I arrived on the 10th of September to begin my year volunteering in Thailand. Within under a month of embracing our brand new culture, myself and 12 other Project Trust volunteers were distraught to learn in early October about the King Bhumibol Adulyadej health problems; we knew even then how special he was.
On the 13th of October 2016, the world’s longest reigning monarch died. With his cremation scheduled for the 26th of October in 5 months time; this post is not about a leader but a loved one; Thai life has been drastically altered since his death and will never be the same. A country that once based its weekly wardrobe on colour and expression is now left in literal darkness.
Before his death. As a new week began in the ‘land of smiles’, a sun would rise and so would Thai’s wearing yellow for the warming reason to show respect and love for their king and his son (the current king) who were both born on a Monday. Pink, green, orange and light blue follow as there was a colour for everyday of the week. It was common knowledge here to not wear black, almost as obvious to stand up in respect when the Thai national anthem is played twice daily. Thai’s have too much of a happy rainbow outlook to wear anything black; it just doesn’t reflect who they are. Until his majesty’s death. Everyone was taken into darkness for the first 30 days as people and buildings alike dressed in black as it was the only colour that felt right furthermore it was done out of respect. Government workers such as myself still wear black to this day and will continue too for the year-long period of mourning. The longest funeral I shall ever attend.
Even after the cremation in 5 months time I know I will hear his song, see his picture in every room and will take comfort that his yellow flag which flies in every corner of Thailand; a country he served so well. His reign began at the young age of 18, the very same age I started volunteering in Thailand. A grief ridden prince took to his throne due to his brother’s tragic death and ruled for over 70 years. Bearing in mind the average life expectancy in Thailand is 74 years, almost everyone in the country of 68million people have known no other king.
As a father figure to millions, his good deeds can be recognised and admired worldwide. He travelled for years to every point of his county in a 40 strong convoy of vehicles to maintain his strong relationship with his people. I myself have recognised this and struggle to recall places in Thailand that have shrines of when royalty visited a town near them. He gave his life to the people. From the start, changing his university course from engineering to the more appropriate course of law and political science. Even putting himself at risk as bomb exploded near by him in 1977 on his travels to see his people. This did not stop him, he led development programmes in the poorest areas; evening funding many of them from his own funds. Beyond his death, he brings goodness to the county as Thai people do good deeds for merit in his name.
I am so thankful to have been welcomed into Thai culture. It truly is a token to the late king that his people are the most lovely and kind I have her met. I can find no words to express how incredible they are, however, maybe the king himself can explain it:
“A good person can make another person good; it means that goodness will elicit goodness in the society; other persons will also be good”