January 16 in Thailand is Teachers’ Day (Wan Khru — วันครู). Adopted by a resolution of the government on November 21, 1956, the first Teachers’ Day was held in 1957 to mark the enactment of the Teachers Act, Buddhist Era 2488 (1945), which was published in the Government Gazette on January 15, 1945, and came into force 60 days later. Most Thai schools, especially those under the authority of the Office of the Basic Education Commission, close for the day to give their teachers a break during the long second term. Many international schools do not, although they may hold celebrations to honor their teaching staff. There are very few public or official commemorations.
Here in Phuket this year (2017), I spent the evening of Teachers’ Day at a ceremony presided by Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi (อุบลรัตนราชกัญญา สิริวัฒนาพรรณวดี), the eldest child of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. She paid a royal visit to Satree School, very near to my home in order to present awards in the “To Be Number 1” royal project started by her father, the late King Rama IX.
Princess Ubolratana was born on April 5, 1951, at Mont Suisse Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland. She returned to Thailand and stayed at Ambhornsathan Throne Hall, Dusit Palace. During the 4th SEA Games in 1967 in Bangkok, the King and his oldesd daughter competed in sailing events and won gold medals. She went to the United States for her tertiary education, studying at MIT and graduating with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics in 1973. She later obtained a master’s degree in public health at University of California at Los Angeles.
She relinquished the royal titles of Her Royal Highness and Princess Chao Fa upon her 1972 marriage to an American citizen, settling in the United States with her husband, Peter Ladd Jensen. She returned to Thailand after divorcing in 1998. Since her return to Thailand, she has increasingly taken part in royal ceremonies, though not to the extent of her royal siblings. In 2008, she began a film career, playing the main role in the Thai film Where the Miracle Happens.
Scott #552 was released on July 1, 1970, to commemorate International Education Year. The black & multicolored 50-satang stamp was printed by lithography and perforated 13½. It features a portion of a mural portraying King Ram Kamhaeng (พ่อขุนรามคำแหง) teaching. He was the third king of the Phra Ruang dynasty, ruling the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1279–1298, during its most prosperous era. According to current Thai national history, Ram Khamhaeng expanded his kingdom as far as Lampang, Phrae, and Nan in the north, and Phitsanulok and Vientiane in the east, the Mon kingdoms of what is now Myanmar in the west, the Bay of Bengal in the northwest, and the Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom in the south.
According to conventional Thai history, Ram Khamhaeng developed the Thai alphabet (Lai Sue Thai) from Sanskrit, Pali, and the Grantha alphabet. He is also credited with the firm establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the state religion of the kingdom. His rule is often cited by supporters of the Thai monarchy as evidence of a “benevolent monarchy” that exists even today.