Now 81 years old, he was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., the third and youngest child of Prince Mahidol of Songkla and Princess Srisangwan.
He attended the Ecole Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande, Chailly sur Lausanne. Later on he moved to the Gymnase Classique Cantonal of Lausanne from where he received his Bacheliers Lettres. He then entered Lausanne University to study science, but the sudden death of his elder brother, King Ananda Mahidol, in Bangkok in 1946, changed the course of his life completely, for the Law of Succession bestowed on him the arduous but challenging function of the Thai Crown. The government on behalf of the people came to ask the Princess Mother for her other son to be their King. As he had not finished his education, he decided to go back to Switzerland for another period of study, but this time in the subjects of Political Science and Law in order to equip himself with the proper knowledge for government.
Following the completion of his education in Switzerland in the early 1950s, he returned home to Thailand.
Among his many interests in Arts, Sports, Agriculture and Engineering, he has maintained a special love for jazz. But he framed this in the larger aspect of all music:
"Whether jazz or otherwise, music is a part of me. It is a part of everyone, an essential part of us all. To me, music is something fine and beautiful. I think we should all recognize the value of music in all its forms, since all types of music have their place and time, and respond to different kinds of emotions."
Jazz was particularly popular in the 1940's, and it was at that time that he first began composing songs especially in the Blues idiom, such as: CANDLELIGHT BLUES
These are only two of over fifty compositions. His music has become an important part of the Thai people. The song "Pun Pie Mai (Blessing For New Year)" became traditional music for the New Year celebration. He composed "Mahachulalongkorn" for Chulalongkorn University, "Yoongthong" for Thammasart University and "Kasetsart March" for Kasetsart University, the symbolic songs for the three government universities. In military arena, "The Royal Guards March" and "The Colors March" became the type of music that was played annually during official ceremonies for nation. In his 60-year reign, many political crises and revolutions occurred and many of his musical compositions were used by all sides to find and nurture support.
The King is highly knowledgeable in music composition theory. He was a leader in Thailand's International song composition. Using strange and complicated chords that create tense union in music and unusual varieties of dance rhythms, his music is played continuously and some of it has become legend in Thailand.
His favorite musical instruments are saxophone, clarinet, and trumpet. He can play guitar and piano as well. He played music with both Thai and International bands, no matter what the style and was known for jazz improvisations. He performed with world-class musicians such as Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Lionel Hampton, and Stan Getz, especially during his time in New York. They considered him a colleague and sincerely praised his talent. His favorite jazz styles are Dixieland and Swing. And he particularly admires Sydney Bechet, Duke Ellington, and Johnny Hodges.
Along with his music, the King has developed and supported thousands of projects in a wide array of areas important to the Thai people. Although he is a constitutional monarch, he is so revered by the Thai people that his selective appearances and proclamations have a powerful impact. He is equally selective in his politics and rarely injects his views. But this year, on December 4, one day before his birthday, he gave a speech to the prime minister, the leader of Thailand (as well as his people) that were broadcast on television and radio. It was a careful rebuke of the current policies. He also spoke frankly and unexpectedly about his position. This topic was entitled: "The king can do no wrong."
Thailand still has enforced laws which make it illegal to criticize the monarchy. Section 8 of the Thai Constitution states: "The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action." Yet, this is what the King said:
"If you say that the King cannot be criticized, it suggests that the King is not human. If someone offers criticism suggesting that the King is wrong, then I would like to be informed of their opinion. If I am not, that could be problematic... If we hold that the King cannot be criticized or violated, then the King ends up in a difficult situation."
Beneath this statement lies the principles which have guided King Bhumibol Adulyadej throughout his reign ─ the "Tenfold Moral Principles" of the Sovereign, "Tossapit Rajatham" in Thai,
1. Dana: liberality, generosity, or charity. The giving away of alms to the needy. It is the duty of the king (government) to look after the welfare of his needy subjects. The ideal ruler should give away wealth and property wisely without giving in-to craving and attachment. In other words he should not try to be rich making use of his position.
2. Sila: morality - a high moral character. He must observe at least the Five Precepts, and conduct himself both in private and in public life as to be a shining example to his subjects. This virtue is very important, because, if the ruler adheres to it, strictly, then bribery and corruption, violence and indiscipline would be automatically wiped out in the country.
3. Pariccaga: Comfort - Making sacrifices if they are for the good of the people - personal name and fame; even the life if need be. By the grant of gifts etc. the ruler spurs the subjects on to more efficient and more loyal service.
4. Ajjava: Honesty and integrity. He must be absolutely straightforward and must never take recourse to any crooked or doubtful means to achieve his ends. He must be free from fear or favour in the discharge of his duties. At this point, a stanza from 'Sigalovada Sutta. (Digha-Nikaya), a relevant declaration by the Buddha comes to my mind:
Meaning: If a person maintains justice without being subjected to favoritism, hatred, fear or ignorance, his popularity grows like the waxing moon.
5. Maddava: Kindness or gentleness. A ruler's uprightness may sometimes require firmness. But this should be tempered with kindness and gentleness. In other words a ruler should not be over - harsh or cruel.
6. Tapa: Restraint of senses and austerity in habits. Shunning indulgence in sensual pleasures, an ideal monarch keeps his five senses under control. Some rulers may, using their position, flout moral conduct - this is not becoming of a good monarch.
7. Akkodha: Non-hatred. The ruler should bear no grudge against anybody. Without harboring grievances he must act with forbearance and love. At this instance, I am reminded of how a certain royal pupil, an heir to the throne, who had been punished by the teacher for an offence, took revenge by punishing the teacher after he became King! (Jataka Text). Political victimization is also not conducive to proper administration.
8. Avihimsa: non-violence. Not only should he refrain from harming anybody but he should also try to promote peace and prevent war, when necessary. He must practice non-violence to the highest possible extent so long as it does not interfere with the firmness expected of an ideal ruler.
9. Khanti: Patience and tolerance. Without losing his temper, the ruler should be able to bear up hardships and insults. In any occasion he should be able to conduct himself without giving in-to emotions. He should be able to receive both bouquets and brickbats in the same spirit and with equanimity.
10. Avirodha: Non - opposition and non-enmity. The ruler should not oppose the will of the people. He must cultivate the spirit of amity among his subjects. In other words he should rule in harmony with his people