As Thailand prepares for the cremation ceremony of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, memories of him and his reign live in mementos dear to many Thais. His image is depicted on coins, amulets, statues and pins, and his works on Thailand’s behalf are immortalized in art showing him visiting rural areas and working on development projects he supported. Millions of mourners have prostrated themselves before Bhumibol’s body, which has lain in state at a Bangkok palace for a year.
The Associated Press asked Thais about their thoughts on Bhumibol and what mementos they’ve kept to honor the monarch they hail as “Father.” Here are their responses:
SOMBOON CHAISITTIPORN, 48, insurance agent
Somboon keeps a heavy bronze statue of Bhumibol in his home. He spoke about the relationship between the king and his mother, Princess Srinagarinra, before she died in 1995.
“I, as one of father’s children, want to follow his footsteps by remembering the loyalty he had for his mother. His Majesty would eat with his mother every day. He would hug and kiss her, and pay her visits when she became sick. His loyalty makes me feel like I want to follow his path. From now on, we are almost at a time where he will be sent off to heaven. I am ready to volunteer for His Majesty’s event. I want all Thais to have love and harmony, as father intended for us.”
NARUEMON TANANYAPISUT, 47, businesswoman
Naruemon keeps a collection of commemorative coins featuring Bhumibol’s image to remind her of the advice and life lessons the king offered during his public speeches.
“What about King Rama IX impressed me? Nothing more than his teachings that taught us moral and worldly values _ sufficiency and loyalty. They are simple things that we can always abide by.”
TASSANEE KEENGUEN, 47, flight attendant
Tassanee has over a dozen pins with Bhumibol’s image and brings at least one of them along with her on flights abroad to remind her of home.
“My job takes me to many different countries. Once, I went to a country that also has a king. I walked through its shops and homes and I did not see a single picture of their king in these places. At that time, I felt that our king is truly in our hearts, and in our homes. Every time I come back (to Thailand), no matter where I go _ if it’s Bangkok or other provinces _ we would see pictures of His Majesty in everybody’s homes.”
LADDA KLAISANSOM, 73, shopkeeper
Thailand is predominantly Buddhist and the faithful often wear Buddhist amulets for protection. Ladda has a collection of amulets with Bhumibol’s image. She wears a necklace bearing one of the king’s amulets daily, to keep the king she loves closest to her heart.
“I’m proud to have been born as His Majesty’s servant. I’ve believed in him since I was a young child, I’m not just showing it now. I can’t find words for it, it suffocates my heart.”
“As for my actions, I will follow His Majesty’s teachings, but I can’t do everything. I really can’t, but I can do certain things. I will conduct myself to be in line with what he taught and I will tell my children and grandchildren to also do the same if they can.”
METHAS LIEMSOMBAT, 21, university student
Methas keeps a tiny bag of rice he received as a souvenir from the royal palace when he went to pay his respects at Bhumibol’s coffin. He keeps the palm-sized bag _ meant to symbolize Bhumibol’s philosophy of sustainability _ on a miniature pedestal that is protected by a glass cover.
Methas recalled a day that, to him, proved Bhumibol’s divinity, when he waited on a roadside to catch a glimpse of the king.
“That day the sun was very hot and I was sitting next to a grandma. I thought to myself, `I’m a teenager wearing long jeans and the road is already this hot.’ I turned to look at the grandma. She was 80 and she said, `Don’t think that it’s hot, son, think that it’s cold. His Majesty has done more than us, he’s gone through much more than us.”‘
“The image that popped into my head was the picture of His Majesty sitting up against a car tire. I thought to myself, `He is the king, why did he have to sit like that? How did he endure so much for us? And why can’t we be tough for him?’ And then, someone signaled that the king is coming. And then the sun, which was so hot, had a cloud from nowhere come over it.”
“Then the grandma said, `You see, son? Angels walk the earth.’ It made such an impression, it was the first and only time in my life that I got to witness His Majesty’s graciousness.”
SAKDA SAJJAMITR, 68, textile manufacturer
Sakda, who is a Sikh of Indian descent, has a large collection of government-issued stamps that feature Bhumibol. He feels loyal to the late king for his indiscrimination toward Thailand’s minority religions.
“I’m very lucky to have been born in the reign of King Rama IX and I want to thank my ancestors for choosing to live in Thailand, where we have always lived happily because of His Majesty’s graciousness. His Majesty has always looked after every religion in Thailand. He believed that the Thai population were his children, no matter what religious beliefs they held.