The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej
Yale University Press
, Jul 1, 2006
- 499 pages
Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej, the only king ever born in the United States, came to the throne of his country in 1946 and is now the world's longest-serving monarch. This book tells the unexpected story of his life and 60-year rule: how a Western-raised boy came to be seen by his people as a living Buddha; and how a king widely seen as beneficent and apolitical could in fact be so deeply political, autocratic, and even brutal. Paul Handley provides an extensively researched, factual account of the king's youth and personal development, ascent to the throne, skilful political maneuverings, and attempt to shape Thailand as a Buddhist kingdom. Blasting apart the widely accepted image of the king as egalitarian and virtuous, Handley convincingly portrays an anti-democratic monarch who, together with allies in big business and the corrupt Thai military, has protected a centuries-old, barely-modified feudal dynasty. When at nineteen Bhumibol assumed the throne after the still-unsolved shooting of his brother, the Thai monarchy had been stripped of power and prestige. Over the ensuing decades, Bhumibol became the paramount political actor in the kingdom, crushing critics while attaining high status among his people. The book details this process and depicts Thailand's unique constitutional monarch in the full light of the facts.