Bhumibol Adulyadej: Wikis


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Bhumibol Adulyadej
King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2003
King of Thailand
Reign 9 June 1946 – present
&0000000000000063.00000063 years, &0000000000000278.000000278 days
Coronation 5 May 1950
Predecessor Ananda Mahidol
Heir apparent Maha Vajiralongkorn
Prime Ministers
Spouse Sirikit Kitiyakara
(Since 28 April 1950)
Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya
HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
HRH Princess Chulabhorn Walailak
House House of Mahidol
Chakri Dynasty
Father Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkla
Mother Srinagarindra
Born 5 December 1927 (1927-12-05) (age 82)
Cambridge, Massachusetts,
United States
Religion Theravada Buddhism

Bhumibol Adulyadej (Royal Institute: Phumiphon Adunyadet; Thai: ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช, pronounced [pʰuːmipʰon adunjadeːt]( listen); see full title below) (born 5 December 1927), is the current King of Thailand. Publicly acclaimed "the Great" (Thai: มหาราช, Maharaja), he is also known as Rama IX. Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he is the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history.[1] He is seen as so important by the Thai people that his ill-health has affected the financial markets.[2]

Although Bhumibol is legally a constitutional monarch, he has made several decisive interventions in Thai politics. He was credited with facilitating Thailand's transition to democracy in the 1990s, although he has supported some military regimes, including Sarit Dhanarajata's during the 1960s and the Council for National Security in 2006-2008. He has been accused of interfering in politics, although since this would be unconstitutional of him and accusers are liable to be charged with lèse majesté. During his long reign he has presided over 15 coups, 16 constitutions, and 27 changes of prime ministers.[3] He has also used his influence to stop military coups, including attempts in 1981 and 1985.

Bhumibol is highly revered by the public and is also protected by the Constitution as "inviolable".[4] He has no right to charge anyone who insults or defames him, however, anyone can file charges for him; the penalty is three to fifteen years in jail. In his 2005 birthday speech, Bhumibol said he would not take lèse majesté seriously, and that the King can have flaws. Despite that, charges were still filed frequently, with over 100 cases of lèse majesté filed in 2007 and numerous people jailed.[5]

Reported to be the richest monarch in the world, with a estimated personal net worth of US$35 billion, Bhumibol has a controlling stake in numerous firms including Siam Cement and Siam Commercial Bank. He has used part of his massive wealth to fund royal development projects.[6] The Thai government has claimed that the assets of the Crown Property Bureau are not Bhumibol's personal wealth.[7] The exact value of the CPB's assets is not known, because it is managed independently of the Thai Government and reports only to Bhumibol.


Early life

Bhumibol (center) with his Mother and siblings (Ananda Mahidol (left) and Galyani Vadhana (right).

Bhumibol was born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States on 5 December 1927 [8]. He was the younger son of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and Mom Sangwal (later Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani). At the time of his birth, he was known in Thailand as Phra Worawongse Ther Phra Ong Chao Bhumibol Adulyadej.(พระวรวงศ์เธอ พระองค์เจ้าภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), reflecting the fact that his mother was a commoner. Had he been born a few years earlier, before his uncle King Prajadhipok passed a law allowing children of a prince and a commoner to be called Phra Ong Chao (a prince of a lesser status than Chao Fa) , he would have been called Mom Chao (the most junior class of the Thai princes), as were his older brother and sister.[9] His name, Bhumibol Adulyadej, means "Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power".[10]

Bhumibol came to Thailand in 1928, after Prince Mahidol obtained a certificate in the Public Health programme at Harvard University. He briefly attended Mater Dei school in Bangkok but in 1933 his mother took the family to Switzerland, where he continued his education at the École Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande in Lausanne. In 1935 his elder brother, Phra Ong Chao Ananda Mahidol, became King of Thailand, and elevated Bhumibol and his sister to Chao Fa status, the most senior class of the Thai princes and princesses. The family came to Thailand briefly in 1938 for Ananda Mahidol's coronation, but then returned to Switzerland. He received the baccalauréat des lettres (high-school diploma with major in French literature, Latin, and Greek) from the Gymnase Classique Cantonal of Lausanne, and by 1945 had begun studying science at the University of Lausanne, when World War II ended and the family returned to Thailand.[11]

Succession and marriage

Royal Family of Thailand
Emblem of the House of Chakri

HM The King
HM The Queen

Bhumibol and Sirikit after their wedding.

Bhumibol ascended the throne following the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, on 9 June 1946. Ananda Mahidol's death resulted from a gunshot wound to the head while in his bedroom in the Baromphiman Hall in the Grand Palace, under circumstances that to this day remain a mystery.[12] Bhumibol then returned to Switzerland in order to complete his education, and his uncle, Rangsit, Prince of Chainat, was appointed Prince Regent. Bhumibol switched over his field of study to law and political science in order to prepare himself more effectively for his new position as ruler.

While finishing his degree in Switzerland, Bhumibol visited Paris frequently. It was in Paris that he first met a first cousin once removed, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France.[13] He was 21 and she was 15. Bhumibol became a regular visitor to the ambassador's residence.

On 4 October 1948, while Bhumibol was driving a Fiat Topolino on the Geneva-Lausanne road, he collided with the rear of a braking truck 10 km outside of Lausanne. He hurt his back and incurred cuts on his face that cost him the sight of his right eye.[14][15][16] He subsequently wore an ocular prosthetic. While he was hospitalised in Lausanne, Sirikit visited him frequently. She met his mother, who asked her to continue her studies nearby so that Bhumibol could get to know her better. Bhumibol selected for her a boarding school in Lausanne, Riante Rive. A quiet engagement in Lausanne followed on 19 July 1949, and the couple were married on 28 April 1950, just a week before his coronation.

Bhumibol and his wife Queen Sirikit have four children:

One of Bhumibol's grandchildren, Bhumi Jensen, was killed in the Tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. He was the son of Princess Ubol Ratana.[17]

Coronation and titles

Bhumibol at his coronation at the Grand Palace.

