Loving Mother of the Thai Nation
The management and staff of the
Pattaya Mail, the Pattaya Blatt, the Chiangmai Mail and the Pattaya Mail
Television join the Thai people and the many others from around the world, to
present our loyalty and devotion to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit and best wishes
for a most Happy Birthday and a long life on the occasion of her 76th birthday,
12 August 2008.
If we look back into history and
consider the role of Thai women in the past, it can be seen that Thai women have
always had a hand in the salvation and progress of the country. In times of
necessity, they even took up arms and fought for their country with great
success and distinction. But generally they devoted themselves to the running of
their household, showing an all-round capability and always adapting themselves
to suit the circumstances of the time. By constantly holding to the middle path
in conducting their life, they rarely clashed with those dear and near, and at
the same time, they never had the feeling of being inferior to their men folk.
At the present time, circumstances have changed and modern life requires that
women have to go out to work more and more. But even so, Thai women still
skilfully manage to lead their life with delicate and charming skill, avoiding
conflicts within the family. However much work they may do, Thai women still
hold on to the middle path, to adapt themselves to the new circumstances, to be
constantly wary and consider well all the happenings around them, just like
their forerunners did in the past. In short, Thai women manage their life very
well, but they never boast or show off.”
These shrewd observations are taken almost literally from an address by Her
Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand to the National Council of Thai Women many
years ago and they shed significant lights on many important aspects. They
indicate, first of all, the chosen and genuine attitude of Thai women towards
life and society, helping at the same time to explain why Thai women have always
had a recognized and vital part in the development of the country throughout the
ages and yet maintained the smoothest of relationship with their men folk. The
mutual admiration and respect between the sexes in Thailand are the natural
facts of life and the modern movement of women’s liberation seems to be
unnecessary to Thai people.
This unique tradition of Thai women naturally stretched over the leadership of
the country and became the tradition of Thai Queens from the past up to the
present time. Succession to the Thai Throne has been limited to the male line
since the earliest establishment of the unified Kingdom until very recently and
there never was any attempt or thought of claiming an equal opportunity for the
female member of the Royal Family. The Thai Queens and Consorts, however, were
not the unobtrusive partners as might well be expected in the circumstances.
They have, instead, constantly played an integral part with their Royal Husbands
in effecting and symbolizing government of the country.
The historical episodes of how some Queens had borne arms beside their Husbands,
and some even sacrificing their lives to save their Husbands, are well known to
all Thai people even down to young children. The development of the Thai
Monarchy, therefore, cannot be truly studied without taking into account the
parts played by the Queen and consorts of all times. The life of any Monarch, in
particular, would be far more comprehensible with reference to His Royal
The present Queen of Thailand, as Consort to a King who has been called upon to
be the first reigning Monarch in the modern democratic era of the country, She
is required and expected to display all the more the traditional exceptional
qualities of Thai Queens and women in adapting themselves in the best and most
balanced manner to the new conditions and situations.
The Early Years
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit is the
daughter of H.H. Prince Chandaburi Suranath (M.C. Nakkhat Mongkol Kitiyakara)
and his consort Mom Luang Bua Kitiyakara (nee Mom Luang Bua Snidvongs). Prince
Chandaburi Suranath was the third son of H.R.H. Prince Chandaburi Suranath and
H.S.H. Princess Absarasman Kitiyakara.
She was born on August 12, 1932. The year 1932 is a significant one: it was the
year when constitutional monarchy was introduced into Thailand. Her father was a
prominent and capable Major-General in the Thai Army at the time of the
constitutional change. He left the army and went to serve as First Secretary at
the Thai Legation in Washington D.C. As HM the Queen was then still a little
child, she remained in Bangkok in the charge of her relatives. She did not see
her parents again until their return home.
