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Thailand, December 28, 1999

Don't Mess With the King of Thailand

You know your in Thailand when you see HM Bhumibol Adulyadej everywhere

The close-up view
A younger, dapper King
Yes, he is on giant paintings in downtown Bangkok
Pretty paintings in Bangkok traffic
The seal in honor of the King's 72'nd birthday
Seventy-two years of style

Yesterday, in making my first Thailand-specific weekly PhotoJournal entry, I went looking for a Thai flag GIF. I wanted to put the flag of Thailand on my site, as I've done for Russia, China, Finland, etc., but I couldn't find one after an hour of searching all the English sites on Thailand.

After a few minutes of explaining (and a showing of the Mongolian flag on my website), the Internet cafe workers understood what I wanted and tried to help. With much bumbling, we looked on a myriad of Thai language sites, to no avail. It seems, as in Laos, the state flag isn't the main symbol of the country. Unlike Laos, however, BeerLao is not the default sign your in Thailand.

You know you're in Thailand when you see His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand. As you might expect, he image is on the money and you can see paintings of him in Government buildings. Even though its a constitutional monarchy, like Britain's, he doesn't stop at being a figurehead (or a polite joke), in Thailand, HM B. Adulyadej is something closer to a father figure (and at 72, few are his elder).

Actually, after you see his image on huge golden paintings in downtown Bangkok, on photographs in every cafe or store, and on every Thai website (including mine), he achieves a level of worship I would argue is close to god-like.

For the Thai's, he can do no wrong. He is spoken of in a revering and very respectful voice. HM B. Adulyadej's image is considered sacred, like Buddha's, and I swear I've seen his image presented as a shrine on more than one occasion.

Luckily for him, as a figurehead, HM B. Adulyadej is above the ranchos Thai politics and can claim the title as the longest serving monarch living today. For me, as an American, I am suspicious of any unelected official and the vast majority of elected ones too, so I cannot accept this monarch the same way the Thai's do, but I can find a crack in my cynicism to respect the leadership this mortal man brings to the Thai people.

Long live the King!

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