Bhumibol was crowned King of Thailand on 5 May 1950 at the Royal Palace in Bangkok where he pledged that he would "reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people" ("เราจะครองแผ่นดินโดยธรรม เพื่อประโยชน์สุขแห่งมหาชนชาวสยาม").[18] Notable elements associated with the coronation included the Bahadrabith Throne beneath the Great White Umbrella of State; and he was presented with the royal regalia and utensils.[19]

In 1950 on Coronation Day, Bhumibol's consort was made Queen (Somdej Phra Boromarajini). The date of his coronation is celebrated each 5 May in Thailand as Coronation Day, a public holiday. On 9 June 2006, Bhumibol celebrated his 60th anniversary as the King of Thailand, becoming the longest reigning monarch in Thai history.[1]

Following the death of his grandmother Queen Savang Vadhana (สว่างวัฒนา, Sawang Watthana Phra Phanvasa Aiyeekajao), Bhumibol entered a 15-day monkhood (22 October 1956 – 5 November 1956) at Wat Bowonniwet, as is customary on the death of elder relatives.[20] During this time, Sirikit was appointed his regent. She was later appointed Queen Regent (Somdej Phra Boromarajininat) in recognition of this.

Although Bhumibol is sometimes referred to as King Rama IX in English, the name "Rama" is never used in Thai. The name is used to approximate Ratchakal ti Kao (รัชกาลที่ 9, literally "the Ninth Reign"). More commonly, Thais refer to him as Nai Luang or Phra Chao Yu Hua (ในหลวง or พระเจ้าอยู่หัว: both mean "the King" or "Lord Upon our Heads"). He is also called Chao Chiwit ("Lord of Life").[21] Formally, he would be referred to as Phrabat Somdej Phra Chao Yu Hua (พระบาทสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัว) or, in legal documents, Phrabat Somdej Phra Paraminthara Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช) , and in English as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He signs his name as ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช ป.ร. (Bhumibol Adulyadej Por Ror; this is the Thai equivalent of Bhumibol Adulyadej R[ex]).

Role in Thai politics

Plaek Pibulsonggram era

Marshal and Mrs. Pibulsonggram with Eleanor Roosevelt

In the early years of his reign, during the government of military dictator Plaek Pibulsonggram, Bhumibol had no real power and was little more than a ceremonial figure under the military-dominated government. In August 1957, 6 months after parliamentary elections, General Sarit Dhanarajata accused the government of Field Marshal Pibulsonggram of lèse majesté due to its conduct of the 2,500th anniversary celebration of Buddhism.[22][23] On 16 September 1957, Pibulsonggram went to Bhumibol to seek support for his government.[24] Bhumibol told the Field Marshal to resign to avoid a coup; Pibulsonggram refused. That evening, Sarit Dhanarajata seized power, and two hours later Bhumibol imposed martial law throughout the Kingdom.[25] Bhumibol issued a Royal Command appointing Sarit as "Military Defender of the Capital" without anyone countersigning this Royal Command. The said Royal Command included the following statements:[25]

Whereas it is manifested that the country administration by the Government under the premiership of Field Marshal P. Phibunsonggram is untrustworthy, and the Government could not maintain the public order. The military under the leadership of Field Marshal Sarit Dhanarajata successfully took over the administration of the country and is acting as the Military Defender of the Capital. I, therefore, have appointed Field Marshal Sarit Dhanarajata as the Military Defender of the Capital. All the people are requested to remain calm while all public servants are to follow the Orders issued by Field Marshal Sarit Dhanarajat. This Royal Command shall come into force immediately. Proclaimed on 16 September Buddhist Era 2500 (1957).

Sarit Dhanarajata era

During Sarit's dictatorship, the monarchy was revitalised. Bhumibol attended public ceremonies, toured the provinces and patronised development projects. Under Sarit, the practice of crawling in front of royalty during audiences, banned by King Chulalongkorn, was revived in certain situations and the royal-sponsored Thammayut Nikaya order was revitalised. For the first time since the absolute monarchy was overthrown, a king was conveyed up the Chao Phraya River in a Royal Barge Procession to offer robes at temples.[26][27]

Other disused ceremonies from the classical period of the Chakri dynasty, such as the royally-patronised ploughing ceremony (Thai: พิธีพืชมงคล), were also revived.[28] Upon Sarit's death in 8 December 1963, an unprecedented 21 days of mourning were declared in the palace. A royal five-tier umbrella shaded his body while it lay in state. Long-time royal adviser Phraya Srivisarn Vacha later noted that no Prime Minister ever had such an intimate relationship with Bhumibol as Sarit.[29]

Contemporary thinkers differ in their views about the relationship between Bhumibol and Sarit. Paul Handley, writer of The King Never Smiles views Sarit as Bhumibol's tool, whereas political scientist Thak Chaloemtiarana asserts that Sarit used Bhumibol in order to build his own credibility.[30][31]

Thanom Kittikachorn era

Thanom Kittikachorn

Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn was appointed premier a day after Sarit's death in 1963. He continued most of Sarit's policies for a decade. During the 1970s, Bhumibol was a key figure in the Village Scouts and Red Gaur paramilitary organisations. In October 1973 after massive protests and the deaths of a large number of pro-democracy demonstrators, Bhumibol opened the gates of the Chitralada Palace to fleeing protesters, and held an audience with student leaders. Bhumibol subsequently appointed the Thammasat University Rector Sanya Dharmasakti as the new Prime Minister, replacing Thanom. Thanom subsequently moved to the United States and Singapore. A succession of civilian governments followed, but the return of Field Marshal Thanom and his ordination as a novice monk at Wat Bowonniwet in 1976 led to renewed conflict, culminating in the 6 October 1976 Massacre at Thammasat University by royalist paramilitary forces.

