Bhumibol Adulyadej (5 December 1927 – 13 October 2016), known as King Bhumibol the Great, was the ninth monarch of
In 1957, a military coup overthrew the unpopular government of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram with allegations of lèse-majesté, which is an offense against the dignity of the monarch, punishable under Thai law. This began a new and long-lasting relationship between the monarch and military in governmental matters. Although Bhumibol did invite public criticism in a 2005 speech, the lèse majesté laws have not been revoked by the Thai parliament.
Forbes estimated Bhumibol's fortune—including property and investments managed by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), a unique body that is neither private nor government-owned—to be US$30 billion in 2010, and he was the head of the magazine's list of the "world's richest royals" from 2008 to 2013. In May 2014, Bhumibol's wealth was once again listed as US$30 billion. Officially the assets managed by the CPB are owned by the crown as an institution, not Bhumibol Adulyadej as an individual.
After 2006, Bhumibol suffered declining health and spent extended periods at
Bhumibol was crowned King of Thailand on 5 May 1950 at the
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
Following the death of his grandmother Queen Savang Vadhana, Bhumibol entered a 15-day monkhood (22 October 1956 – 5 November 1956) at Wat Bowonniwet, as is customary for Buddhist males on the death of elder relatives. During this time, Sirikit was appointed his regent. She was later appointed Queen Regent (Somdej Phra Boromarajininat) in recognition of this.
In 1992, Bhumibol played a key role in
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, and 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
Bhumibol was an accomplished jazz saxophone player and composer, playing dixieland and
Bhumibol initially received general music training privately while he was studying in
Although Bhumibol was held in great respect by many Thais, he was also protected by lèse majesté laws which allowed critics to be jailed for three to fifteen years. 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.
During his 2005 birthday speech, Bhumibol invited criticism: "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 claimed. "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." A widespread barrage of criticisms resulted, followed by a sharp rise in lèse majesté prosecutions. Lèse majesté cases rose from five or six a year pre-2005 to 478 in 2010