I'll hide most of this behind a cut, because it's long. I need to get me one of them yellow t-shirts.
National commemoration of His Majesty's 60th year on the throne offers the world the clear impression that he is the most loved monarch of modern times
The festive mood of the Thais has not yet subsided even as most of the royal guests for the stunning celebration of His Majesty the King's 60 years on the throne began to fly home yesterday.
Indeed, the jubilee celebration, which went on between June 8 and June 13, has proved to have had an enormous impact on the Thai people. It has created a long-lasting spiritual bond between them and their Monarch in a way that people from other cultures may find hard to understand.
The Thais love and revere their King deeply for reasons beyond a simple explanation; and it seems that they can't have enough of him. But if one is to venture to explain why the King is so popular among his people, then it is safe to assert that it is because the King has practised the highest virtue in accordance with Buddhist ideology during the 60 years of his reign.
It is simply amazing that the ninth King of the Chakri Dynasty bears such huge popularity like a rock star. People line up in long queues to acquire a variety of the memorabilia associated with the jubilee celebration, such as stamps, Bt60 denominated banknotes, the Royal Emblem, the yellow shirts with the Royal Emblem or with a simple phrase "Rak Nai Luang" (Love the King).
The yellow shirts with the Royal Emblem are the hottest selling item now in Thailand. The Internal Department of the Commerce Ministry is churning out another 500,000 yellow shirts with the Royal Emblem for sale at Bt250 apiece to meet the huge demand.
The exhibition of the King's Royal Projects at the Royal Thai Navy Convention Hall is attracting thousands of people every day. Some 6,000 tickets were snapped up on Tuesday alone. The grand exhibition to commemorate the King's 60 years on the throne held at the Impact Muang Thong Thani Convention Centre, held between May 26 and June 11, attracted more than six million attendants. This event has broken any previous records of exhibition attendance.
Meanwhile, readers of Kom Chad Luek newspaper have inundated its switchboard with calls asking it to continue to cover the front page with full-size pictures of Their Majesties the King and Queen. They want the poster-sized pictures as souvenirs for themselves and for their children to look at later on. Some plan to have the pictures framed and placed in their living rooms.
The most memorable event of all during the jubilee celebration happened on June 9 when His Majesty the King appeared at the southern balcony of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall to greet his people. On that day, which coincided with the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne, Their Majesties held a royal and religious ceremony to pay tribute to the great Siamese kings of the past at a special pavilion erected outside the Ananta Samakhom Hall.
There were up to one million people at the Royal Plaza bearing witness to the jubilee celebration on that day. Thais waited patiently for their chance to catch a glimpse of their King. The scene was spectacular as all of them wore yellow shirts with the Royal Emblem and many of them held yellow flags in their hands. It was the largest peaceful gathering ever witnessed in Bangkok.
Even though the weather was very warm, the people at the Royal Plaza were unperturbed. And when the King went out on the balcony to greet them, they were elated. The Royal Plaza exploded with cheers of "Long Live the King". Yellow flags were waving frantically.
It was at this moment that most people, including those watching on TV at home, felt tears in their eyes. They were tears of joy, of exceptional pride to be born and to live happily under the reign of this beloved Monarch. Thais could see clearly that the King was smiling happily, while the Queen stood nearby. Like the Thai crowd, the Queen also felt proud of the King.
What was in the mind of His Majesty King Bhumibol at that moment of magic? We will never know. But it is clear that the Ninth King is following in the footstep of his grandfather, King Chulalongkorn, in becoming the Great Beloved King of the Chakri Dynasty.
Another memorable event took place three days later on June 12 when the kings, queens and royal representatives from 25 nations came to pay tribute to the 60-year reign of His Majesty the King. There are only 29 nations, including Thailand, which maintain a monarchy. Only the kings or representatives from Saudi Arabia, Samoa and Nepal were absent from the jubilee celebration.
Their Majesties welcomed the royal guests one by one before chatting with them in a friendly atmosphere. This marked the first time ever that the kings, queens and royal representatives from all over the world, from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, convened at the same place and at the same time. The fact that the Thai Kingdom played host to this unprecedented royal gathering was even more special. Then the royal guests, the people of Thailand and the world over had a chance to watch the magnificent Royal Barge Procession on the Chao Phya River.