Prem Tinsulanond era

The ensuing chaos was used as a pretext for a military coup. The junta submitted three names to the king to choose from to become the next Premier: Deputy President of the king's Privy Council Prakob Hutasingh, right-wing Bangkok Governor Thamnoon Thien-ngern, and conservative Supreme Court judge Thanin Kraivixien.[32] Bhumibol chose Thanin as the most suitable. However, Thanin proved to be very right-wing himself, causing student protesters to flee to join the communists in the jungle. Thanin was himself overthrown in a military coup in October 1977 led by General Kriangsak Chomanan. Kriangsak was succeeded in 1980 by the popular Army Commander-in-Chief, General Prem Tinsulanond, later the Privy Council President.

Bhumibol's refusal to endorse military coups in 1981 (the April Fool's Day coup) and 1985 (the Share Rebellion) ultimately led to the victory of forces loyal to the government, despite some violence - including in 1981, the seizure of Bangkok by rebel forces. The coups led many to believe that Bhumibol had misjudged Thai society and that his credibility as an impartial mediator between various political and military factions had been compromised.[33][34][35]

Crisis of 1992

Royal intervention on the night of 20 May. Left to right: Chamlong Srimuang, Suchinda Kraprayoon and the King (seated).

In 1992, Bhumibol played a key role in Thailand's transition to a democratic system. A coup on 23 February 1991 returned Thailand back under military dictatorship. After a general election in 1992, the majority parties invited General Suchinda Kraprayoon, a leader of the coup group, to be the Prime Minister. This caused much dissent, which escalated into demonstrations that led to a large number of deaths when the military was brought in to control the protesters. The situation became increasingly critical as police and military forces clashed with the protesters. Violence and riot spread out in many areas of the capital with rumour on the rift among armed forces.[36]

Amidst the fear of civil war, Bhumibol intervened. He summoned Suchinda and the leader of the pro-democracy movement, retired Major General Chamlong Srimuang, to a televised audience, urged them to find a peaceful resolution. At the height of the crisis, the sight of both men appearing together on their knees (in accordance with royal protocol) made a strong impression on the nation, and led to Suchinda's resignation soon afterwards.

It was one of the few occasions in which Bhumibol directly and publicly intervened in a political conflict. A general election was held shortly afterward, leading to a civilian government.[37]

With then President Vladimir Putin in Bangkok on 22 October 2003.

Crisis of 2005–2006 and the September 2006 coup

Background to the coup

Weeks before the April 2006 legislative election, the Democrat Party-led opposition and the People's Alliance for Democracy petitioned Bhumibol to appoint a replacement prime minister and cabinet. Demands for royal intervention met with much criticism from the public. Bhumibol, in a speech on 26 April 2006, responded, "Asking for a Royally-appointed prime minister is undemocratic. It is, pardon me, a mess. It is irrational".[38]

After publicly claiming victory in the boycotted April parliamentary elections, Thaksin Shinawatra had a private audience with the king. A few hours later, Thaksin appeared on national television to announce that he would be taking a break from politics.

In May 2006, the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned Manager Daily newspaper published a series of articles describing the "Finland Plot", alleging that Thaksin and former members of the Communist Party of Thailand planned to overthrow the king and seize control of the nation. No evidence was ever produced to verify the existence of such a plot, and Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations and sued the accusers.

In a rare, televised speech to senior judges, Bhumibol requested the judiciary to take action to resolve the political crisis.[38] On 8 May 2006, the Constitutional Court invalidated the results of the April elections and ordered new elections scheduled for 15 October 2006.[39] The Criminal Court later jailed the Election Commissioners.[40][41]

On 14 July 2006, Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda addressed graduating cadets of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, telling them that the Thai military must serve the King - not the Government.[42]

On 20 July, Bhumibol signed a royal decree endorsing new House elections for 15 October 2006. In an unprecedented act, the King wrote a note on the royal decree calling for a clean and fair election. That very day, Bhumibol underwent spinal surgery.[43]

The coup

Soldiers were welcomed with flowers

In the evening of 19 September, the Thai military overthrew the Thaksin government and seized control of Bangkok in a bloodless coup. The junta, led by the Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Commander of the Army, called itself the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, accused the deposed prime minister and his regime of many crimes, including lèse majesté, and pledged its loyalty to Bhumibol. Martial law was declared, the Constitution repealed and the October elections cancelled.[44] Hundreds of Bangkokians came out to flock around the coup makers' stationed forces. Protests were banned and protesters were arrested. On 20 September, Bhumibol endorsed the coup, and ordered civil servants to take orders from Sonthi.

The King's role in the coup was the subject of much speculation among Thai analysts and the international media. The King had an audience with Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda at the same time as the First Special Forces were ordered mobilised.[45] Anti-coup protesters claimed that Prem was a key mastermind of the coup, although the military claimed otherwise and banned any discussion of the topic. In a BBC interview, Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University noted, "This coup was nothing short of Thaksin versus the King... He is widely seen as having implicitly endorsed the coup." In the same interview, social critic Sulak Sivaraksa claimed, "Without his involvement, the coup would have been impossible." Sulak added that the King is "very skillful. He never becomes obviously involved. If this coup goes wrong, Sonthi will get the blame, but whatever happens, the King will only get praise."[46] On Saturday 23 September 2006, the junta warned they would "urgently retaliate against foreign reporters whose coverage has been deemed insulting to the monarchy."[47] The President of Bhumibol's Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda, supported the coup. The junta later appointed Privy Council member General Surayud Chulanont as Prime Minister.

On 20 April 2009, Thaksin claimed in an interview with the Financial Times that Bhumibol had been briefed by Privy Councillors Prem Tinsulanonda and Surayud Chulanont about their plans to stage the 2006 coup. He claimed that General Panlop Pinmanee, a leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, had told him of the briefing.[48][49] The Thai embassy in London denied Thaksin's claims.

