Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

Father’s Day: Celebrating the Legacy of King Bhumibol

“We shall reign with righteousness for the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people.”

These words, pledged by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on his Coronation Day in 1950, were faithfully carried out throughout his seven-decade reign. Also known as the “Father of Nation” and the “Development King”, King Bhumibol was a father figure who devoted much of his life to improving the lives of Thai people.

With December 5 marking the late King’s birthday and the long-celebrated Father’s Day in Thailand, we at Friends for Asia would like to reflect on the work and contribution that His Majesty made to the lives of many.

Starting from the early days of his reign, His Majesty took it upon himself to visit rural areas in Thailand and learn of his people’s living conditions and hardships. Jotting down notes, snapping photos and studying maps along the way, King Bhumibol earnestly collected all the information he needed before devising development schemes. Instead of giving direct orders, he sat on the ground with the villagers and listened to all their problems. The opinions of everyone involved was valued, and this hands-on, down-to-earth approach to everything King Bhumibol did was just one of the many reasons he is loved by his people. Our Thailand volunteers and staff also deeply respect the developments and work that His Majesty engaged in.

King Bhumibol’s diverse skill set, knowledge and dedication to his people led him to initiate over 4,000 development projects. Tackling problems that included but was not limited to irrigation, health and agriculture, His Majesty worked alongside local people and officials to create development initiatives that yielded substantial long-term benefits for the future generations.

Here are some of King Bhumibol’s most notable projects:

Royal Rainmaking Project

During one of King Bhumibol’s visits to the most remote areas of northeastern Thailand, he learned of the nation’s severe drought problem and water shortages that posed challenges for farmers who are highly dependent on rainwater for crop cultivation. This sparked an idea, and that’s when the influential Royal Rainmaking Project was born.

For 14 years, King Bhumibol researched weather modification, set up experiments and gathered all the information he needed to make artificial rainmaking successful. Planes were sent up to spray artificial clouds into the sky, and rainfall covered the kingdom. The success of this project led Thailand to be known as the pioneer of cloud seeding techniques, which later earned international attention and recognition.

Monkey’s Cheeks Project

Known to Thais as the “Kaem Ling Project” and used to symbolize the great ability of monkey cheeks to store food and water, the Monkey Cheeks Project is King Bhumibol’s answer to Thailand’s flood crisis.

Initially launched as a project to resolve Bangkok’s flood problems, the Monkey Cheeks Project is based on the idea of storing water in reservoirs during heavy rain and creating man-made waterways that allowed for better control of water flow. The project became very popular and was later expanded throughout the whole kingdom.

Along the east and west bank of the Chao Phaya River, you can find the two detention canals that are part of this Monkey Cheek Project. The most well-known dam of the project is the Pa Sak Jolasid Dam that spans Lop Buri and Saraburi, earning the title as the largest reservoir in Central Thailand. Along with the use of water pumps, the project proved to effectively alleviate the flood crisis in Thailand.

Mae Lanoi Project

Another notable initiative, the Mae Lanoi Project, was developed to spread the growth of Elephant Grass to reduce the severity of soil erosion in Northern Thailand. Efforts were also put into turning poppy fields where opium was the most widely grown crop into productive fields of fruits and vegetables. The villages in the area became rich in natural resources, and the livelihoods of the villagers in the area was greatly improved.

Alongside the vast number of social welfare projects, King Bhumibol also provided guidance on happiness development. The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy developed by His Majesty, which stresses the importance of taking the middle path and being self-sufficient, has resulted in more sustainable living standards for the people in the rural areas of Northern Thailand. Our Thailand volunteers are able to see and experience the rural areas of northern Thailand in our Rural Schools / Low-Cost Volunteer Teaching Project.

Follow Our Father’s Footsteps

A visionary monarch, humanitarian and beloved father, King Bhumibol and his work is an inspiration to all of us at Friends for Asia and the people of Thailand to continue to care for the well-being of others. His Majesty’s lifelong dedication to his people and his kingdom will continue to be remembered in our hearts.