The institution of the monarchy in
Thailand is in many ways unique. Not only does it have a history going back more than 700 years, but it also
continues to function with extraordinary relevance and vitality in the contemporary world. Indeed,
although the Revolution of 1932 brought an end to monarchy in its absolute form, the institution today
can be said to be more powerful than ever, in the sense of providing a unifying element for the
country. It remains a focal point that brings together people from all backgrounds and shades
of political thought and gives them an intense awareness of being Thai. This was clearly shown
by the unprecedented outpouring of public pride and personal affection that in 1996 greeted the
occasion of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 50 years on the throne, making him the longest-reigning
monarch in Thai history. The love the Thai people have for their king is also apparent
in countless other ways, large and small.
The intensity of respect felt by Thai people for their
king stems in large part from the distinctive form the modern monarchy has taken under his own
leadership, one that involves a remarkable degree of personal contact. At the same time, it is rooted
in attitudes that can be traced to the earliest days of Thailand as a nation, and to some of the past
rulers who continue to serve as models of kingship.