to be prepared for change.  The powers that be are trying to bring about a smooth transition from the outgoing Obama administration to the incoming Trump administration, and who knows, the transition may well be smooth.  But whichever way you look at it, what the general outcome of the new US Presidency will be remains to be seen as time goes by and the scene unfolds, and history is writ.  As I see it, with what is going on at the present time with the various countries all over the globe, world history is at one of those stand-still,  melting pot points where the whole world is in a shake-up process of redefining itself.  Scary!!! I wonder where the world will be at, in, say, 50  years down the track from now?

In my last post I also noted that according to the Worldometers on the net, as of January 2016 the population of the United States of America (USA) was estimated to be 323 025 335 people, and the population of Australia was estimated to be 24 168 303 people. In regards to where the population figures will be in Australia and America respectively in, say, 50  years from now is a little beyond my maths, but I imagine that  if the population figures in both countries keep climbing the way they have been over the last few years, and the area measurement  in both countries is exactly the same it is deemed to be now, the peoples living then might all be in terrible trouble.

Australia’s Size Compared – Geoscience Australia http://www.ga.gov.au/…/dimensions/australias-size-compared

Australia’s Size Compared. … Calculations on Australia’s area are based on the coastline data as explained in Geoscience Australia’s GEODATA Coast 100K 2004 …

Australia is the planet’s sixth largest country after Russia, Canada, China, the USA, and Brazil. At 7 692 024 km2, it accounts for just five percent of the world’s land area of 149 450 000 km2, and although it is the smallest continental land mass, it is the world’s largest island.

Australia /United States of America overlay comparisons

area-of-australia-compared-to-americaaustralia-america-size

Calculations on Australia’s area are based on the coastline data as explained in Geoscience Australia’s GEODATA Coast 100K 2004 page. The coastline data is nationally uniform, is sourced primarily from the 1:100 000 scale National Topographic Map Series and is the most authoritative data source currently available to calculate the area of Australia.

United States (Contiguous 48) vs. Australia: Compare Area … https://www.comparea.org

Australia is 1.2% larger than United States (Contiguous 48).

america-australai-contiguous

 

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So the Race is On

Well, seems that the US of A Presidential election, the day that has been in the news for so long, is finally here, and as we all know it’s Hilary Clinton v Donald Trump. It also seems to me that at this current time the eyes of the world are on the US election  situation, and holding its collective breath as it awaits the outcome–Clinton or Trump? Trump or Clinton?

Heard the renowned political commenter Laurie Oakes on the television news last night. He more or less implied that the outcome of this race is anybody’s guess, and he said: “My guess is Hilary  Clinton. But I fear Donald Trump.” Personally, I do not dare to put a bet on one or the other for fear I’d lose my money.  But from what I’ve heard they are taking bets on the potential outcome in America.  There are only two possible outcomes–Clinton, or Trump–and whichever way you look at it, or try to predict what either of these hopefuls would be like as the US President, would still only be a bit of a guess–maybe a fairly educated one in some instances, but a guess nevertheless.

Without a doubt America does indeed play a big part in the world; in one way or another, it has a very strong pull on so very many other countries in the world, and it is also seen as the leader of the western world. Speaking as an ordinary Australian citizen who has been reared on a political system that uses mandatory voting (a system which, in the best interests of the general population, gives everyone a voice, and allows the people to cast a vote for the government of their choice), I see the American political system as being a bit of a mad, unnecessarily prolonged process.  One of the things that seems to me to be totally whacky with the American system  is, that, for an election event that appears to be so important to world trade economy (and hence to America) and world politics (and again, hence to America), voting is not mandatory in the United States of America. How can it possibly be in the best interests of the general population of America if voting is not mandatory? Not everyone would get a voice, and the outcome of any presidential election would therefore be based on only the voices of the relatively few citizens who do cast a vote. In a country that prides itself as being the home of democracy, is that democracy?

It has also been reported by the Australian media in today’s news, that in numerous places throughout America there are various problems with some of the electoral polling stations. In many instances, the queues of people waiting to cast their ballot are so long that voters stand in line for hours. Would it be any wonder if some people, the old or infirm, say,  just gave up and didn’t vote at all? Given that the queues are so very lengthy, the other danger is that the polling booths may close before some people get a chance to cast their vote. How democratic is that?

America boasts a simply huge population  of roughly about 324 million people. So, given that the Trump v Clinton business seems to have raised so very many hackles between the for and against on both the Republican side and the Democrat side, and given that the suitability of the two presidential hopefuls has been so hotly debated elsewhere, and given that it has been said that a great many Americans went to the polls early and pre-voted, I was rather surprised when I heard on the 8 a.m. radio news this morning that only a very small number of Americans who are eligible to vote had actually cast their votes so far.

According to the information given by wikipedia (a site which we academics know never to cite or otherwise admit to viewing since it is unsupported and therefore untrustworthy, but which most of us do nevertheless look at on occasion),  the United States of America is:

a country of 50 states plus a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. The 48 contiguous states and federal district are in central North America between Canada and Mexico, with the state of Alaska in the north-western part of North America and the state of Hawaii comprising an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. At 3.8 million square miles and with over 324 million people, the United States is the world’s third-largest country by total area and the third-most populous. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many other countries…. [1]

On the net, I came across the  Worldometer, which gives the following information on the population number for the United States of America:

As of 1 January 2016, the population of United States of America (USA) was estimated to be 323 025 335 people. This is an increase of 0.75 % (2 414 202 people) compared to population of 320 611 133 the year before. In 2015 the natural increase was positive, as the number of births exceeded the number of deaths by 1 397 865. Due to external migration, the population increased by 1 016 337. The sex ratio of the total population was 0.975 (975 males per 1 000 females) which is lower than global sex ratio. The global sex ratio in the world was approximately 1 016 males to 1 000 females as of 2015. See also map of the world by sex ratio of total population.

Below are the key figures for United States of America (USA) population in 2015:

  • 4 039 700 live births
  • 2 641 836 deaths
  • Natural increase: 1 397 865 people
  • Net migration: 1 016 337 people
  • 159 469 031 males as of 31 December 2015
  • 163 556 304 females as of 31 December 2015

During 2016 United States of America (USA) population is projected to increased by 2 432 381 people and reach 325 457 716 in the beginning of 2017. The natural increase is expected to be positive, as [projection studies indicate that] the number of births will exceed the number of deaths by 1 408 390. If external migration will remain on the previous year level, the population will be increased by 1 023 990 due to the migration reasons. It means that the number of people who move into United States of America (USA) (to which they are not native) in order to settle there as permanent residents (immigrants) will prevail over the number of people who leave the country to settle permanently in another country (emigrants).