She attended the Kindergarten class at Rajini School. But subsequently went to
St. Francis Xavier School at Samsen District in Bangkok in order to be nearer to
home. Her father later on became Thai Minister to France, to Denmark and
ultimately Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Her Majesty accompanied him and
continued her general education in the three countries and lastly in
It was while her father was stationed in Paris that she first met His Majesty
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was then studying in Switzerland but went now and
then to Paris. The chance meeting in Paris ripened into friendship and
understanding. When His Majesty met with a serious motor car accident in Geneva,
Switzerland and had to stay in a hospital at Lausanne, Her Majesty was a
frequent visitor. When His Majesty was well again and left the hospital, He was
graciously pleased to arrange for Her Majesty to continue her studies at “Riante
Rive”, a boarding school in Lausanne.
On July 19, 1949 Their Majesties were quietly engaged in Lausanne. On March 24,
1950, Their Majesties landed in Bangkok by ship after a long absence. On April
28 of the same year, the Royal Wedding took place at Padumawan Palace before the
Queen Grandmother. As a democratic King and Queen, Their Majesties signed their
names in the Registry Book of Marriages. Prince Chandaburi Suranath also
appended his signature in the book to show that he permitted his daughter, who
was then under age and required her father’s consent to the marriage, to go
through the ceremony of marriage. His Majesty then crowned HM the Queen in
conformity with Thai tradition.
Their Majesties have four children, namely: Princess Ubolratana, born on April
5, 1951, His Royal Highness Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, born on July 28, 1952,
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, born on April 2, 1955 and
Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn, born on July 4, 1957.
Their Majesties took great care in the education of their children in order to
prepare them to meet the various duties which they will have to undertake in
later life. A choice had to be made between private tutoring and sending the
children to an ordinary school. Private tutoring is a good medium for imparting
knowledge, but it lacks human contact with children of similar ages. Attendance
at an ordinary school also has its drawback. From experience, it would appear
that teachers, pupils and even parents are subjected to biases either favourable
or unfavourable. In order to avoid these inconveniences, His Majesty, with the
entire concurrence of Her Majesty, set up a school in the compound of Chitralada
Villa. Better control and supervision could thus be assured. The school was
established and registered in accordance with the law in November 1958. There
were about 78 children in the school. The classmates of the Royal children were
sons and daughters of ordinary people of various vocations. In the year 2007 the
number of Chitralada School children increased to 1,822 with 285 regular
teachers and several part-time teachers.
Her Majesty has always been very devoted to Her children. During their younger
days, she used to spend as much time with them whenever Her duties would allow,
and kept close supervision on all their activities. When Her Majesty was in the
United States of America during the State Visit with His Majesty in 1960, a TV
representative asked Her what Her favourite hobby was. The reply was: “Looking
after my children!”
Her Majesty has many public functions
to perform. She became President of the Thai Red Cross Society on August 12,
1956, and Her keenness in the work has built up Her popularity and aroused
enthusiasm in the public for the cause of the Red Cross. Towards the end of
1959, H.R.H. Prince Nagor Svarga, who was Executive Vice-President of the Thai
Red Cross Society, died unexpectedly. Her Majesty very ably carried on the
duties which would ordinarily fall upon the Vice-President until a new
Vice-President was appointed on March 18, 1960.
Later on, in 1979, upon learning of the influx of about 40,000 Cambodian
refugees into Thailand’s Trat Province, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit flew to the
site to see the situation Herself. Then in Her capacity as President of the Thai
Red Cross Society, Her Majesty set up Khao Larn Thai Red Cross Centre to give
shelter, food and medical care to those Cambodian refugees who were mostly
peasant families with small children and unaccompanied orphans. The centre
became a refuge for these displaced people for some years.