After the coup

The junta appointed a Constitutional Tribunal to rule on the alleged poll fraud cases concerning the Thai Rak Thai and Democrat political parties. Guilty rulings would have dissolved both parties, Thailand's largest and oldest, respectively, and banned the parties' leadership from politics for five years. The weeks leading up to the verdicts saw rising political tensions. On 24 May 2007, about a week before the scheduled verdict, Bhumibol gave a rare speech to the Supreme Administrative Court (the President of which is also a member of the Constitutional Tribunal). "You have the responsibility to prevent the country from collapsing," he warned them in the speech, which was shown on all national television channels simultaneously during the evening. “The nation needs political parties.” The actual meaning of Bhumibol's advice was not clear, and interpretations varied. Some observers saw it as suggesting the judges should not make a compromise ruling. Others saw it as a warning against dissolving the two major parties. Bhumibol, who spoke standing but in a weak, rasping voice, was careful not to say where he stood on the merits of the case. "In my mind, I have a judgment but I cannot say," he said. "Either way the ruling goes, it will be bad for the country, there will be mistakes."[50][51][52] The Tribunal later acquitted the Democrat Party but dissolved the Thai Rak Thai party and banned over 100 of its executives from politics for five years.

The junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Assembly later tried to use the King in a propaganda campaign to increase public support for its widely criticised draft constitution. The CDA placed billboards saying, "Love the King. Care about the King. Vote in the referendum. throughout the Northeast of Thailand, where opposition to the junta was greatest.[53]

2008 crisis

The new constitution passed the referendum, and elections were held in December 2007. The People's Power Party, consisting of many former Thai Rak Thai MPs and supporters, won the majority and formed a government. The People's Alliance for Democracy reformed and started protests, eventually laying siege to Government House, Don Muang Airport, and Suvarnabhumi Airport. Although the PAD claimed they were defending the monarchy, Bhumibol remained silent. However, after a PAD supporter died in a clash with police, Queen Sirikit presided over her cremation. Princess Sirindhorn, when asked at a US press conference whether the PAD was acting on behalf of the monarchy, replied, "I don't think so. They do things for themselves."[54] Questioning and criticism over Bhumibol's role in the crisis increased, particularly from the international press.[55][56][57][58][59][60][61] “It is more and more difficult for them to hold the illusion that the monarchy is universally adored,” says a Thai academic.[62]

Royal powers

Constitutional powers

For a historical perspective on how Bhumibol's constitutional powers have changed over time, see the Constitutions of Thailand article

Bhumibol retains enormous powers, partly because of his immense popularity and partly because his powers - although clearly defined in the Thai Constitution - are often subject to conflicting interpretations. This was highlighted by the controversy surrounding the appointment of Jaruvan Maintaka as Auditor-General. Jaruvavn had been appointed by The State Audit Commission. However, the Constitutional Court ruled in July 2004 that her appointment was unconstitutional. Jaruvan refused to vacate her office without an explicit order from Bhumibol, on the grounds that she had previously been royally approved. When the Senate elected a replacement for Jaruvan, Bhumibol refused to approve him.[63] The Senate declined to vote to override Bhumibol's veto.[64] Finally in February 2006 the Audit Commission reinstated Jaruvan when it became clear from a memo from the Office of the King's Principal Private Secretary that King Bhumibol supported her appointment.

Bhumibol has vetoed legislation very rarely. In 1976, when the Parliament voted 149-19 to extend democratic elections down to district levels, Bhumibol refused to sign the law.[65] The Parliament refused to vote to overturn the King's veto. In 1954, Bhumibol vetoed parliamentary-approved land reform legislation twice before consenting to sign it.[66] The law limited the maximum land an individual could hold to 50 rai (20 acres), at a time when the Crown Property Bureau was the Kingdom's largest land-owner. The law was not enforced as General Sarit soon overthrew the elected government in a coup and repealed the law.

Bhumibol has the constitutional prerogative to pardon criminals, although there are several criteria for receiving a pardon, including age and remaining sentence. The 2006 pardoning of several convicted paedophiles, including an Australian rapist and child pornographer, caused controversy.[67][68][69]

Network monarchy and extraconstitutional powers

Monument to King Bhumibol in Phitsanulok, Thailand

Several academics outside of Thailand, including Duncan McCargo and Federico Ferrara have noted the active political involvement of Bhumibol through a "network monarchy," whose most significant proxy is Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanond. McCargo claimed that Bhumibol's deeply conservative network worked behind the scenes to establish political influence in the 1990's, but was deeply threatened by the landslide election victories of Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001 and 2005.[70] Ferrara claimed, shortly before the Thai Supreme Court delivered its verdict to seize Thaksin Shinawatra's assets, that the judiciary was a well-established part of Bhumibol's network and represented his main avenue to exercise extra-constitutional prerogatives despite having the appearance of being constitutional. He also noted how, in comparison to the Constitutional Court's 2001 acquittal of Thaksin, the judiciary was a much more important part of the "network" than it was in the past.[71]

The network's ability to exercise power is based partly on Bhumibol's popularity and strict control of Bhumibol's popular image. Bhumibol's popularity was demonstrated following the 2003 Phnom Penh riots in Cambodia, when hundreds of Thai protesters, enraged by rumors that Cambodian rioters had stomped on photographs of Bhumibol, gathered outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. Photographs of the stomping were not published in Thailand, but were available on the internet. The situation was resolved peacefully only when Police General Sant Sarutanonda told the crowd that he had received a call from royal secretary Arsa Sarasin conveying Bhumibol's request for calm. The crowd dispersed.[72]

Royal projects


Bhumibol Dam

Bhumibol has been involved in many social and economic development projects. The nature of his involvement has varied by political regime.[73]

The military regime of Plaek Pibulsonggram (1951–1957) suppressed the monarchy. However, during that period Bhumibol managed to initiate a few projects using his own personal funds. These projects included the Royal Film and Radio Broadcasting Projects.