Population dynamics in 2016: According to our estimations, daily change rates of United States of America (USA) population in 2016 will be the following:

  • 11 151 live births average per day (464.63 in a hour)
  • 7 292 deaths average per day (303.85 in a hour)
  • 2 805 immigrants average per day (116.89 in a hour)

The population of United States of America (USA) will be increased by 6 664 persons daily in 2016. [2]

Being an Australian who lives in Australia (a country which many older Australians and some others fear is edging towards becoming a little too overcrowded), I thought it might be rather interesting to  compare the statistics given for America to those given for Australia. So I had a another look on the web, and found some information gathered by the Australian Government 2016 Census. I also had a look at the Population Clock from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a project based on the estimated resident population in Australia at 31 March, 2016 [3]:

As of January 2016, the population of Australia was estimated to be 24 168 303 people. This is an increase of 1.57% (372 640 people) compared to a population of 23 795 663 the year before [2015].  In 2015 the natural increase was positive, as the number of births exceeded the number of deaths by 161 573. Due to external migration, the population increased by 211 068.

Below are the key figures for Australia population in 2015:

  • 321 003 live births
  • 159 431 deaths
  • Natural increase: 161 573 people
  • Net migration: 211 068 people
  • 12 045 541 males as of 31 December 2015
  • 12 122 762 females as of 31 December 2015

During 2016 Australia population is projected to increased by 378 476 people and reach 24 546 779 in the beginning of 2017. The natural increase is expected to be positive, as the number of births will exceed the number of deaths by 164 103. If external migration will remain on the previous year level, the population will be increased by 214 373 due to the migration reasons. It means that the number of people who move into Australia (to which they are not native) in order to settle there as permanent residents (immigrants) will prevail over the number of people who leave the country to settle permanently in another country (emigrants).

Population dynamics in 2016: According to our estimations, daily change rates of Australia population in 2016 will be the following:

  • 893 live births average per day (37.22 in a hour)
  • 444 deaths average per day (18.48 in a hour)
  • 587 immigrants average per day (24.47 in a hour)

The population of Australia will be increased by 1 037 persons daily in 2016.

Population clock: On 9 November 2016 at 09:19:48 AM (Canberra time), the resident population of Australia is projected to be 24,266,812.  This projection is based on the estimated resident population at 31 March 2016 and assumes growth since then of:

  • one birth every 1 minute and 44 seconds,
  • one death every 3 minutes and 20 seconds,
  • a net gain of one international migration every 2 minutes and 32 seconds, leading to
  • an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 29 seconds.

These assumptions are consistent with figures released in Australian Demographic Statistics, March Quarter 2016 (cat. no. 3101.0).  [3]

In comparing the population of America to other countries in the world I also had a look at the world population graph on the Worldometer <http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/>  [4]. I found an interactive graph that was extremely interesting and also more than a little frightening. I will not go further into this now, but leave it to those who may be interested to have a look at the website themselves.

—————–

Works cited: 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States

[2] U. S. Population (2016) – Worldometers  http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population 

The current population of the United States of America is … Population of the United States (2016 and … 2016) chart plots the total population count as of …

<http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/&gt;

[3] Population clock – Australian Bureau of Statistics <www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2…>  <http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/d3310114.nsf/home/population%20pyramid%20preview&gt; <40.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/1647509ef7e25faaca2568a900154b63>

[4]  World Population Clock: 7.5 Billion People (2016 http://www.worldometers.info/world-population Video embedded · World population live counter with data sheets, … Urban Population; 2016: 7,432,663,275: 1.13 %: 83,191,176: 29.9: 2.5: 57: … in the United States … <http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/&gt;

 

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Creatures Big and Small

On our travels through Thailand, it struck me that there were a great many dogs on the roam. They just hang around, sitting and dozing and watching life go by,  or curl up and go to sleep wherever, and no one takes any notice of them. Other than for one cheeky four-legged chap who was sitting on the veranda of his house which was built out into one of the many water-canals, I didn’t hear any of these dogs bark at anyone, and none chased cars or bikes as some dogs are wont to do out here in Australia. Rather the Thai dogs (I can only vouch for the ones we met,) either ignore you, or quietly watch you, or come up to say a friendly, quiet “hello,” in passing. I thought they were strays, but was later told that these dogs are people’s pets, and have been raised to know nothing but care and love. As far as I could see, no one hurts them, and, in turn, they hurt no one. These pet dogs don’t even seem to fight each other. Maybe the heat is too draining for them to spend their energy in fighting.  Whatever,  I think that this is rather lovely–for an animal to feel so safe and secure–but I am not so naïve as to think that Thailand, or for that matter any place on earth, is the absolute dog heaven tale. There is always more than one side to any story, and there are always things the eye doesn’t see or doesn’t want to see.

While we were in Thailand we visited a number of Buddhist temples; some were inhabited by monks, others were not, and some never had been. In one temple precinct that did have a full quota of resident Buddhist monks,  we saw several well-fed, well-cared for dogs, and a cat. All these animals were calm and good-natured. Regardless of the milling throngs–nationals, visitors, and worshippers–at the temple, these animals calmly went about doing their own thing, sleeping, playing, walking around as if they owned the place.  I asked our guide if these animals were strays that had wandered into the temple grounds and was told “No,” not strays, but temple animals. They live in the temple precinct, and are well-cared for and well-fed by the monks who live there.

Thailand is also home to many different species of python and snake; most of the latter are deadly poisonous, but mostly these creatures keep to the forests. Even though Bob and I did walk in the forests on a few occasions, we didn’t come across any pythons or snakes, and I for one wouldn’t have stayed around to ask questions or wonder at them if we had. But we did see some pythons and snakes in captivity, and we saw many of these creatures in the various markets.

I stupidly asked one of our guides if these animals were for sale. Our guide was horrified at my question, and said in a shocked voice,  “For sale? !!! You don’t sell pets!!! No one sell their pets.” And he said a little more that sounded like, “You not get pet through Customs.” Even though the last thing I wanted to do was buy one and take it home, I got the picture. These reptiles in the markets are not for sale. They are people’s pets. The owner stands there with her or his pet, and offers passers-by the chance to pay around 250 baht (approximately $9–10 AUD) to have a photo taken with their animal. It was not for me, not even if the thing’s owner had offered to pay me hundreds or thousands in any currency whatsoever–I hate and fear snakes of any sort. But I find other animals, what I call real animals, like the tiny creature in the photos below, very very cute.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Some pets are just pets for the amusement or joy of the family, and are not put to work as such. I would have liked to have asked this monkey’s owners if they ever let the little person  off his chain, but they didn’t speak a lot of English and I can’t really speak Thai.

