The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand's ruler for 70 years, was mourned not just by the Thai, but by many people the world over. We look back at how King Bhumibol made an impact on his country and other shores:
His desire to learn. Giving importance to education, King Bhumibol pursued further studies, briefly leaving Thailand to study political science and law, which proved to be crucial as he was crowned king following the untimely death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol. “Learning is a never-ending process. Those who wish to advance in their work must constantly seek more knowledge, or they could lag behind and become incompetent,” King Bhumibol once said.
His contribution to science. Royalty aside, King Bhumibol has made his own contributions to the field of science. Among the innovations he has made (and patented) include a rainmaking technology called the “super sandwich,” and a wastewater aerator called the “chai pattana.” Both of these patents are aimed at helping farmers deal with widespread drought.
His love for the arts. Aside from science, King Bhumibol also had penchant for the arts, particularly music. He has composed several jazz music songs and played the saxophone alongside jazz legends. On an international scale, some of his compositions have been featured in orchestras and concerts in Spain, Japan, and the United States.
His low-key lifestyle. Even if he is among the richest royals in the world, King Bhumibol wasn't ostentatious. He was even described as "an enigmatic, reserved man who has rejected the glamorous jet-set style of some other contemporary kings and princes" in an article by The New York Times.
Instead of splurging, King Bhumibol chose to find ways to help other people in improving their lives, which include various projects focusing on developing water irrigation systems and creating livelihood programs, among others.
His dedication to rural development. Throughout his reign, King Bhumibol has been focused on developing rural areas, even visiting these areas regularly during the early years of his rule. Very instrumental in shaping modern Thailand, King Bhumibol advocated for a sufficiency economy, a theory that put a premium on living a self-sufficient life while having a stable economic growth at the same time.
His love for animals. The late King has a soft spot for dogs, having rescued several stray dogs in his lifetime, with Tong Daeng being the most special dog for him. A tan-and-white mongrel, King Bhumibol adopted Tong Daeng as a puppy, and he grew up to be “a common dog who is uncommon,” as he described in his book about the beloved dog.
His fatherly intervention. He is known for resolving conflicts peacefully, highlighted during an incident in May 20, 1992, where he convinced two men to settle their differences sans further bloodshed, setting an example to the world that even kings like Bhumibol "can be guarantors of democracy."
His influence in uniting a nation. Perhaps one of the majorthings that impressed the world about King Bhumibol is how he united a polticially unstable Thailand upon his ascencion to the throne after the untimely death of his brother. He did this by being close to his people—an example other countries have difficulty emulating.
"[He] listened to their problems and empowered them to take their lives in their own hands," former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan once said upon conferring King Bhumibol the United Nations Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
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Illustration by Jana Jimenez