In the military governments of Sarit Dhanarajata and his successors (1958–1980), Bhumibol was reportrayed as the "Development King" and the source of the economic and political goals of the regime. Royally-initiated projects were implemented under the financial and political support of the government, including projects in rural areas and communities under the influence of the Communist Party of Thailand. Bhumibol's visits to these projects were heavily promoted by the Sarit government and broadcast on the state-controlled media.

During the civilian governments of General Prem Tinsulanond (1981–1987), the relationship between the Thai state and the monarch was at its closest. Prem, later to become President of Bhumibol's Privy Council, officially allocated government budgets and manpower to support royal projects. Most activities in this period involved the development of large scale irrigation projects in rural areas.

During the modern period (post-1988), the structured development of the Royal Projects reached its apex. Bhumibol's Chaipattana Foundation was established, promoting his "sufficiency economy" theory, an alternative to the export-oriented policies adopted by the period's elected governments. Following the 2006 coup, establishment of a "sufficiency economy" was enshrined in the constitution as being a primary goal of the government.

Example projects

  • Rama VIII Bridge. Suggested by Bhumibol, funded by the government
  • Huai Ongkod land reform project, Kanchanaburi province. Suggested by Bhumibol, using government-owned land.
  • Royal Medical Team. Bhumibol's private physicians accompanying him on village tours are encouraged to provide medical care for local residents. In addition, Bhumibol sponsors physicians who volunteer to serve in hospitals in provinces where royal palaces are situated.[74]


King Bhumibol Adulyadej, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Queen Sirikit and Mamie Eisenhower at the White House in June 1960.

In 1960, Bhumibol was a recipient of the Royal Victorian Chain, a personal award of Queen Elizabeth II. Also on 28 June 1960, President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower presented him with the Legion of Merit, Degree of Chief Commander[75] and Bhumibol presented President Eisenhower with the Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri.

Bhumibol, who serves as head of The National Scout Organization of Thailand, was presented the Bronze Wolf award on 20 June 2006, the highest award of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, for his support and development of Scouting in Thailand by Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden and Honorary President of the World Scout Foundation. The presentation took place at Chitralada Palace in Thailand and was witnessed by Chairman of the World Scout Committee Herman Hui.

Bhumibol set a world record for receiving the greatest number of honorary university degrees (136) in 1997.[76] Most of his degrees came from Thai universities: for instance, Kasetsart University awarded him ten honorary doctoral degrees at once.

In May 2006, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, presented the United Nations' first and only Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award to Bhumibol.[77]

60th Anniversary celebrations

Also called the Diamond Jubilee, the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty the King's Accession to the Throne were a series of events marking Bhumibol's reign. Events included the royal barge procession on the Chao Phraya River, fireworks displays, art exhibitions, pardoning 25,000 prisoners,[78] concerts and dance performances.

Tied in with the anniversary, on 26 May 2006 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented Bhumibol with the United Nations Development Programme's first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award. National holidays were on 9 June and 12 June -13, 2006. On 9 June, the King and Queen appeared on the balcony of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall before hundreds of thousands of people. The official royal barge procession on 12 June was attended by the King and Queen and royal visitors from 26 other countries. On 13 June, a state banquet for the royal visitors was held in the newly constructed Rama IX Throne Hall at the Grand Palace, the first official function for the hall. The Chiang Mai Royal Flora Expo was also held to honour the anniversary.

On 16 January 2007, the CDRM officially declared the end of the 60th anniversary celebrations and commenced year-long celebrations of Bhumibol's 80th birthday.[79]

Private life

Chakri Monarchs
Emblem of the House of Chakri.svg
Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke
Buddha Loetla Nabhalai
Ananda Mahidol
Bhumibol Adulyadej

Bhumibol is a painter, musician, photographer, author and translator. His book Phra Mahachanok is based on a traditional Jataka story of Buddhist scripture. The Story of Thong Daeng is the story of his dog Thong Daeng.[80]

In his youth, Bhumibol was greatly interested in firearms. He kept a carbine, a Sten gun, and two automatic pistols in his bedroom, and he and his elder brother, King Ananda Mahidol, often used the gardens of the Baromphiman Palace for target practice.[81]

There are two English language books that provide extensive detail - albeit not always verifiable - about Bhumibol's life, especially his early years and then throughout his entire reign. One is The Revolutionary King by William Stevenson, ISBN 978-1-84119-451-6; the other is The King Never Smiles by Paul M. Handley. A third and earlier work, The Devil's Discus, is also available in Thai and English. All three books are banned in Thailand.

Bhumibol's creativity in, among other things, music, art, and invention, was the focus of a 2 minute long documentary created by the government of Abhibisit Vejjajiva that was screened at all branches of the Major Cineplex Group and SF Cinema City, the two largest cinema chains in Thailand.[82]


Bhumibol suffers from lumbar spine stenosis, a narrowing of the canal that contains the spinal cord and nerve roots, which results in back and leg pain and numbness in the legs. He received a microsurgical decompression in July 2006.[83][84]

Bhumibol was taken to Bangkok's Siriraj hospital on Saturday 13 October 2007, complaining he felt weak down his right side; doctors later found out through scans that he had a blood shortage to his brain.[85] He was discharged on 7 November 2007.[86]

On 19 September 2009, he was once again admitted to Siriraj Hospital with undisclosed symptoms. It was later revealed that he had the flu and pneumonia. On 27 February 2010 he was discharged from the hospital after spending five months there and returned to Chitralada Palace.[87]


Bhumibol is an accomplished jazz musician and composer, particularly for his works on the alto saxophone. He was the first Asian composer awarded honorary membership of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna at the age of 32.[88] He used to play jazz music on air on the Or Sor radio station. In his travels, he has played with such jazz legends as Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Lionel Hampton, Maynard Ferguson, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band. His songs can often be heard at social gatherings and concerts.

On 27 June 1967, after a 30-day concert tour, the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band performed at a White House dinner for President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson and Bhumibol and his wife, at his request.[89] In 2003, the University of North Texas College of Music awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Music.