On June 13, the last day of the jubilee celebration, the King hosted a state dinner for the royal guests at the Chakri Throne Hall within the compound of the Grand Palace. The King and the Queen were always hand-in-hand while they were greeting the royal guests.
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah Sultan Dan Yang DiPertuan of Brunei Darussalam spoke highly of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the banquet.
"Your Majesty's reign is one of the longest in history. That, however, is a matter of academic record and we are not here to celebrate mere records. We are here to honour the substance of that reign. We are here to express our profound esteem for the personal qualities with which Your Majesty has so enriched it," Sultan Bolkiah said.
"You have never sought to distance yourself from the lives of your people. You have never asked them to be followers or mere subjects. You have shared their joys, fears and disappointments.
"You have made them deeply proud of their heritage and their identity. You have made your people feel that the Kingdom of Thailand is indeed their own Kingdom."
Indeed, the Ninth King has rewritten the monarchical institution in modern Thai democracy with his own personal achievements, hard work, kingship and virtuous reign.
The 60th anniversary celebrations of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne have been filled with precious moments and mementoes that Thai people will cherish forever.
Newspapers have been selling like hot cakes over the past five days as people scrambled for reports and pictures of the celebrations.
Many dashed to bookstands to find the newspapers were already sold out.
But for those who managed to get the special commemoration issues and photographs, this was just the start. They then flocked to picture-framing shops in droves to have the images fitted in beautiful frames.
"More than 30 people come to my shop every day with celebration pictures from newspapers. They want to frame them. We're too busy to accept every order," said Vichitra Ittikamonchoke, who owns SR Laminate Shop in Chiang Mai.
Narong Chancharoen, who owns a picture-framing shop in Songkhla, said yesterday he believes he would make as much as Bt100,000 due to the overwhelming demand for framing photographs of the special occasion.
He said it is the first time he has had such brisk business.
"I am delighted to see my customers come with photos of His Majesty. I am committed to doing the best job I can," he said. He added he would not raise his price during this peak time out of his respect for His Majesty.
Currently, there are campaigns ongoing to encourage people to do good deeds in honour of His Majesty who has worked so hard for the happiness of Thais.
In Chaiyaphum, Surachai Matiang said he was so happy framing the photos of His Majesty that he did not feel tired at all.
"The King is our pride," he said.
Decho Boonsanit, a resident from Songkhla, said his family had bought newspapers published by every news organisations since Friday as a way of treasuring the precious moments.
"They are historically important events. They are priceless," he said.
Decho said he had also searched various Websites to ask if anyone would be willing to sell him photographs of His Majesty when he granted a public audience at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall on Friday.
"Whenever that moment is replayed on TV, tears of delight come to my eyes," Decho said. He urged relevant authorities to produce picture books, videotapes, VCDs and DVDs about the celebrations both in Thai and English.
"We want to own such commemorative items," he said.
Meanwhile, the public has expressed a keen interest in viewing video footage, broadcast on Channel 9, of the Royal Family featuring His Majesty when he was younger. The rare footage shows His Majesty's childhood, his coronation ceremony, his monkhood period, his various trips abroad.
"I want to see these images again. I ask the channel to please re-broadcast it or distribute VCDs of the footage. After I viewed the footage it made me love His Majesty even more," Neramit Noisamlee, a student at Thaksin University's Phatthalung Campus, said.
Achareeya Namjai, a Bangkok resident, said she spent hours watching Channel 9 through Tuesday without pressing the remote control for other channels
"My eyes were full of tears when I saw our young King wade through the surging waist-deep water of the river. As a king, he could have lived a more luxurious life, but he has devoted his days to the poor people," she said.
She was impressed with Their Majesties' trip to Japan. But most of all, she admired His Majesty's decision to allocate part of his residence - the Chitralada Palace - as the testing ground for new technologies and knowledge that he is ready to share with his people.
"That he drove the tractor on the test rice field, with the Crown Prince in front of him, confirmed how devoted he is. Rather than playing with his children in more comfortable grounds, he got his children involved in everything that he did," she said.
There is countrywide clamour for everything associated with the celebrations, be it commemorative coins, books, or yellow T-shirts.
David and Bui Rubin