Birthday of a King
Posted by Lizz and Pete Maycock at 12:05 on 3rd December 2010
On Sunday (December 5th), the King of Thailand will celebrate his 83rd birthday. It can be hard for us as foreigners to comprehend the degree to which the King is respected and revered by his Thai subjects. We catch occasional glimpses – at the start of every film at the cinema, for example, everyone stands up to pay their respect to the King while his anthem plays. But at this time of year in particular, we’re reminded of just how important the King is to the Thais.
Nine days of official birthday celebrations have already begun in Bangkok, including a mass ordination of 7,056 Buddhist monks, a huge street parade and a fireworks display. Here in Chiang Mai, pictures of the King have been put up along the main roads, and shopping centres, businesses, schools and government buildings have set up large pictures of the King at the front of their property. These displays pay birthday respects to the King, and some even provide a book for well-wishers to write in their own personal message.
Over the coming days, Thai newspapers will be dominated by full page adverts wishing the King health and prosperity, paid for by banks and large corporations. News websites like www.bangkokpost.com will replace their front page with birthday wishes for the King. Although the details may differ, the phrase common to all of these events and messages: ‘Song Pra Chareon!’ (‘Long live the King!’)
The Thai church will be involved too – on Sunday, churches across the country will incorporate an act of thanksgiving and prayer for the King into their main services. It’s interesting to reflect on how this impacts on the Christmas preparations which are currently getting into full swing in Thai churches.
Thailand has been through turbulent times recently, especially during the violent political unrest in April and May this year. Throughout the 64 years of his reign, the Thai King has played a vital role in uniting the nation and urging reconciliation and peace.
Traditionally, the King gives a speech on the eve of his birthday, which is treated with enormous respect – past speeches have led directly to changes in government policy and laws being enacted to protect human rights, among other things. If you can, please join with the Thai Christians to pray for the King this Sunday.