We also saw other endangered animals like Siamese tigers and Thai elephants in breeding and protection and rehabilitation programmes.  Neither Bob nor I can believe that we actually did what we said we’d never do–go into a tiger enclosure and play with the tiger, and on the same day, visit an elephant refuge, and ride an elephant into the jungle. For some reason, we didn’t find these experiences at all scary.  But we are agreed that after having been up close and personal to a couple of tigers on that one occasion (even laid up alongside them and held them by their tails), we will never repeat the experience for as long as we both shall live. We’ve been there and done that. N.B. Tigers have front feet that are bigger than our heads–one swipe and … voila!!

    

We are also agreed that we will not go riding elephants again, either. Elephants are too big, too heavy if they fall over with you, and they are too lumbering and too rough to ride. Taking a ride on an elephant is very bumpy, very uncomfortable, very bruising, and the little wooden seat structure you have to sit in, is very insecure.  Moreover, it is my belief that an elephant could send you a long way away in a hurry if it suddenly decided it didn’t want you sitting on its back.  All the elephant would have to do is reach up with its long trunk, grab you around the waist, and fling: Hasta la vista baby!   

We had booked a half-hour ride on the elephant.  At the time of booking, it seemed like a fairly romantic thing to do, straight out of an old-fashioned Boy’s Own book. Despite the wonders of the forest–the beautiful and rare butterflies, the unusual tropical plants and trees, the rubber trees, and the edible exotic fruits growing wild–half an hour on that elephant was way too long. We wanted to get off and I  begged the mahout to turn his friend  around and head back to where we  could alight.  The mahout said, “One minute missy, just a little further, just a little longer,” and kept going. I didn’t like the seat, I think it is dangerous, and I also think that it’s unnatural for an elephant to have this unwieldy contraption strapped to its back. With Bob’s and my combined weights in that seat it  must have hurt the poor elephant.

 

Mahouts carry an elephant stick. This stick has  a long, curved steel hook that tapers into a point, and is used to control the elephant. The mahout jabs the point of his elephant stick into his elephant, to make the animal behave as he would have it do. It was explained to me that elephants are super intelligent and strong-willed creatures; that they can be very, very wilful, and are just like naughty children; that any “tame” elephant needs to be very firmly controlled by its mahout, by means of the mahout’s elephant hook; that an elephant who is not fully controlled can be very dangerous and do an enormous amount of damage, even kill whoever happens to be around at the time. I do understand. I do see the sense. Yet there is another part of my mind that can’t come to terms with this method of control. I think it rather cruel. I also see it as a form of betrayal. Elephants clearly adore their mahouts, and an elephant will only obey his or her own mahout, and the mahouts clearly love their elephants in return, yet, despite this, mahouts make good use of their elephant sticks on their poor deluded elephant charges, and often draw blood. Is this elephantine respect, do elephant’s have masochistic tendencies? Or it is something else again…

 

The chooks in Thailand are very pretty, colourful creatures, and look not unlike those in Vietnam. They, and their chickens,  all run around, quite free to wander, and are given right of way by humans, their owners as well as strangers.

 

While we were in Phuket, Bob and I, together with our friend Mr. “A”,  also paid a visit to a gibbon rehabilitation centre, the sanctuary in the forest next to the beautiful Bang Pae waterfall which is much favoured by the Thai locals as a weekend swimming and picnic spot. Gibbons have become an endangered species in Thailand. Once, there were many gibbons, but their numbers have been depleted by hunters seeking the tiny babies to sell as pets. Not only do the hunters steal the tiny gibbon babies, they also kill off the parents and whole gibbon families to do so.  Sadly, many of the gibbons kept as household pets were chained or tied up and kept in small cages, sometimes starved, and otherwise often badly mistreated.

 

These poor gibbons in the photos above have been emotionally damaged and physically maimed by their former owners who kept them as pets. The gibbon boy in the photo on the right was chained so tightly he lost his feet, and the gibbon girl in the photo  on the left had one leg and one arm chopped off by her former owner as punishment for biting his daughter who was tormenting it at the time.

From talking to some of the New Zealand volunteers working at the centre, I learnt that these practices and instances of cruelty are, thankfully, fast becoming a thing of the past. The rehabilitation centre in Phuket,  together with other like sanctuaries and  facilities in Thailand, and together with Thai workers, foreign volunteers, and the government of Thailand, are doing an excellent job in re-educating the public to appreciate and protect their environment and the fauna.The rehabilitation centre we visited housed over 60 gibbons that were once kept as pets. Some of these gibbons are surrendered, others have been rescued, and some come in under a type of “buy-back” incentive. More come in everyday; so many in fact that sometimes the centre runs to capacity and overflows, and then these former owners are referred on to other centres. The centre in Phuket is doing the best it can, and the Thai  government gives what funding they can. For all this, though, Thailand is not a wealthy country money-wise. It is rich in other ways, such as, for instance, in its natural resources and in the people themselves, in their genuine happiness, calmness, smiling friendliness, and spiritually, and in the beauty of their country and its forests, fauna and flora.  Like most of these sorts of places all over the globe, despite all the help that it is given the centre is still plagued by a lack of monetary funds. Even so, despite the lack of sufficient funds, the sanctuary is doing its best to rehabilitate these poor gibbons, releasing any of those animals they can, those that are not too  mentally or physically or  emotionally damaged,  back into the wild.

 

 

 

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On the Passing of Rama IX

                                 This photo of King Rama IX was borrowed from the net.

Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand was crowned Rama IX on 6 June, 1946. He was conferred with the added title of King Bhumibol the Great in 1987. In total, he reigned for 70 years and 126 days. As Rama IX, Bhumibol Adulyadej was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri Dynasty, and the world’s longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. His full given title, often shortened to “Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatthabophi” or “Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej”, was Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Mahitalathibet Ramathibodi Chakkrinaruebodin Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatthabophit. The meaning of the names used in his title are as follows:

  • Phra — a third-person pronoun referring to the person with much higher status than the speaker, meaning “excellent” in general. The word “Phra” is from Sanskrit vara (“excellent”).
  • Bat — “foot”, from Sanskrit pāda.
  • Somdet — “lord”, from Khmer samdech (“excellency”).
  • Paraminthra — “the great”, from Sanskrit parama (“great”) plus indra (“leader”).
  • Maha — “great”, from Sanskrit maha.
  • Bhumibol — “Strength of the Land”, from Sanskrit bhūmi (“land”) plus bala (“strength”).
  • Adulyadej — “Incomparable power”, from Sanskrit atulya (“incomparable”) plus teja (“power”).
  • Mahitalathibet — “Son of Mahidol”.
  • Ramathibodi — “Rama, the Avatar of God Vishnu to become the great ruler”; from Sanskrit rāma plus adhi (“great”) plus patī (“president”).
  • Chakkrinaruebodin — “Leader of the People who is from the House of Chakri”, from Sanskrit cakrī plus naṛ (“men”) plus patī (“president”).
  • Sayamminthrathirat — “the Great King of Siam”, from Sanskrit Siam (former name of Thailand) plus indra (“leader”) plus adhi (“great”) plus rāja (“king”).
  • Borommanatthabophit — “the Royalty who is the Great Shelter”, from Sanskrit parama (“great”) plus nātha (“the one who others can depend on” or “Power/Right”) plus pavitra (“royalty”).

During his long reign Rama IX guided his country safely through many upheavals, swift social changes, and economic changes of some magnitude, and was otherwise involved in, and oversaw and guided, many social and economic development projects. The nature of the king’s involvement in these various developmental projects varied by political regime: During his reign Rama IX was served by a total of 30 prime ministers in total, beginning with Pridi Banomyong and ending with Prayut Chan-o-cha. On 26 May, 2006, during the 60th anniversary celebrations of the King’s accession to the throne, an anniversary which is also known in Thailand as the Diamond Jubilee, and tied in with the 60th anniversary celebrations, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented Bhumibol with the United Nations Development Programme’s first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award.

Everywhere we went in Thailand we saw pictures of King Rama IX and his beloved wife, Queen Sirikit, and pictures of their children.  As well, everywhere we went buildings and streets and various places we saw were bedecked with the King’s and Queen’s own colours–yellow and a pale, bright blue. In the Thai culture colours symbolise various virtues, and also Buddhist beliefs and traditions and symbolism, and also align to the days of the week, and to celebratory days.  In the Thai culture and belief system,  a different colour is assigned to each day of the week: Monday is yellow, Tuesday is pink, Wednesday is green, Thursday is orange, Friday is blue, Saturday is purple and Sunday is red. A person born on a Monday will not only have yellow as his or her birth color, but the serious demean that Thais associate with it – a characteristic that, according to Thai culture, is suitable for a career in medicine, or in the case of Rama IX, a king.  Hence, the King’s colours are those assigned to Monday, the day on which he was born–Monday, 5 December, 1927, in the USA–and likewise the colour blue for his beloved queen who was born in Thailand on Friday, 12 August, 1932.

Regardless of the fact that King Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Bhumibol, Rama IX, was protected by Thailand’s traditional  lèse-majesté laws (which allow critics of the king to be jailed), he was truly held in great respect by the Thai people generally. From talking with many Thai people while I was in Thailand, I saw that these peoples, Rama IX’s people, genuinely revered and adored him, and felt deep connections to him.  In his earlier life, Rama IX spent some time serving as a Buddhist monk, and on another separate occasion was a scholar at Oxford University in England where he gained his Masters’ degree. As King, and in himself, Rama IX was a humble, wise, hard-working, deeply thinking, clever, bright, extremely well-educated, and a very talented, artistic, and creative, and deeply spiritual man. He was the Thai peoples own very beloved king, and was very much one of them and one with them. He met with and talked to them in person, he walked amongst them and visited, and always had a ready ear to listen to the individuals he met. The Thai people also met their king on a nightly basis “in person” through television. Every night Thai television channels showed the people their King living his life in as ordinary a way as a reigning monarch can. Every night his peoples watched and listened to him on television as he did the ordinary sorts of things they did–meditating, praying to Buddha, walking in the countryside and enjoying and taking note of nature, fishing, reading, and so on…

Sadly, Rama IX passed away on Thursday, 13 October, this year, 2016. That was two weeks to the day that Bob and I had returned home to Australia from Thailand. In Australia, television and media reports showed that the Thai people are in deep mourning and that public emotion in Thailand is running high.  Mass reaction is a deep, multi-faceted subject and one that is not easily grasped or explained in all its numerous aspects, but the emotional reaction of the masses in Thailand is very understandable, King Rama IX was greatly loved.  Similar scenes were shown by the media in Australia, and I presume throughout the western world, when various of the West’s  loved and admired leaders and royals passed: Public emotion peaked when President Kennedy of America was assassinated, and again, our people were grief-stricken and emotions ran high when our own beloved Princess Diana met an early death  in a motor accident, and I envisage that this will also be the case again when our own beloved Queen Elizabeth 11 eventually passes. In regards to coverage by the media: the media generally would probably argue (and are probably right in a way) that it is their perceived duty to help educate and enlighten their public audiences by reporting on world matters and on what is happening in other countries across the globe and amongst the peoples of the various nations, and, in particular, television media can be inclined to view itself as the eyes of the world and the eyes on the world; yet, I can’t help but think that the western television media can, on one level, also be a tad intrusive at times, especially when it comes to human grief.

Moving on now: When we were in Thailand recently, the king and his queen were both in hospital where, because of being old and frail and in ill-health and in need of special care, they had been living for a while. Everywhere we went, everyone I spoke to genuinely looked up to and revered their king, Rama IX.   The Thais are gently-spoken people in general, at all times: yet I could not help but notice how these people spoke of their king very fondly, with love, and with a marked additional softening in their voices, and demeanour.  I found it rather beautiful to watch, really. In Thailand, I breathed in the air and absorbed the atmosphere and talked deeply with a number of Thais on a personal and individual basis, and somehow gained a level of understanding, and, even though I am not Thai so can never actually know what it is to be Thai, I instinctively gained a sense of knowing. I mentioned this to Bob who said he felt the same. Later, we were talking about this with a close friend who has been to Thailand and who has familial ties there (one of her cousins resides with his Thai wife in Bangkok)–and our friend said that she too, had a similar experience and felt the same as us.

