What I learned from Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death commemoration in Thailand

A young Bhumibol Adulyadej
A young Bhumibol Adulyadej

I came to Thailand during the commemoration of the death of the former Thai King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, and one thing I noticed was that they loved him very much. It was a unified feeling, the same across the country – at least the three parts I visited would anecdotally lead me to think so.

I visited the Wat Phra Chetuphon in Bangkok, and along the walls of the temple, you could see paintings of the late King, from his youth all the way to his older years. There was a horde of people gathered around to take a closer look. Some were crying while others were praying. You could read a feeling of grief and pain on the faces of the locals. It was that apparent.

Then I wondered, what was it about the King that they loved so much? And how was it possible to draw that kind of love and respect from people? You see, if this were a Tyrant, there would be this forced feeling about mourning, and people would have been relieved from his death. However, from what I saw, the Tai were genuinely saddened by the loss of their King. Everywhere I would go, I would see a message, a photograph, a video in his honor. This was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was almost overwhelming, and one couldn’t help but wonder about who he was, and what he did for his country. That piqued my curiosity and I wanted to learn more about him.

I had a chance to look at photographs of him and I can say that he had this look of authority and yet gentleness in his eyes. He looked smart but unpretentious. He looked righteous but not judgmental. I was absolutely fascinated and puzzled by the fact that I could draw those conclusions from a simple photograph. Not saying that my perception is right, and my assumptions are valid, but I couldn’t help but wonder…Can you really tell someone’s character based on a simple photo? Who knows? Does your personality truly come across, or is that something that can be manipulated? I don’t know, but this exercise really made me think.