King Bhumibol Adulyadej
By: Mandy Leonard
He is the world's longest reigning monarch. Born in the U.S. on the 5th of December 1927, he ascended to the throne of Thailand on the 9th of June 1946, aged 18 after the accidental shooting of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol. King Bhumibol has traveled to all corners of the country, walked its fields and talked to countless people to truly understand the heart of Thailand. Though he must, by law, stand aside from politics, King Bhumibol has intervened in moments of crisis to steady the country's course, staving off coup attempts or political paralysis, providing stability and continuity.
This was exemplified most recently with the political crisis surrounding Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Despite calls for him to intervene, King Buhimbol refused to take sides, insisting instead that it should be the courts and the democratic process which should resolve this crisis. It was only when this failed to bring a resolution that the King acted, resulting in Thaksin stepping down as Prime Minister.
Throughout his reign the King has been a driving force for development projects to aid the Thai people, especially those in poverty. During the military regime of Plaek Pibulsonggram spanning from 1951 - 1957, the King has used his personal wealth to initiate social and economic development projects. The period after 1988 has showed the greatest development thanks to King Bhumibol's Chaipattana Foundation.