I would say that on one level,  this type of “knowing” possibly stems from sensitivity to atmosphere and from empathy with and respect for others, and from acceptance of others regardless of social and racial and geographical and cultural divides, and from listening deeply to others, to their story, and thoughts and feelings and beliefs, and with reflection but without judgment on the part of the listener. For all our research in modern times, human experience is still a bit of a mystery, and emotional phenomena and feelings are the least understood areas of human experience. But it seems to me that when conversing on deep levels with some other on an individual basis, you instinctively gain some understanding of another, a sense of what it means to be that other, which, in turn, creates within yourself a deeper, richer, understanding of life. As well, it seems to create some emotional tie, a closeness, a deep bond, between yourself and that other. This “meeting of souls” is a highly charged human experience, and an emotional phenomenon, and is therefore, by nature, not one that can be constantly maintained at an intense or peak emotional level, but one which nevertheless forms a lasting connection to whatever degree–either greater or lesser–depending on the people concerned, and which, in like souls, can give birth to a genuine friendship that is not confined by time, or by social, racial, cultural, or geographical divides. As my friend said to me, “It’s wonderful how, when you ‘connect’ with someone, even though you might not see each other for weeks, months, years, the moment you meet back up again, the conversation picks up smoothly as if you only saw each other yesterday.”

Along with many, many thousands of others I too feel with our Thai friends in their sadness. Thailand’s Rama IX was indeed a great king, a good king, and one who is truly mourned and will be sorely missed by his peoples. Rama IX was a rare soul, and he loved his people, and life and nature, and his kingdom.

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Taking a Walk Around Surin Beach

In Thailand, our hotel, the Manathai Surin Beach boutique hotel, was situated in a quiet street, and directly across from the beach at Surin. The hotel reception area and restaurant were quite different from anything we had imagined.

 

Our room at the hotel was spacious, quite luxurious really, and had everything we needed and more besides… it even had fresh orchids scattered across the bed, amongst the fresh fruit in the bowl on the table in the little sitting area, and in a spray on the desk. A single orchid was carefully placed in the centre of the bath mat in front of the shower recess.

  

  

Every morning I enjoyed a long, cool shower, and then discovered we had a voyeur who was fascinated with my bathing. He was so sweet that I didn’t mind in the slightest.  I was just as taken with watching him as he was in watching me. We tried as best we could to take his photo through our double-glazed bathroom window:

Our room had a lovely balcony that overlooked the pool area and the gardens.

  

On the same side of the road and to the left of the hotel is a short row of shops, massage parlours, and restaurants, as well as a couple of clubs and businesses, a few private houses, and the inevitable 7 Eleven grocery store (nearly always, no matter where you are in Thailand, you will see  a 7 Eleven store).

  

The Manathai Surin Hotel adjoins the shops, and is on the extreme left of the first photo in the row above.

The other thing you see  a lot of in this particular stretch, are statues. They sit in front of businesses and clubs, and in people’s front gardens. The statues are not so much used for decorative effect as to bring good luck to the household, club, or business.

   Thailand is sometimes called the “Elephant Nation”; the elephant is Thailand’s national symbol, and generally thought by visitors to mean good luck. In actual fact, as the Thais explained it to me, the elephant stands for hard work, honesty, power, intelligence, memory, and is highly appreciated, valued, and revered.  What is good luck, what brings one good luck, so the Thais say, is to walk under the belly of an elephant, and emerge from the other side. To my mind though, the good luck that stems from walking under  the belly of an elephant would come from emerging on the other side in one piece and in the same shape as  you were before you began to do something rather brave, or should I say plain dumb. Have you ever been up close to an elephant and noted the actual size of those things? To each his own, I suppose.

  

We walked past the row of shops to the left of the hotel, to the corner of the street and hung a left, and walked up into the town. There, we walked past many shops, several restaurants, massage parlours, and bars, a couple of private homes, and any number of laundries. These laundries are run from private residences, and are quite often in full view, sometimes up a side alley and visible from the street, and are often nothing more than an old washing machine and rinsing tub and clothes line in someone’s back or front yard as the case may be, and very a very hard-working family. Some shops also run similar laundries at the back of their premises. While we were in Thailand, our clothes were laundered by or through the hotels in which we stayed. Our laundry came back spotlessly clean, beautifully ironed, and neatly folded. No matter where we went in Thailand, one thing that particularly struck us was the absolute spotlessness of the people’s clothing. The Thais are very clean people in themselves.


 

    

After we had walked and walked and then walked some more, and had seen enough of the town to satisfy us for the time being, we retraced our steps, walked back to the crossroads, then crossed over to the shop on the opposite corner of the road that ran down to the hotel. We stood outside the shop looking  at various types of four-wheeler tuk-tuks, and then drew some money from the ATM at the side of the shop. In Thailand, there are many, many ATM machines. They’re almost everywhere you look–turn around, and there’s an ATM lurking on the footpath, as it were. We counted at least two within 150 metres of the hotel.

 

Behind this shop, and at right angles to the beach, is a sports-field where they hold paint-ball tournaments and possibly other sports.  We gained the impression that paint-balling is a big thing in Thailand.

Directly across the road from this shop and sports-field is King Rama VII’s Surin Beach holiday house and the remains of the royal house-gardens.

    

One thing we could not possibly miss out on doing, was taking photos of the telegraph poles with their tangled masses of overhead communication and electrical wires. As I see it, and I could be wrong here, safety measures are not high on the list of priorities in Thailand. From what we saw of the telegraph poles and the wires they carry, it would seem that if there is any wire left over when a job is being done, then it is just looped around into a bundle and tied up high in order to save it for the next time it might be needed, or it is just simply cut off, and left hanging where it is….

and how on earth the guys who work on the system can do so without any safety gear whatsoever, and without getting electrocuted, beats me. I don’t think Thailand has OH&S regulations. Bob didn’t think so either. His curiosity got the better of him. He simply had to go up to the crew working on the telegraph poles and overhead wires at Surin Beach and say, “How do you sort that mess out!” The workman didn’t say a great deal.  He just looked at the great tangled heap, scratched his head, and said, “We work with what we got. Try do our best.”

          BOOM!ZAP!                       

    SIZZLE!                    

Of course, Surin Beach is not alone in the electrical high-wire mess, you can see these great tangles almost everywhere you go, regardless of whether it is a city or a village, or a country place.

 

 In Surin Beach, we walked back to the hotel along the road on the side nearest the beach, taking photos of the area that was once the former king’s (Rama VII) golf course and gardens, then back-tracked a little to walk past the small lake made by the tsunami, looked at the shed that housed the tsunami warning system, then crossed over the road to the hotel, and watched a different type of tuk-tuk go by–this was a private tuk-tuk for use only by the family, and for anything they might need to cart. But we did take a ride on motor-bike tuk-tuk that was a little similar in that it had three wheels. It was a bit of a bruising experience to say the least. But at least we can say we roughed it through Surin and around to Bangtoa Beach, which is very pretty, still rather countrified in the present day, and the next beach along from that of Surin. Bob and I are agreed: riding in a tuk-tuk is one experience we do not wish to repeat in a hurry, anyway, not through choice.