When His Majesty entered the monkhood in 1956, Her Majesty became Regent during
that period. She gave the oath of allegiance before the National Assembly. She
performed Her duties so well and so satisfactorily that, on the recommendation
from the Government, Her Majesty was given the title of higher distinction. She
became “Somdech Phraborom Rajininath.” Such as title is given to a Queen who has
ably performed the function of the Head of State on behalf of the King, when He
is absent from the realm or for some reason is unable to exercise His function
On the social side, Her Majesty accepted to become the Honorary President of the
National Council on Social Welfare of Thailand under His Majesty’s Patronage
since August 10, 1961. The organization comprises of around 905 private and
public social welfare units throughout the Kingdom and it is now a member of the
International Conference of Social Work.
Projects to raise the
living standards of the people
Her Majesty the Queen is naturally
endowed with artistic talents and is keenly interested in the world of arts and
culture. One of Her special interests, which She has made her life’s work, is
Thai arts and culture. Her cultural promotion activities dated back to the year
1960, when She was to accompany His Majesty the King on a state visit to Europe
and the United States. She noticed at the time that there were no national
dresses for Thai women, unlike the Indian Sari or the Japanese Kimono, to name
only a couple.
It was high time to create a distinctive costume for the sake of national
identity. With this in mind, Her Majesty researched into traditional costumes
that Thai woman had worn in different historical periods, from Sukhothai,
Ayudhya to the Rattanakosin (Bangkok) periods. She then set out to adapt and
modify these different modes into Thai national costumes for present-day use.
Initially, there were five designs, all worn with a long skirt: three of these
have simply wrap-around skirts and the other two have a pleated fold in the
middle, running the entire length of skirt. The five designs were given such
names as Thai Ruan Ton, Thai Chitralada, Thai Amarin, Thai Chakri and Thai
Boromabiman. Later on, more designs were gradually added to the collection; for
example, Thai Dusit, Thai Prayuk, etc. These designs were launched by Her
Majesty the Queen on the course of State Visits and on subsequent occasions.
They are now internationally recognized as Thai national costumes.
The promotion of Thai national costumes has had lasting consequences on Thai
traditional handicrafts and cottage industries, the costumes being particularly
suited to hand-woven silk, plain, brocade or the patterned, tie-dyed silk,
called Mud-mee. These costumes are further enhanced by traditional handbags,
which again are the products of delicate craftsmanship in wickerwork.
Her Majesty’s Work in
We will reign with righteousness for
the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people.” These words pronounced as the
Oath of Accession by His Majesty the King on His Coronation Day, are not mere
formalities, but form the key that unlocks the oft-wondered mystery - especially
to foreigners - as to why the Thai Monarchy has remained.
This concern to reign for the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people is
the prime motivation which drives His Majesty the King to maintain close contact
with ordinary Thai people. Her Majesty the Queen has made it Her duty to be at
the King’s side on every possible occasion. These functions may include Royal
audiences, receptions held on the occasion of the State Visits of Heads of
States, Royal and State functions, religious and traditional ceremonies.
Their Majesties frequently travel on extended journeys to visit Their subjects
in all corners of the realm, especially the remotest and the most neglected.
They have always felt particular concern for those in dire need of help and
support, whether material or moral, such as people made homeless by natural
disaster, the underprivileged and deprived hill tribesmen, active combat units
and wounded personnel of the military and the police.
In the course of Her visits to wounded soldiers or policemen, Her Majesty gives
them presents and made inquiries after their conditions. In some of the more
serious cases of injury, such as when the patient is blinded, Her Majesty would
show great concern in giving personal attention to the patients and asking for
minute details of their medical history and treatments to the extent of
accepting them under Her Patronage. Her special care and concern on these
occasions have been greatly appreciated and infinitely boosted the morale of the
military and police forces who devote themselves for the sake of the country.
As the number of wounded soldiers, policeman and civilian volunteers increased,
Her Majesty founded the “Sai Jai Thai Foundation” on April 2, 1975. The aim of
the foundation is to help those soldiers, policemen, and civilians volunteers
who became wounded or disabled, to be able to live a more comfortable life. The
families of the deceased will be looked after to some extent. Her Majesty
graciously entrusts this Foundation to H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn,
Her second daughter, who has been Chairperson of the Sai Jai Thai Foundation to
this very day.
