THE WISDOM OF A KING!
Interview of His Excellency
Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Ambassador and
Permanent Representative of Thailand, on the
occasion of His Majesty the King’s 80th
Birthday anniversary on 5th December 2007
Why is the King so important for the
The first reason is because of tradition. The monarchy has always been very important to the history of the Thai Nation. And Thai kings have always contributed in various ways to the development of the Nation. The second reason is because the present King, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has really done a lot for the Thai Nation. His Majesty has been a remarkable king in the sense that He has devoted himself fully to the well being of the Thai people. If you have been to Thailand, you must have felt that there is a spontaneous sense of love on the part of the Thai people for their King. The images that we have of our King is not a king who simply sits on the throne, but a king who is truly devoted to the welfare of His people. A king who travels all through the country; a king who is talking to His subjects, asking about the problems in their particular community. A King who has a map in his hands, talking with representatives of government agencies about the problems of irrigation, the problems of fertility, how to preserve natural resources... He is known as the “Development King”. This is the term which was used by the then UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, when he visited Thailand in May
2006 to award His Majesty the King with the United Nations Development Programme’s First Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award.
What is the relationship between the
King and the political arena?
HisMajesty is above politics. He is the Head of State, but is not involved in running the country. He is a constitutionalmonarch and provides amoral influence for the Thai people. SinceHis Majesty is so greatly loved, He therefore exercises great moral authority. In times of crises, the Thai people would turn to His Majesty for advice and guidance.He has thus been a great pillar of stability for the Thai Nation.
Being a constitutional King, how
can He influence the development
of the country?
We have development agencies and economic banks to do that, but His Majesty provides guidance and advice. Since He travels extensively around the country, His Majesty understands the specific problems of each community. Furthermore, His Majesty has been spending his own funds to help the people. He has initiated over 3000 development projects ranging from agriculture, to irrigation, sustainable development, natural resource management, and so forth.
To be more specific, what type
of projects has He been involved in?
His Majesty has been involved in a wide range of projects: agriculture, irrigation, water resources management, soil fertility, sustainable development, health. One very important project is crop substitution. In the past, we had problems with opium cultivation in the Northern part of Thailand. His Majesty has initiated crop substitution projects for the people in those areas, namely to grow other crops instead of opium, and this has helped in reducing narcotic problems. Such crop substitution projects have been applied in other countries, such as Afghanistan.
What is the current situation of Thailand?
How would you locate Thailand
in the global economic framework?
I would say that we are a middle level developing country. We have been successful in terms of economic development. We moved from being an economy that is based only on agriculture to a more broad-based economy, in the sense that agriculture is still important, but we have now also a wide range of manufacturing industries. Based on our agricultural strength, we are one of the leading food exporters to the world market. And importantly, we are also for many people in Switzerland and fromaround the world a very important tourism destination.We receive annually about 12 to 13million tourists. And the number continues to grow. So in sum, Thailand is a fairly advanced developing country, but it doesn’t mean that we do not face challenges. We have to reduce the income-disparity within the country and ensure sustainable development. We also have to think of the region as a whole. Therefore, we have many projects to help our friends, our neighboring countries. So that is another challenge that we face. And also, of course, we need to move forward in terms of democracy. Economic growth also depends on political stability which means the strengthening of democratic institutions. Thailand has been one of the most successful countries in terms of democratic development. Of course, we have stumbled on certain occasions, but we have always emerged stronger.We had a political change last year, but we are fully committed to democracy. The timetable that we promised for a return to democracy has been kept. We are going to have elections on the 23rd of December.
How would you characterize
the evolution of the Thai society?
One of the fortunate things is that we have never been colonized.Which means that we have always had a strong sense of identity of what kind of people we are. We have been able to retain this strong sense of being Thai, a sense of Thai-ness…Thai people are quite hospitable, friendly and easy-going people. We like foreigners. We welcome foreigners and don’t have any complex dealing with them. Our traditional society has become more affluent, but we are strong enough to keep our identity.
What is His Majesty’s approach to
His Majesty the King has always believed that Thailand should be part of the globalization process. However His views are that we have to develop according to our means. We have to set objectives that are reasonable within the bounds of the resources that we have.We have to strive to improve ourselves and always remember that there is a limit to everything. All of us want to consume more and more, which stems from the basic philosophy of market economy. But we also should be able to recognize that there are certain limits for consumption. We should not be living beyond ourmeans.We should base our personal lives on that assumption as well as the planning of the national economy. This approach, which provides a moral compass in life, is called by Our King: the philosophy of “Sufficiency Economy”.