  

  

               SPLASH!

  

       

     

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The Little Royal House On The Beach

Prince Somdet Chaofa Prajadhipok Sakdidej, who later became King Prajadhipok, King Rama VII, the last absolute monarch and the first constitutional monarch of Siam, was  born 8 November 1893, in Bangkok, Siam (now Thailand). He was one of the 9 children and the youngest of 5 sons  born to King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and Queen Saovabha Bongsri. He was also the second youngest of King Rama V’s 77 children, and the youngest of that king’s 33 sons. King Phrapokklao, Rama VII, reigned for only 10 years, from 1925 to 1935. He died 30 May 1941, in Cranleigh,  Surrey, England.

With his many brothers in line before  him, it seemed unlikely that  Prince Prajadhipok would succeed to the throne of Siam. As were many of Rama V’s children, Prince Prajadhipok was educated abroad. He pursued a military career.  He was sent to Eton College in 1906, then to the Woolwich Military Academy where he graduated in 1913.  After graduating, he received a commission in the British Army and was based in Aldershot. In 1910 his father, King Chulalongkorn, King Rama V of Siam, died. Prince Prajadhipok’s older brother, Crown Prince Vajiravudh, succeeded to the throne and became  King Vajiravudh, King Rama VI of Siam. With the outbreak of WWI, and the declaration of Thailand’s neutrality, King Vajiravudh ordered his younger brother to resign his British commission and return home to Siam immediately. Prajadhipok became a high-ranking military official in Siam. Then in 1917 he was ordained temporarily as a Buddhist monk.

Being ordained as a Buddhist monk and staying in the monastery for at least three months was, and still is, customary for Buddhist Siamese men.  Having said this I hasten to add that of course there always were, and still are, those young men who do not become ordained, and of those who do become ordained, some only serve a day or so, or a few weeks,  in the monkhood: a young man may be excused from staying in the monkhood longer if, say, if they have a job or studies they must return to, or perhaps something like an ill parent who needs their help at home, or if they are a royal. But from what I understand, no young man is excused from the army.  It is mandatory for all young Siamese (Thai) men, once they turn 20 years of age, to enter the Siamese army for two years of service. It is not until they have carried out these mandatory duties that they are free to marry. What I can say from knowing the Siamese Buddhist people who befriended Bob and I, is that Siamese Buddhists, both the men and women, are truly lovely, genuine people–very calm, quiet, gentle, very deep-thinking, very far-seeing, very honest, very kind, and very spiritual. As well, they are very friendly, but they are also nobody’s fool.

After the war in Europe ended, Prince Prajadhipok attended the École Superieure de Guerre in France before then returning to Siam to the Siamese military.  Then in the August of 1918, he married his childhood friend and cousin  at the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace with the King’s blessing.  During this time he was granted the additional title Krom Luang Sukhothai (Prince of Sukhothai). The young couple chose to live a quiet life at their residence, Sukhothai Palace, next to the Chao Phraya River.  They had no children, but adopted Prince Jirasakdi, the infant grandson of one of King Chulalongkorn’s full brothers.  As an adult, Prince Jirasakdi  served as a pilot in Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary. He died when the plane he was flying crashed in 1942.

All Prince Prajadhipok’s brothers died within a relatively short period, and he rose rapidly in succession to the throne. In 1925, King Vajiravudh, King Rama VI himself died at the age of 44, and Prince Prajadhipok became absolute monarch at only thirty-two. He was crowned King of Siam on 25 February 1926. As the monarch, Prajadhipok was referred to by his reigning name of Phrabat Somdet Phra Pokklao Chao Yuhua: in legal documents he was more formally called  Phrabat Somdet Phra Poraminthramaha Prajadhipok Phra Pokklao Chao Yuhua.  It is said today that Thais sometimes refer him Ratchakan thi Chet (literally, “The Seventh Reign”) or more colloquially, Phra Pok Klao, and in English, King Rama VII of Thailand. The system of referring to Chakri rulers as “Rama” (followed by a number) was instituted by King Vajiravudh to follow European practice. But while Bob and I were in Thailand I never heard this former king referred to by any other name than King Prajadhipok or King Rama VII.

From the people I spoke to, and who told me about Rama VII, I came to understand that  his reign was a turbulent time for Siam (Thailand).  Even though an intelligent man and diplomatic in his dealings with others, King Prajadhipok had not been raised to the throne. Nevertheless, he was eager to learn. But he had inherited serious problems from his predecessor, his elder brother, King Vajiravudh, King Rama VI of Siam. The most urgent of these problems was the state of the economy: the budget was heavily in deficit. Added to that, the entire world was suffering in the grip of the Great Depression. In an institutional innovation intended to restore confidence in the monarchy and government, Rama VII, in what was virtually his first act as king, announced the creation of the Supreme Council of the State of Siam.

In forming his Council, King Prajadhipok more than likely intended to demonstrate a clean break with the discredited sixth reign of his brother, King Vajiravudh, King Rama VI, when he announced the creation of the Supreme Council of the State of Siam. Within 6 months of beginning his reign only three of the former king’s twelve ministers still served the new king, the rest having been replaced by a  number of experienced and competent members of the royal family, including the former long-serving Minister of the Interior (and King Chulalongkorn’s right-hand man), Prince Damrong Rajanubhab.  King Prajadhipok’s choice of men to fill the top positions appeared to be guided by a wish to recreate a Chulalongkorn-type government, in the hope of restoring confidence in the monarchy and government. While the family appointments brought back men of talent and experience, they also signalled a return to royal oligarchy. Gradually these princes gave power to themselves, monopolising the main ministerial positions and appointing various of their relatives–sons, nephews, brothers, cousins, for instance–to administrative and military posts.  Many of the Council felt it was their duty to make amends for the mistakes of the previous reign, but their acts were not generally appreciated: the government failed to communicate to the public the purpose of the policies they pursued to rectify King Vajiravhud’s financial extravagances.