Bhumibol is an accomplished sailor and sailboat designer.[90] He won a gold medal for sailing in the Fourth Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games in 1967, together with HRH Princess Ubol Ratana whom he tied for points.[91] This accomplishment is all the more remarkable given Bhumibol's lack of binocular depth perception. Bhumibol has also sailed the Gulf of Thailand from Hua Hin to Toey Harbour in Sattahip, covering 60 nautical miles (110 km) in a 14-hour journey on the "Vega 1," an OK Class dinghy he built.[81]

Like his father, a former military naval engineer, Bhumibol was an avid boat designer and builder. He produced several small sail-boat designs in the International Enterprise, OK, and Moth Classes. His designs in the Moth class include the “Mod,” “Super Mod,” and “Micro Mod.”[92]


Bhumibol is the only Thai monarch to hold a patent.[93][94] He obtained one in 1993 for a waste water aerator named "Chai Pattana", and several patents on rainmaking since 1955: the "sandwich" rainmaking patent in 1999 and lately the "supersandwich" patent in 2003.[95][96][97]


Estimates of the post-devaluation (circa 1997–1998) wealth of the royal household range from 10 billion to 20 billion USD.[98] In August 2008 the magazine Forbes came out with its 2008 version of The World's Richest Royals. King Bhumibol took first place on the list with an estimated wealth of $35 billion.[99] A few days later the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand issued a statement that the Forbes report erred, attributing wealth owned by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) solely to Bhumibol.[100][101] The wealth and properties of Bhumibol and the royal family are managed by the Crown Property Bureau and the Privy Purse. The CPB was established by law but is managed independently of the Thai Government and reports only to Bhumibol.[81][102]

Through the CPB, Bhumibol and the royal family own land and equity in many companies and massive amounts of land, including 3,493 acres in Bangkok.[103]. The CPB is the majority shareholder of Siam Cement (the largest Thai industrial conglomerate) , Christiani & Nielsen (one of the largest Thai construction firms) , Deves Insurance (which holds a monopoly on government property insurance and contract insurance) , Siam Commercial Bank (one of the largest Thai banks) , and Shin Corporation (a major Thai telecommunications firm, through the CPB's holdings in Siam Commercial Bank). The CPB also rents or leases about 36,000 properties to third parties, including the sites of the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, Siam Paragon and the Central World Tower. The CPB spearheaded a plan to turn Bangkok’s historical Rajadamnoen Avenue into a shopping street known as the “Champs-Élysées of Asia” and in 2007, shocked longtime residents of traditional marketplace districts by serving them with eviction notices.[104] Bhumibol's substantial income from the CPB, estimated to be at least five billion baht in 2004 alone, is exempt from taxes.[104][105] The CPB receives many state privileges. Although the Ministry of Finance technically runs the CPB, decisions are made solely by Bhumibol. The CPB's annual report is for the eyes of Bhumibol alone; the annual report is not released to the public.[104]

In addition, Bhumibol has numerous personal investments independent of the CPB. He is personally the majority shareholder of the Thai Insurance Company and Sammakorn, as well as many other companies.[106]

The CPB has a fleet of three aircraft for the use of the royal family, including a Boeing 737-800 and an Airbus A319. The newer Airbus had been purchased by the Thaksin Shinawatra government for government use, but after the 2006 coup, the junta offered it to the king. The other planes are used by members of the royal family.[107]

Among other vehicles, Bhumibol owns two custom-built stretch limousines from LCW Automotive Corp.[108] The Golden Jubilee Diamond, the largest faceted diamond in the world, was given to him by businessman Henry Ho.

Lèse majesté

Scope of the law

Although Bhumibol is held in great respect by many Thais, he is also protected by lèse majesté laws which allow critics to be jailed for three to fifteen years.[109] The laws were toughened during the dictatorship of royalist Premier Tanin Kraivixien, such that criticism of any member of the royal family, the royal development projects, the royal institution, the Chakri Dynasty, or any previous Thai King was also banned.[110] Jail terms for Thai citizens committing lèse majesté are usually harsher than for foreigners.

Social critic Sulak Sivaraksa has been charged several times with lèse majesté, but has always been acquitted. Politician Veera Musikapong was jailed and banned from politics for lèse majesté, despite the palace's opinion that the remarks were harmless. Frenchman Lech Tomacz Kisielwicz refused to switch off a reading light on a Thai Airways flight he shared with two Thai princesses and was jailed under lèse majesté for two weeks after his flight landed in Bangkok.[111] He was acquitted after apologizing to the King. Thossaporn Ruethaiprasertsung was arrested and charged with lèse majesté for making photocopies of leaflets with contents allegedly against the monarchy and the Privy Council.[112] In 2009, Daranee "Da Torpedo" Chanchoengsilpakul was sentenced to 18 years in prison without suspension for "intending to insult" Bhumibol and Sirikit at a political protest.[113] She did not actually mention the monarchs in her speech (she criticized, among other things, the "ruling class"), however, the court ruled that the prosecution "brought evidence that makes it possible to interpret that the defendant meant the King and Queen Sirikit."[114]

There is controversy over whether criticism of members of Bhumibol's Privy Council also qualifies as criticism of Bhumibol.[115] Police Special Branch Commander Lt-General Theeradech Rodpho-thong refused to file charges of lèse majesté against activists who launched a petition to oust Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, claiming that the law only applied to members of the royal family.[116] Two days later, he was demoted by Police Commander Seripisut Temivavej.[117] During the Songkran 2009 unrest, Thaksin Shinawatra accused Privy Council President of masterminding the 2006 military coup. Royalists interpreted this as an attack on Bhumibol.