These Royal trips to the rural areas, sometimes classified as “sensitive”, were
undertaken in order that His Majesty the King may gain first-hand knowledge
about the actual living conditions of His people. With the insight, Their
Majesties have been able to alleviate their hardships as well as prevent them
from reoccurring. A number of projects have been royally initiated to this end,
and a great deal of their time is spent on the follow-up of these projects.
On these visits, Her Majesty the Queen likes to mix informally with the people
and talk to them with great interest. Some of the visits take the Royal Couple
to the simple homes of the needy; others involve long hours of car journey on
bumpy earth tracks from one village to the other. On each visit, prompt aid is
given to urgent cases while the sick are taken care of, either on the spot by
the accompanying team of Royal physicians or at hospitals at Royal expense. A
large number of patients are currently hospitalized on Royal expense in this
manner both in the provinces and in Bangkok. During their hospital stay, the
patients are regularly visited by court officials and basic necessities provided
for. On their complete recovery, their home journey is usually arranged for them
to ensure their safe return.
For Her Majesty’s outstanding work in this field, the Royal College of
Physicians of London awarded Her an Honorary Fellowship on May 1, 1988.
In certain remote areas, where there is a complete absence of any health care
facilities, Their Majesties would erect a “Sala Ruam Jai” or a “Pavilion of
united Spirit”, which serves as a centre for primary health care as well as a
library for the villagers.
Her Majesty the Queen learned from these visits that the majority of farmers
find it difficult to subsist on farm income alone. While His Majesty the King
launched thousands of agricultural projects to relieve their hardships, Her
Majesty the Queen looks for extra income generating occupations to supplement
their basic earnings.
HM the Queen came to the conclusion
that most Thai people are dexterous, industrious, and meticulous. Each region,
moreover, has its own indigenous raw materials and cottage industry. If these
indigenous handicrafts can be promoted and their utility emphasized, the rural
poor would have additional occupations and incomes. With this in mind, wherever
She travels, HM the Queen pays attention to indigenous cottages industries and
crafts and tends support to all kinds of regional crafts.
Her Majesty’s craft promotion activities have encompassed most of the country’s
regions, starting with Hup Kaphing village in Phetchaburi province. At the
village, a project was launched by HM the Queen to encourage local women to make
various kinds of accessories, such as handbags, hats, sandals, and mats out of
jute, and palm leaves. At the self-help community of Prachuap Khiri Khan
province, HM the Queen initiated an artificial flower making project using
remnants of cotton, silk and other fabrics. She also sent expert weavers to
teach cotton weaving at Ayudhya and revived the making of traditional clay
dolls, known as “Chao Wang” dolls or “palace” dolls, at Tambon Bang Sadet, Ang
The making of clay dolls at Tambon Bang Sadet originated during the course of a
vacation HM the Queen took with the Royal Family at the Summer Palace of Bang
Pa-in at the close of 1975. A severe flood hit Tambon Bang Sadet in nearby Ang
Thong province where the farmers had already suffered from successive crop
failures caused by flooding in the past. Her Majesty was accompanying HM the
King on an urgent relief mission when She received the mandate from His Majesty
to find a way to supplement the farmers’ incomes. It resulted in the revival of
the old art of making tiny clay dolls, the raw material for which is readily
available in that sub-district. Subsequently, HM the Queen provided training to
the villagers by expert doll-makers and then bought the finished products which
would then be sold to tourists as souvenirs.
The doll-making project, besides being a source of supplementary income, helps
preserve a near-extinct aspect of Thai traditions as well as popularized Thai
traditional culture overseas. The “palace dolls” do in fact faithfully portray
traditional manners, clothing, aspects of everyday life and other ancient
traditions and customs.
In the North, HM the Queen launched several hand-weaving projects, involving
silk, brocade and thick cotton cloth. The fabrics could be fashioned into
curtains, handbags and other accessories. Other crafts which have been promoted
in this region include fancy clothes hangers and embroidery.
