October 9th is World Post Day, marked each year in Thailand with a special stamp (which replaced the old International Letter Writing Week festivities and annual releases). Another holiday which receives a stamp issue each year is Thai Fathers Day, celebrated on the birth anniversary of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, and now referred to officially as King Bhumibol the Great with his full title in Thai — พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช มหิตลาธิเบศรรามาธิบดี จักรีนฤบดินทร สยามินทราธิราช บรมนาถบพิตร.
Bhumibol Adulyadej was born at Cambridge Hospital (now Mount Auburn Hospital) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States, on December 5, 1927. He was the youngest son of Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, the Prince of Songkla, and his commoner wife Mom Sangwan (later Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother). His father was enrolled in the public health program at Harvard University, which is why Bhumibol was the only monarch to be born in the United States.
My birthday is also December 5 and this is one of the reasons why I became interested in his life upon moving to Thailand. The extravagant celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne and those marking his 80th birthday occurred soon after I arrived. Those initial observations of the intense love Thai people have for him made a marked impression on me. I returned to collecting stamps following a hiatus of nearly a decade and made sure I purchased those issued each year on his birthday.
I have been privileged, also, to have had several close encounters with the Thai royal family while living here, including meeting two of the princesses. I have been introduced to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn twice (I was presented an award on the first occasion and the second was at a stamp show!) and I was in the receiving line during a school visit by Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya earlier this year.
I have become somewhat of a Royalist as a result as it’s so much more interesting to me than my own nation’s system of government and the way we seem to take delight in criticizing the President. In Thailand, nobody every spoke poorly about King Bhumibol and the love they still hold for him — nearly one year after his death — is a wonderful thing to behold. I am trying to do my part by paying tribute to His Majesty by featuring a different stamp portraying him each day this month on A Stamp A Day. I will continue this until the official mourning period ends on October 29.
Today’s stamp has the Communications Authority of Thailand’s issue number of TH-933. Printed by Chan Wanich Security Printing Company Ltd. here in Thailand in sheets of 10, the 9-baht stamp was issued on December 5, 2012, on the occasion of King Bhumibol’s 85th birthday. Designed by Mr. Udorn Niyomthum of Thailand Post, the stamps were printed by lithography and feature a small profile portrait of the king as well as the number 9 in gold. His Majesty is portrayed in the uniform of the Royal Thai Navy where he held the rank of Chom Phon Ruea (จอมพลเรือ), or Admiral of the Fleet. This is the most senior naval officer rank of the Royal Thai Navy. Today it is only ceremonially held by members of the Thai Royal family. The Royal Thai Army equivalent is known as just Chom Phon and Chom Phon Akat for the Royal Thai Air Force.
The King of Thailand as Head of the Armed Forces is automatically made a Chom Phon upon accession. The rank was formally created in 1888, together with all other ranks of the military by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who wanted to modernize his Armed Forces through western lines.
Although King Bhumibol was referred to outside of Thailand as King Rama IX in English, Thais referred to him as Nai Luang or Phra Chao Yu Hua (ในหลวง or พระเจ้าอยู่หัว), which translated to “the King” and “Lord Upon our Heads”, respectively. He was also called Chao Chiwit (“Lord of Life”). Formally, he was referred to as Phrabat Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua (พระบาทสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัว) or, in legal documents, Phrabat Somdet Phra Paraminthara Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), and in English as “His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej”. He signed his name as ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช ป.ร. (Bhumibol Adulyadej Por Ror, the Thai equivalent of “Bhumibol Adulyadej R[ex])”.