Mourning for Bhumibol continues, a king "who fought hunger among Thai people"
by Weena Kowitwanij

Tens of thousands of people continue to visit the king lying in state. To avoid overcrowding, the authorities have limited the number at 10,000 a day. Thais remember the sovereign’s good policies and attentiveness to people's needs as well as his humility in trying to understand before taking action, his fight against poverty and his focus on national unity.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Tens of thousands of Thais continue to line up for hours to pay their last respects to King Bhumibol Adulyadej. A time of mourning like this also provides n opportunity to remember the good deeds of the King, his love for people and his fight against hunger.

Since 15 October, about 40,000 people have come every day to the chapelle ardente where the monarch is lying in state in Bangkok’s Grand Palace. Ordinary Thais come to mourn their king, leave messages of condolence and pay tribute to the sovereign.

Yesterday, to avoid overcrowding, the authorities decided to restrict access to 10,000 people a day, with prior registration and ticket. This has angered many people who queued for several hours only to be told to return the next day.

The name Bhumibol means "the strength of the nation”. Perhaps, "my mother named me this way so that I would be down-to-earth and be an ordinary person towards my people,” the king once said.

Indeed, he is remembered as very attentive to the needs of his people. "After visiting every part of Thailand, I learnt to love my people,” he once said. Hence, “my place on earth is amidst my subjects, which are all Thais”.

Thais remember that King Bhumibol applied a three-step theory in his actions. First comes understanding the things one has to do; second, one acquires the proper ways to cope with difficult situations, and third, one develops this to its utmost possibility.

In the book ‘Things about His Majesty Thai People Would like to Know’, the king is quoted as saying, “With absolutely no knowledge about farming, how can I chat with my farming subjects? I can’t.  I must first learn about their work.”

During his reign, Bhumibol encouraged water conservation and the construction of irrigation systems to make it possible for farmers to grow rice even during the summer season, which is usually very dry.

Thanks to the king, Thailand adopted a policy of economic self-sufficiency. He thought that the country’s development had to be gradual, without forcing things. The main goal was to ensure the country a self-sufficient economy and provide people the opportunity to live in dignity.

When a journalist with the BBC asked him in 1979, “Is Thailand winning against the communist insurgency?” the latter answered, “Oh, I don’t know.  But we are winning against hunger.  This is what we are doing.  We are not fighting against people.  We are fighting against hunger.  We want to have them have a better life.  If we make this, and they have better life, the people who you call communist insurgents will have a better life also.  So, everybody is happy.”

King Bhumibol was equally the symbol of Thailand’s unity. "Unity does not mean you have to echo what others say because, as such, our life will be meaningless . . . We can disagree with each other but still be in harmony; otherwise, everything will become useless.”