Her Majesty became fascinated by the indigenous embroidery of the hill people
while she was accompanying HM the King on a visit to the Yao tribe. She observed
that the Yao tribesmen were dressed in colourful and delicately embroidered
costumes. Embroidery is one of the traditional crafts of all the hill-tribes,
passed down from generation to generation, and deserved to be preserved and
promoted. Since then, HM the Queen herself has, on several occasions, worn
garments with hill-tribe embroidery in order that the tribes-people may feel
proud of their traditional costumers and consequently fully appreciate the
efforts to preserve and perpetuate such craftsmanship.
During one of Her private visits to the United States (January 25-March 31,
1980), Her Majesty organized a fashion show at the Shoreham Americana Hotel in
Washington D.C., where a collection of hill-tribe costumes and handicrafts was
presented to the American public. This promotional event attracted large number
of interested parties and important orders from big department stores, thus
boosting national economy and the hill-tribes’ livelihood.
The North-eastern people prefer to weave Mud-mee or tie-dyed silk as well as
ordinary silk cloth for their family needs. But they have inadequate supplies of
raw silk for the purpose. Her Majesty found a way out by giving extensive
support to the raising of local silk worms. The traditional patterns and
designed of Mud-mee weaving are revived and production techniques improved. Her
Majesty uses Her own private funds to finance the whole enterprise, from
purchasing raw material to paying wages and buying up the finished products. As
an extra incentive, any outstanding weaver who distinguished herself in the art
would be awarded a special prize by Her Majesty.
Weaving in the South also has a unique traditional pattern; some are modelled
after the local varieties of flowers, such as the jasmines; others are more
abstract. In recent years, its popularity has been on decline, a phenomenon
which prompted Her Majesty to take up its cause as zealously as She has done for
other regions. Other Southern handicrafts have also been given her attentions,
such as bulrush matting, and a delicate craft of wickerwork, using a local
variety of vine, called Yan Lipao, which can be fashioned into all kinds of
household accessories, including the famous evening bags. After a period of
training, the southern people became outstanding in embroidery.
The SUPPORT Foundation
The Royal rural development efforts
attracted a large number of donors, whose contributions formed the basis of
SUPPORT, or the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and
Related Techniques, founded in 1976 under Their Majesty’s Royal Patronage and
Chairmanship. The promotional work of the foundation has been recognized as
highly effective, particularly since SUPPORT provides outlets for local wares
and handicrafts from all regions of the Kingdom.
In 1979, the Support Foundation Chitralada Training Center was set up to teach
Thai arts and crafts to children of landless villagers. Through this project,
Her Majesty succeeded in preserving some dying arts. At the present time, there
are hundreds of thousands of poor and needy families around the country whose
livelihoods have been much improved through Her Majesty’s SUPPORT projects.
While improving the livelihood of Her people through the SUPPORT Project, Her
Majesty worked simultaneously on the conservation of natural resources and the
environment. The Highland Agricultural Development Stations initiated by Her
Majesty, Her “Forests Love Water”, “Little House in the Big Forest” and “Sirikit
Reforestation” project has enabled people to live in harmony with nature.
Forests that had been ravaged have been replanted with useful trees and
medicinal plants. Watersheds have been restored and preventive measures out in
place against forest fires. In addition, during the past decades Her Majesty
launched many other notable environmental conservation projects, to name a few:
“Offshore Natural Rehabilitation”, “Sea Turtle Conservation”, “Metallic Beetle
Conservation”, Lady Slipper Orchid Conservation By returning Them to the
Wilderness”, “Elephant Conservation by Releasing Them to Return to the Forest”,
and “Rehabilitation of Thai Fish, River Prawns, Mountain Frogs, Native Fowls,
etc. to Feed the People”.
