A new book detailing the life and work of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been published. It is not a sugar-coated description of the world’s longest-reigning monarch and the work in English was written by a group of experts with knowledge and long experience in Thailand.
“King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life’s Work” will help Thai and foreign readers understand the whole gamut of Thailand’s 750-year-old institution and all related implications, real or imagined, especially those related to HM the King, his role and life-long work.
The contributors are respected writers who have commented on various aspects of Thailand. They are Chris Baker, David Streckfuss, Porphant Ouyyanont, Julian Gearing, Paul Wedel, Richard Ehrlich, Robert Horn, Joe Cummings and Robert Woodrow. Editor-in-chief Nicholas Grossman and senior editor Dominic Faulder oversaw the project assisted by an advisory board headed by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday while inaugurating the book, Anand said it featured all aspects about His Majesty and the monarchy, even negative aspects.
“We talk about both sides relating to the monarchy. We are not hiding the truth, or running away from debates, but we also do not want to persuade anyone to change their ways of thinking,” he added.
“Throughout the one-year compilation of contributions from the authors, we have received cooperation from many with knowledge about the monarchy, but we did not use details without reference. I, as the adviser to this publication, did not alter any inputs of information, but have put in some details as fulfilment, to create greater balance.
“Everything in the book is based on facts, and I want all Thais to read it, and to know about a lot of things [about the monarchy] not known before to the public,” he said.
The book is divided into three sections – his biography, his work and the monarchy. The King’s life has been divided into seven cycles from the first, which began in 1927-1939 to the present seventh cycle of 2000-2011, which will be commemorated next week, on December 5.
The section of the King’s work is divided into health, education and sufficiency economy. Those who are interested in sustainable development will gain a lot of information from the chapter titled “More for Less”, which explains the philosophy of sustainable development as advocated and practised by the King.
There are 54 pages dwelling on the Thai monarchy, with focus on the Crown Property Bureau, the lese-majeste law, the Privy Council, succession as well ceremonies and regalia. They contain information and details unavailable before to the public.
“The Thai monarchy has been subject to heavy criticism in the past few years not based on facts, so I have used my role as an adviser to tell the truth to foreign audiences,” Anand said. “The book features accurate information, which is fair to all sides, and is regarded as a reference for anyone without true knowledge about the monarchy.”
General readers would discover interesting information and statistics disclosed in a comprehensive manner. For instance, what is the nature of the royal financial situation? What is the Crown Property Bureau actually doing with all the land it owns upcountry and in Bangkok and all the money it earns from all these properties?
In a nutshell, the CPB owns a total of 41,000 rai throughout Thailand – 33,000 rai upcountry and 8,300 rai in Bangkok – mainly in the historical centre. The bureau has 40,000 rental contracts, of which nearly 17,000 are in Bangkok.
The CPB’s corporate investments were valued at about Bt200 billion or US$6.7 billion in 2010. Its land in Bangkok alone, according to one estimate, was worth about Bt1 trillion or $33 billion at market prices. But the CPB books the value based on cost, at less than a third of the above figure. It is also one of the country’s largest investors.
The section on lese-majeste law is candid and non-partisan. It offers myriad views from the legal standpoint to a royal perspective. Writers on the Thai monarchy approached this sensitive subject without any trepidation. “Thailand currently has the most severe lese-majeste law seen anywhere in more than a century, comparable only to Japanese wartime legislation,” it states in part.
The recent imprisonment of Ampon Tannoppakul for 20 years was a case in point, which has attracted the concern of the international community.
“The book’s quality, however, is for readers to judge,” writes Anand Panyarchun in the foreword to the 384-page book, which is now on sale.
Throughout the past 12 months, the writers and editorial teams worked around the clock to complete this remarkable book, albeit thick and heavy, weighing 2.2 kilograms, to ensure that it would be published ahead of the King’s 84th birthday. The contributors met with the nine-member advisory board a dozen times to strive for accuracy, balance and relevance. The book also contains rare photographs of HM the King never seen before.
In the past, books about the monarchy have been banned in Thailand. Paul Handley’s “The King Never Smiles” was banned after its publication in 2006.
So was William Stevenson’s book “The Revolutionary King”, written in 1999.