There was also controversy following the death of Princess Galyani Vadhana. The website of Same Sky Books, publishers of Fah Diao Kan magazine, was shut down by the government after comments on its bulletin board questioned claims made by the Thai media that the entire country was in mourning over the death.[118]

Bhumibol himself stated that he was not above criticism in his 2005 birthday speech. "Actually, I must also be criticised. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the king cannot be criticised, it means that the king is not human", he said. "If the king can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him because the king is not being treated as a human being. But the king can do wrong."[119] Despite this, few have dared to call for the repeal of the law. Any doing so have been accused of disloyalty and could also be charged with lèse majesté.[120] Political scientist Giles Ungpakorn noted that "the lèse majesté laws are not really designed to protect the institution of the monarchy. In the past the laws have been used to protect governments, to protect military coups. This whole [royal] image is created to bolster a conservative elite well beyond the walls of the palace."[121]

Political use of the lèse majesté law

Accusations of lèse majesté are often politically motivated. Premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his political opponent Sondhi Limthongkul both filed charges of lèse majesté against each other during the 2005–2006 political crisis. Thaksin's alleged lèse majesté was one of the stated reasons for the Thai military's 2006 coup.[122][123][124][125]

In 2005, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) issued arrest warrants for two Swedish citizens, Abdulrosa Jehngoh and Chipley Putra Jehngoh, claiming that their website contained content insulting to Bhumibol.[126][127] Chipley Putra Jehngoh also held Malaysian and Thai citizenship and at the time lived in the Middle East. Abdulrosa Jehngoh was granted Swedish citizenship and lives in Sweden. The website was hosted in Canada and was linked to separatist organisation in southern Thailand or more specifically the website '' which incited separatist movement.[128]

Sondhi, a vocal opposition of Prime Minister Thaksin, often accused Thaksin and his affiliates of lèse majesté. In April 2007, A Bangkok criminal court sentenced Sondhi for defamation for claiming on his Muang Thai Rai Sapda talk show that Thaksin's Deputy Transport Minister, Phumtham Vejjayachai, was linked to the anti-royal website.[129]

Academics have been investigated for lèse majesté for even questioning the role of the monarchy in Thai society. In 2007, Assistant Professor Boonsong Chaisingkananon of Silpakorn University was investigated for lèse majesté for asking students in an exam if the institution of the monarchy was necessary for Thai society and how it may be reformed to be consistent with the democratic system. The University cooperated with the police investigation, and even turned over students' answer sheets and the marks the professor gave them.[130]

Another case of an academic is that of Australian Harry Nicolaides who in 2005 self-published the book "Verisimilitude," which mentioned the "romantic entanglements and intrigues" of members of the nobility. Even though the book sold less than a dozen copies, he was arrested while visiting Thailand and, after pleading guilty, sentenced to 3 years in jail. He was given a royal pardon after spending a month in jail and then deported.[131]

Insults to Bhumibol's image

Acts deemed insulting to Bhumibol's image are also criminal offences in Thailand. In 2007, Oliver Jufer, a Swiss man, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for daubing black paint on portraits of Bhumibol while drunk.[132] The Thai press was requested not to publish any information about the case. "This is a delicate issue and we don't want the public to know much about it," noted chief prosecutor Manoon Moongpanchon.[133] The man originally pleaded innocent, but eventually pleaded guilty to five acts of lèse majesté. Foreign reporters were barred from the hearing.[134] Saprang Kalayanamitr publicly suspected that Jufer was hired to perform the vandalism and ordered a military investigation.[135] Jufer was pardoned by the king less than a month after his conviction.

Suwicha Thakor was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison, later commuted to 10, for posting a picture on an internet web board that was deemed insulting to Bhumibol, in violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code and violating the Computer Crime Act of 2007. The CCA was passed by the military junta that followed 2006 coup; Suwicha's conviction was the first time that it had been successfully used to prosecute lèse majesté.[136][137]

Other insults to Bhumibol's image that have resulted in arrests for lèse majesté include placing photographs of anybody above photographs of the King on websites and not standing while the Royal Anthem is played at cinemas.[138][139]

Internet-based insults

On 4 April 2007, the Thai government blocked Thai access to YouTube as a result of a video clip which it deemed insulting to the king.[140][141] Various leaders of the military junta claimed that the clip was an attempt to undermine the monarchy, attack Thailand as a country, and threatened national security.[142] On 28 October 2008, The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) announced plans to spend about 100 million to 500 million baht to build a gateway to block websites with contents defaming the royal institution.[143] "More than 4,800 webpages have been blocked since March last year, an ICT official told AFP, notionally because they contain content deemed insulting to Thailand's deeply-revered royal family."[144]


American journalist Paul Handley, who spent thirteen years in Thailand, wrote the biography The King Never Smiles. The Information and Communications Ministry banned the book and blocked the book's page on the Yale University Press website in January 2006. In a statement dated 19 January 2006, Thai National Police Chief General Kowit Wattana said the book has "contents which could affect national security and the good morality of the people."[145] The book provides a detailed discussion of Bhumibol's role in Thai political history and also analyzes the factors behind Bhumibol's popularity.

William Stevenson, who had access to the Royal Court and the Royal Family, wrote the biography The Revolutionary King in 2001.[146] An article in Time says the idea for the book was suggested by Bhumibol.[147]

Critics noted that the book displays intimate knowledge about personal aspects of Bhumibol. However, the book has been unofficially banned in Thailand and the Bureau of the Royal Household warned the Thai media about even referring to it in print. An official ban was not possible as it was written with Bhumibol's blessing. The book has been criticised for factual inaccuracies, disrespecting Bhumibol (it refers to him by his personal nickname "Lek"), and proposing a controversial theory explaining the death of King Ananda. Stevenson said, "The king said from the beginning the book would be dangerous for him and for me."[147]

Succession to the throne

The King's royal cypher and personal flag.

