October 26 will be one of the saddest days in modern Thai history as we bid a final farewell to our much beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It has been one year since we lost him but I believe there has never been a day that we stopped thinking about him.
His life and work continue to have a great impact on us. More than 4,000 royal projects are proof of his dedication to bettering the lives of all Thais, but there is more than meets the eye. King Bhumibol was the epitome of a leader who possesses an outward mindset — a selfless way of thinking that always aware of others and their needs.
Let me tell you some of the stories about King Bhumibol, some of which you might have heard before, that will remind us how lucky we were to have him — a truly selfless king — as our leader.
In 1970 when King Bhumibol expressed his wish to visit a remote village in Phatthalung province, it was a refuge of radical communists. The Interior Ministry asked the King to wait until the situation was resolved before going in the area. His reply to the ministry was clear and unequivocal: “People there are at greater risk than us. They have to live there. They are able to live there. How can we be cowards by not even visiting them?”
I recall another story that took place when King Bhumibol visited local people in a northeastern province, and a foreign journalist asked him for an interview. He asked: “By visiting rural people and launching many royal projects for them, do you hope to reduce the influence of communism in the Northeast?” King Bhumibol told the foreign journalist that he did not care whether communism would decrease or not, he only cared if his people would be less hungry.
The last story was told by Dr Wissanu Krea-ngam, back when he worked as the secretary-general to the cabinet. He recounted that King Bhumibol once said he wanted everyone to know that in Thailand the King had no public holidays. Everybody has holidays, but not the King. “People are waiting to have a new government to work because there are problems every day in this country,” he said. “These problems cannot wait to be solved on Saturdays and Sundays. Do not make me an obstruction of your work.”
These three stories above are just a few examples to illustrate that King Bhumibol always put the needs and well-being of his people first. He travelled to all areas in this country, even the most remote and inaccessible, to learn about his people’s problems and find out what he could do to help them.
If I ask you what is your memory of King Bhumibol, I believe the answer is that you see him working animatedly in some rural area, carrying a large map and a camera. We need a leader like him to move our country forward.
As the end of a one-year mourning period is approaching, all of the feelings that I had when he passed away are coming back to me. I believe most of us have already come to terms with the fact that King Bhumibol has gone forever, but we will never forget him. And the best way we can do to remember him — a great king and great leader of Thai people — is to immortalise him by following in his footsteps. Think, feel and act in the interest of others like King Bhumibol always did.