King Prajadhipok, Rama VII, was very concerned with the question of future politics in Siam. He wanted to allow common people to have a say in the country’s affairs with the creation of a parliament. Unlike his predecessor, the king carefully perused virtually all state papers and petitions by citizens, noting the different points, and then seeking comments and suggestions from a range of experts. But when various solutions to the problems presented themselves to the inexperienced king, he was indecisive, and was unable to select one at the expense of others. In these instances, he would often rely upon the Supreme Council to prod him in a particular direction. In 1926, in his vision for teaching the Siamese the concept of democracy, the king, spurred on by agitation for radical constitutional change,  began moves to develop the concept of prachaphiban, or “municipality”. Information was obtained regarding local self-government in other countries, and proposals to allow certain municipalities to raise local taxes and manage their own budgets were drawn up. The fact that the public was not sufficiently educated to make the scheme a reality worked against the success of this administrative venture. Nevertheless, the idea of teaching the Siamese the concept of democracy through a measure of decentralisation of power in municipalities had become, in King Prajadhipok’s mind, fundamental to future policy making.

A proposed constitution was ordered to be drafted, but the king’s wishes were rejected by his advisers. Two of Rama VII’s  leading advisers–one of whom was the former long-serving Minister of the Interior (and, incidentally, King Chulalongkorn’s right-hand man,) Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, and the other of whom was Francis B. Sayre, Siam’s adviser in foreign affairs and an important political figure–felt that the population was politically immature and not yet ready for democracy. This was also the conclusion reached by the Khana Ratsadorn, the self-proclaimed “People’s Party” of Siam.

In 1932, like the rest of the world Siam was in deep in the throes of the Great Depression. As one measure for saving,  the Supreme Council opted to introduce cuts in spending, civil service payrolls, and military budgets. The king foresaw that these policies might create discontent, so he convened a special meeting of officials to explain why the cuts were absolutely necessary to Siam’s survival. In his address he said, “I myself know nothing at all about finances, and all I can do is listen to the opinions of others and choose the best…If I have made a mistake, I really deserve to be excused by the people of Siam.” It has been well-noted by numerous political-historical sources that no previous monarch had ever spoken so honestly, or made such a frank appeal for understanding and cooperation.  It has also been noted that many of the king’s officials interpreted his words as a sign of weakness and proof that the system of rule of fallible autocrats should be abolished. Some of these officials and others–a small group of soldiers and civil servants–began to secretly plot to overthrow the absolute monarchy and bring a constitutional government to the kingdom. Their efforts culminated in a “bloodless” revolution.

On the morning of 24 June 1932, a revolution was carried out by the People’s Party, or Khana Ratsadorn,  against absolute monarchy, against the absolute rule of King Prajadhipok, Rama VII of Siam. With the king away in the north of the country, the Khana Ratsadorn took control of the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok and arrested key officials who were, in the main, princes and relatives of the king. They demanded the end of absolute monarchy, and that King Prajadhipok become a constitutional monarch instead, and that he grant the people of Siam a constitution. If in the case that their demands should not met to their satisfaction, they reserved the right to declare Siam a republic. The king immediately accepted the People’s Party’s request. He returned to Bangkok and received the coup plotters in a royal audience. As the People’s Party entered the room, contrary to the accepted and traditional royal ritual where monarchs were to remain seated while their subjects made obeisance, King Prajadhipok stood and greeted them with the words: “I rise in honour of the Khana Ratsadorn.”  In this one significant gesture King Prajadhipok, Rama VII,  acknowledged the changed circumstances, and absolute monarchy in Siam was ended for good. On 10 December 1932, a “permanent” charter was announced publically with the blessings of King Rama VII who was now the new constitutional monarch.

The constitution stripped the king of most of his powers, which were then instead exercised by the new Government of Siam. This new government included the People’s Assembly  (the legislature), the People’s Committee (the executive), and the Supreme Court, (the judiciary). The president of this new Public Committee was to be the head of government and in effect the de facto Prime Minister of Siam. The role was accepted by the 48-year-old former Minister of Justice, Privy Councillor and Middle Temple lawyer Phraya Manopakorn Nititada. His title was later changed to prime minister after the old title was deemed to be communistic. In effect, the absolutism of the monarchy had been replaced by that of the People’s Party, with the military looming on the horizon as the ultimate arbiter of power. Though personally convinced of the necessity of moving toward democratic political reforms, King Rama VII, welcomed the opportunity to reign as a constitutional monarch but was repulsed by growing military rule.  The king’s relations with the People’s Party deteriorated quickly, particularly after the ousting of Phraya Manopakorn Nititada as prime minister by the Khana Ratsadon’s leader Phraya Phahol Phonphayuhasena.

On 15 March 1933 Dr. Pridi Phanomyong, one of the founding members of the People’s Party, revolutionary, and member of the People’s Committee and minister of state, submitted to the People’s Assembly the “Draft National Economic Plan” or the “Yellow Cover Dossier”. This dossier  outlined Pridi’s plan for the country’s economic, financial, and social structure, and was intended by Pridi as a plan to follow to try to raise the standard of living of the masses, and in particular that of the many rural poor. Immediately upon publication the plan drew criticism on the socialistic nature of the dossier, as well as charges of communism, and charges that Pridi was instigating a social revolution. The criticisms also targeted Phraya Mano, who allowed Pridi to publish such a plan. Despite these charges the People’s Party, and especially the young revolutionaries and most of the urban middle class and rural poor, stood behind Pridi in his defence. The debate exploded into a constitutional crisis when King Prajadhipok, who had confessed to the nation that he had little knowledge of financial affairs, attacked Pridi verbally, asking Pridi if he was copying Stalin. The royal intervention drew even more outrage from the public, this time not directed at Pridi but at the king for violating the constitution and in effect criticising his own constitutional government. This also led to a lawsuit by a Mr. Thawan Ritthidet, a civilian suing the monarch on the grounds he violated the constitution by interfering in political affairs. The People’s Committee was split between those who supported Pridi and those who opposed him, and who were led by Phraya Mano himself who by now had realised the danger of Pridi’s plans.  A  number of the more influential members of the Party actively threatened the lives of Pridi and his supporters.  Phraya Mano had no choice other than to call for the dissolution of the People’s Assembly.

On 1 April 1933, under emergency decree some parts of the constitution, including the legislature and the judiciary, was suspended. On the 2 April, the government repealed the “Anti-Communist Act”, which gave the police executive powers to arrest without trial, citizens who are considered to be communists. Under this law the People’s Party was disbanded. The Communist Party of Siam’s central committee was arrested along with numerous others accused of having communist sympathies. Many left wing newspapers and publications were also suppressed. This event is called the “silent coup”, and is considered by many historians as the first “real” coup d’état instigated by the military in Thailand against a constitutional government. On 12 April Pridi was exiled to France.