Bhumibol's only son, Prince Vajiralongkorn, was given the title "Somdej Phra Boroma Orasadhiraj Chao Fah Maha Vajiralongkorn Sayam Makutrajakuman" (Crown Prince of Siam) on 28 December 1972 and made heir apparent (องค์รัชทายาท) to the throne in accordance with the Palace Law on Succession of 1924.[148]

On 5 December 1977, Princess Sirindhorn was given the title, "Siam Boromrajakumari" (Princess Royal of Siam). Her title is often translated by the English-language press as "Crown Princess", although her official English-language title is simply "Princess".[149]

Although the constitution was later amended to allow the Privy Council to appoint a princess as successor to the throne, this would only occur in the absence of an heir apparent. This amendment is retained in Section 23 of the 1997 "People's Constitution." This effectively allowed Princess Sirindhorn to potentially be second in line to the throne, but did not affect Prince Vajiralongkorn's status as heir apparent.

Recent constitutions of Thailand have made the amendment of the Palace Law of Succession the sole prerogative of the reigning King. According to Gothom Arya, former Election Commissioner, this allows the reigning king, if he so chooses, to appoint his son or any of his daughters to the throne.[150]

Titles and styles

Monarchical styles of
Bhumibol Adulyadej,
Rama IX of Thailand
King's Standard of Thailand.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir

King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Thai full title is "Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Bhumibol Adulyadej Mahitalathibet Ramathibodi Chakkrinaruebodin Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatbophit" (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช มหิตลาธิเบศรรามาธิบดี จักรีนฤบดินทร สยามินทราธิราช บรมนาถบพิตร; About this sound listen ), which is referred to in the chief legal documents; and in general documents, the title is shorthened to "Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Bhumibol Adulyadej Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatbophit" or just "Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Bhumibol Adulyadej."

The literal translation of the title are as follows:[151]

  • Phra—a third person pronoun referring to the person with much higher status than the speaker, meaning "excellent" in general. The word is from Sanskrit vara ("excellent").
  • Bat—"foot," from Sanskrit pāda.
  • Somdet—"lord," from Khmer "samdech" ("excellency").
  • Poraminthara—"the great," from Sanskrit parama ("great") + indra ("leader")
  • Maha—"great," from Sanskrit, "maha"
  • Bhumibol—"Strength of the Land," from Sanskrit bhumi ("land") +bala ("strength")
  • Adulyadej—"Incomparable power," from Sanskrit atulya ("incomparable") +teja ("power")
  • Mahitalathibet—"Son of Mahidol"
  • Ramathibodi—"Rama, the avatar of God Vishnu to become the great ruler"; from Sanskrit rama + adhi ("great") + patī ("president")
  • Chakkrinaruebodin—"Leader of the People who is from the House of Chakri", from Sanskrit Cakrī + nari ("men") + patī ("president")
  • Sayamminthrathirat—"the Great King of Siam," from Sanskrit Siam (former name of Thailand) + indra + ati ("great") + rāja ("king)
  • Borommanatbophit— "the Royalty who is the Great Shelter", from Sanskrit parama ("great") + nādha ("the one who others can depend on") + "pavitra" ("royalty")


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  • HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. The Story of Tongdaeng. Amarin Book, Bangkok. 2004. ISBN 9742729174
  • HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. The Story of Mahajanaka. Amarin Book, Bangkok. 1997. ISBN 9748364712
  • HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. The Story of Mahajanaka: Cartoon Edition. Amarin Book, Bangkok. 1999. ISBN 9742720746
  • HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. His Majesty the King's Photographs in the Development of the Country. Photographic Society of Thailand & Thai E, Bangkok. 1992. ISBN 9748880508
  • HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. Paintings by his Majesty the King: Special exhibition for the Rattanakosin Bicentennial Celebration at the National Gallery, Chao Fa Road, Bangkok, 1 April- 30 June 1982. National Gallery, Bangkok. 1982. ASIN B0007CCDMO
  • HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, Chaturong Pramkaew (Ed.). My Country of Everlasting Smile. Amarin Book, Bangkok. 1995. ISBN 9748363538

External links

Bhumibol Adulyadej
Born: 05 December 1927
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ananda Mahidol
King of Thailand
1946 – present
Maha Vajiralongkorn

Simple English

Bhumibol Adulyadej
Rama IX of Thailand
King of Thailand
A younger Rama IX
Reign 9 June 1946 – present
Coronation 6 May 1950
Born 5 December 1927 (1927-12-05) (age 83)
Birthplace Cambridge, United States
Predecessor Ananda Mahidol
Heir-Apparent Maha Vajiralongkorn
Consort Sirikit
Offspring Ubol Ratana
Maha Vajiralongkorn
Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
Chulabhorn Walailak
Royal House Chakri Dynasty
Father Mahidol Adulyadej
Mother Srinagarindra

Bhumibol Adulyadej (Thai: ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช; IPA: [pʰuːmipʰon adunjadeːt]; Royal Institute: Phummiphon Adunyadet;  listen (info • help)) (born Monday, December 5, 1927), is the current King of Thailand. Most people in Thailand know him as "the Great" (Thai: มหาราช, Maharaja). He is also known as Rama IX. Having been the king since June 9, 1946, he is the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-serving monarch in Thai history.[1]

A billionaire, Bhumibol has used some of his money to pay for over 3,000 development projects, mostly in rural areas. He is very popular in Thailand, and is like a semi-divine figure for a number of Thais.[2][3][4]

Bhumibol was born in the United States and taught in Switzerland. Bhumibol is also an good musician, artist, and sailor.


  1. "A Royal Occasion speeches". Journal. 1996. Retrieved 2006-07-05. 
  2. Montlake, Simon (2006-06-12). "Backstory: The king and Thai". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  3. "World in Brief". The Washington Post. 2007-03-30. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  4. MacKinnon, Ian (2007-04-07). "YouTube ban after videos mock Thai king". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
Preceded by
Ananda Mahidol
King of Thailand
1946 – present
Designated heir:
Maha Vajiralongkorn
NAME Adulyadej, Bhumibol
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Rama IX, the Ninth Rama, King Bhumipol
DATE OF BIRTH December 05, 1927
PLACE OF BIRTH Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America

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