Her Majesty’s concern
for Education and Health Care
The well-being of Her people has been
has always been at the heart of Her Majesty’s concern. Among her concerns over
the past years has been education, especially for people in remote areas of the
country. That is why she founded Sala Ruam Jai, with multi-purpose centres
serving the community as libraries and medical clinics. These centres provide
education and entertainment, with magazines, newspapers, books, cartoons, and
pictures so that villagers of all ages, even illiterates, can acquire knowledge.
Primary health workers, called “village doctors”, are in attendance to give
advice before referring sick people to the nearest local hospital. Higher up on
the education ladder, Her Majesty has been providing scholarships for needy
students throughout the country. Since 1974, when the programme started, more
than 14,000 students have been provided with Her Majesty’s scholarship.
Nearly sixty years after Her Royal Wedding, Her Majesty continues to dedicate
Herself to the welfare and livelihood of the people. “Do not come to speak to me
about profits and losses, I want poor people to have lots of work to do. My
losses are the profits of the Nation,” said Her Majesty in connection with Her
Royal Initiative for Model Farms, whose purposes are to create employment
opportunities for farmers, provide knowledge and training in agriculture and
food for local communities. Thus, His Majesty’s self-sufficiency philosophy has
turned into reality.
Recognition and Awards
A brief overview of Her Majesty’s
activities amply bears witness to Her dedication to the people and her
determination to better their general welfare. Her achievements in this regard
have been internationally recognized by various international organizations. For
example, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) asked for Royal permission
to portray Her Majesty’s likeness on a Ceres Medal. Dr. Edouard Saouma, the
Director of FAO said that such an honour is reserved only for great women, who,
“by their lives and their work, have helped to uplift the status of women,
especially in the rural areas.” The gold Ceres Medal was presented to Her
Majesty at a ceremony held in the Chakri Throne Hall of the Grand Palace by the
FAO Director on May 11, 1979.
On March 4, 1980 on the recommendation of the world-famous Fletcher School of
Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University of the United States of America awarded Her
Majesty an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humane Letters in recognition of Her
work for the rural poor of Thailand and Her humanitarian work in her capacity as
Chairwoman of the Thai Red Cross Society.
For Her Majesty’s many contributions to the conservation of the environment,
natural resources and wild life in all parts of Thailand, the Chairman of the
Board of Director of World Wildlife Fund presented to Her Majesty an award as an
outstanding conserver of forests and wildlife on November 19, 1986.
As we said about His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej that through selfless
devotion to duty supported by great intelligence, His Majesty has won the
affection of the Thai people and has given a profound meaning to the Thai Throne
by making it “the personification of the Thai nationhood, the symbol of the
Nation’s unity and independence, the invariable constant above the inconstancies
of politics, indeed, as it is written to be, the repository of the sacred trust
of the whole nation.”
By equal dedication, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit has blended Her role to the most
correct and most effective degree to that of His Majesty. The Thai Monarchy is
thereby embellished and humanized by the feminine touch. The Monarchy thus
becomes even more meaningful and more completely personifies Thai nationhood
with its balanced composition, of men, women and children.
It is often said, and sincerely believed in
Thailand that Kings and Queens cannot be made but are really born as
such though we may not know it in the beginning. Thailand has
continuously been ruled by men who upon their succession to the
Throne have proved themselves worthy Monarchs as if born for such
duties and the line of succession merely accidental.
The belief seems even farther-fetched where Thai Queens are
concerned, for no female line of succession came to pass. Yet
Thailand has also been blessed with many Queens who seem equally
born for Their supreme responsibilities. If one looks at Her Majesty
Queen Sirikit, especially as She moves by the side of His Majesty,
be it in the most stately ceremonies or through the adoring crowd in
the remotest areas of the country, one cannot help feeling how
perfectly natural she seems to fit in the design of things. Then
turn to ponder well also Her words and actions which have come forth
from Her since Her elevation to the Queenship, it will be no wonder
that one can believe wholeheartedly that She is, indeed, a born