On 15 June 1933, Army Colonel Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena (or Phot Phahonyothin), a member of the People’s Party and a minister of state resigned from his seat on the People’s Committee, citing health reasons. In actual fact, he and Naval Commander Luang Supphachalasai were conspiring to overthrow Phraya Mano’s government. With the support of the army, the navy, and the civilian factions within the People’s Party, and most of Bangkok’s populace, the Colonel was able to act on his plans.

On 20 June 1933, the Siamese Coup d’état, which was considered the first time in Thai history that the military successfully overthrew the constitutional government, took place peacefully in Bangkok.  Led by Colonel Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena against the premiership of the Premier Phraya Manopakorn Nititada, the coup was virtually a counter-coup against the dictatorial policies of Phraya Mano stemming from the Yellow cover dossier crisis.  On 20 June Phraya Phahol and Luang Supachalasai, seized the National Assembly building and proclaiming themselves as the legitimate government. Citing the fact that the present government has acted illegally in dissolving the assembly and that they would return the constitution, which the previous administration had suspended, Phraya Phahol appointed himself the country’s second prime minister and Luang Supachalasai a minister of state. He immediately recalled the People’s Assembly and asked the Speaker to submit to King Prajadhipok at his Summer Palace in Hua Hin, the reasons behind the coup. The king duly accepted. He also pardoned Pridi and recalled him from exile. Immediate resistance against the coup was limited and quickly dissolved as Phraya Mano resigned and escaped to a part of what was then British Malaya, where he died in 1948.

There is, and never has been, any evidence that Prajadhipok gave support to the rebellion. Nevertheless, the insurrection diminished the king’s prestige. When the revolt began, King Prajadhipok  informed the government that he regretted the strife and civil disturbances, and the royal couple then took refuge in the far south of Siam (Thailand). The king’s withdrawal from the scene was interpreted by the Khana Ratsadorn as a failure to do his duty. By not throwing his full support behind government forces, he had undermined their trust in him.

In 1934 the Assembly voted to amend civil and military penal codes. One of the proposed changes would allow death sentences to be carried out without the king’s approval. The king protested. He submitted letters to the Assembly in which he said that ending a time-honoured custom and a royal prerogative would make the people think that the government desired the right to sign death warrants to eliminate political opponents. As a compromise, he proposed holding a national referendum on the issue. Many in the Assembly were angered. They felt the king was implying that the Assembly did not actually represent the will of the people and voted to re-affirm the penal code changes.

King Prajadhipok, whose relations with his chosen government had been deteriorating for some time, was not a well man but nevertheless had royal duties to fulfill.  He went on a tour of Europe before then visiting England for medical treatment. He continued to correspond with the government regarding the conditions under which he would continue to serve.  As well as retaining some traditional royal prerogatives, such as, for instance, granting pardons, he was anxious to put a halter on the increasingly undemocratic nature of the new regime.  Agreement was reached on the penal codes, but King Prajadhipok indicated he was unwilling to return home to Siam until guarantees were made for his safety and the constitution amended to make the Assembly an entirely elected body. The government refused to fully comply with the king’s conditions, and on 14 October Prajadhipok announced his intention to abdicate unless his requests were met.

The People’s Party rejected the ultimatum. The Executive Committee and Cabinet did not seem eager to develop an atmosphere of debate or to be guided by resolutions of the Assembly.  The rule of Rama VII, King Prajadhipok, was finished. On 2 March 1935, King Prajadhipok abdicated, to be replaced by Ananda Mahidol, Rama VIII. In his abdication speech  King Prajadhipok issued a brief statement criticising the regime that included the following phrase: “I am willing to surrender the powers I formerly exercised to the people as a whole, but I am not willing to turn them over to any individual or any group to use in an autocratic manner without heeding the voice of the people.” Generally speaking, reaction to the abdication was muted. The government refrained from challenging any assertions in the king’s abdication statement for fear of arousing further controversy. Opponents of the government kept quiet because they felt intimidated and forsaken by the king whom they regarded as the only person capable of standing up to the regime.

To date, he is the only Siamese monarch of the Chakri Dynasty to abdicate. Even given the deletion of absolute monarchy, once a king is crowned monarch in Thailand, they remain King for life. After his abdication, the king and his wife left Siam to live in England.  There, they lived a quiet existence. The king attended his beloved garden in the mornings, and busied himself with writing his autobiography in the afternoons. King Prajadhipok died from heart failure on 30 May 1941 without completing his autobiographies.

His cremation was held in North London, and was attended by just his Queen and a few close relatives. Queen Ramphaiphanni stayed at their home in England for a further eight years before returning to Thailand in 1949, bringing the king’s ashes back with her so that he could be interred on his home soil.



Perhaps one of Thailand’s best kept secrets is Surin Beach, a beautiful area that was once owned and greatly loved by King Rama VII and his wife.  In fact, King Rama VII and his wife loved the area so much that in the 1920s, shortly into his reign, he built a beach-house there, and laid out gardens and a nine-hole golf course along the beach-side strip. This was Phuket’s first golf course and one of the oldest in Siam. During his reign the house and the course were used frequently by the King and his wife, and their guests.  Years after King Rama VII had died, members of the royal family still used the house and the gardens and the course on weekends and holidays, and as a place to take or offer their guests. I heard that the beach-residence was also visited by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family in 1959.  The Royal golf-course on Surin Beach in Phuket is now no more, and the house, which is small by royal standards, is no longer in use and has fallen into disrepair, and is now owned by the people. The area that once belonged to the King is now largely in disuse except as a park, and the once-beautiful gardens surrounding the former King’s beach-house are overgrown and in a mess.

Today, beautiful Surin Beach and the beach-side strip that was once a parkland and golf- course that belonged to the King, is there to be enjoyed by the locals and visitors alike. I could be wrong here when I say this, but from what I was told I gather that until recently, the royal beach-house was open to the public and to tourists at set times of the week. Now though, it is closed for restoration, but once it is restored to its former glory the intention of the government is to again opened it to visitors to look inside. As well, the house’s gardens and the former King’s once time golf-course is undergoing a make-over by the government. Their plan is to turn these into beautiful gardens and parklands.

Although we walked on the beach and the beach-side strip, and in the gardens surrounding the former King’s beach-house every day we there in Surin, we were unable to see inside the house itself because it was closed for restorations. But we did take many photos, some of which I have posted below:

 

      

 

 

 

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