Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has not given many interviews during his time as Crown Prince since 1972 and since he assumed the throne in 2016. However, where he has, his comments have always been surprisingly well-received and reveal an insightful and deep thinking man.
The Thai King warned on Saturday about the danger of depression when he spoke with a group of 200 High School volunteers at a camp organised by the military in Bangkok. In a deeply insightful comment, the monarch warned his audience of the danger that exists at times of great despair but also observed that it was often, at these times, that people received the moral support they needed.
The public was shown another facet of Thailand’s royal couple on Saturday when Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida met 200 volunteers from high schools around Thailand who took part in a camp organised by the 11th Infantry Kings Guard in the Bang Khen district of Bangkok.
The King and Queen, both wearing navy tracksuits, took questions from the teenagers openly and naturally that gave a deep insight into the humanity of the royal couple that might come as a surprise to many.
‘Love’ camp for young volunteers from all over Thailand who participated to develop leadership skills
The event was designated as the ‘LOVE’ camp to develop leadership skills and concluded on Sunday. The theme of the gathering was ‘leadership, oneness, volunteer and experience’.
However, what surprised observers, invited to the highlight of the training camp when the royal couple met with the group, was the candour of the King’s comments given freely to those who participated.
One young participant, a Hmong girl, asked the monarch about rumours that she told him had been flying in her region in October 2016, after the passing of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, that her community would be driven out of Thailand.
King assured young Hmong girl that all ethnicities were cherished equally in the kingdom
‘I was scared I wouldn’t have a place to stay and wouldn’t go to school. It has been several years now but we have not been evicted. We are all good. And I get to go to school because of His Majesty,’ she said.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn assured her that all ethnicities in the kingdom are Thai and that he would never abandon any community but would rather work for the good of all subjects.
A video of the event has been circulating on YouTube and it portrays a positive, relaxed and informal atmosphere.
King admits to sometimes being down
The King, now 68 but still a keen cyclist, admitted to one of the teenagers participating that he sometimes feels down.
‘I’m just like other human beings. On some days, I feel despondent. On some days I feel sad. On some days, I almost don’t want to fight the bad things. But it’s all human nature,’ he said.
He later observed that it is when we are at the time of greatest despair that we must rely on moral support and courage as he warned his audience about the danger lurking in depression.
‘We come to realise that moral support doesn’t come to us when we’re at our strongest point. Never let despondence become the evil that pulls us down,’ the monarch said.
Head of State who has, in the past, shown that he can speak candidly even to difficult and hard questions
It is not the first time the Thai King has made such an insightful comment. For decades, he has been tight-lipped and rarely given interviews but on the few occasions that he has had his thoughts aired, they have been revealing and remarkable.
In 1986 he told a publication called Dichan Magazine that as Crown Prince, he was not lonely despite his exclusive position.
‘Sometimes. Because being in this position, the chances are slim people will become my friend or get close to me. It is normal for people who are in this position. I knew that it would be this way. I am not lonely,’ he said.
A year later, he referred to the rumour mill that inevitably surrounded his life at the time and explained it all frankly.
‘Being human, when you listen to this kind of thing it makes you sad, sometimes it makes you annoyed. But some stories are simply ridiculous. For example, there are rumours that I own a discotheque, or I own a condominium, or I own a gambling den or a casino. Wherever you go, there will be rumours about you. Everyone gets gossipped about. If we only busy ourselves with rumours, we won’t have time to work.’
‘Black sheep have benefits, too’
In the same interview, he made a remark which also revealed a deep insight into human nature when asked if he was a black sheep.
‘Sometimes, being a black sheep has benefits, too, you know. I want to stress this point: black sheep have benefits, too. Sometimes it’s like making merit for others. You see, being a black sheep to others, or being a black sheep that people made me to be, it helps other sheep that are not so white become whiter.’
The comments by the King come at a time when the monarchy in Thailand has been drawn into political discourse by calls from student-led protests for reform of the country’s highest institution to place it under more constitutional oversight.