Now 69 years old, the glamorous Princess Ubolratana lived and raised a family in the United States for twenty-six years before she returned to Thailand in 2001. This followed her marriage in 1972 to American Peter Jensen which saw her lose her royal titles.
A heartwarming video from Thailand’s trailblazing Princess Ubolratana appeared online this week as the King’s older sister introduced Thais to the traditions of Christmas Eve while publicising her visit to a school in Nonthaburi on Christmas Day where she dressed up as Santa Claus and gave out presents, creating a joyful Christmas atmosphere. The initiative was all part of an ongoing campaign by the princess, launched in 2002, to fight the evil of drug use among younger Thais.
Thailand’s popular Princess Ubolratana released a Christmas video this week on her To Be Number ONE Facebook page in which she sings a Happy Christmas message to her followers and fans while explaining to online users in Thailand the meaning of Christmas Eve and its significance to those outside the kingdom.
‘Merry Christmas to all you guys, To Be Number ONE members, fans and followers,’ Princess Ubolratana declared. ‘We wish you a glittery, sparkly and joyful Christmas.’
Oldest child of King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great
Princess Ubolratana is the eldest child of King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great and older sister to the current monarch, King Vajiralongkorn by just one year.
In 1972, she married American Peter Ladd Jensen. The princess gave up her royal titles to live with her husband in San Diego, California where she was known as Mrs Julie Jensen.
Divorced in 1998, Ubolratana returned to Thailand in 2001 where she took back up royal duties and began playing an active role in the monarchy.
She caused controversy in early 2019 when a Thai political party nominated her as a candidate for prime minister, a move quickly and decisively scotched by her brother the King who termed it inappropriate.
The princess is known for her competitive spirit having won a Gold medal for Thailand with her father, the King, in the 1967 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games.
Princess, dressed as ‘Santy’, explains the significance and traditions of Christmas Eve to Thai audiences
In the video, released on Christmas Eve, the princess dressed as ‘Santy’ gave her Thai followers on Facebook an insight into the joys of Christmas Eve and why it is so beloved by foreigners in western countries.
She explained the importance of the deeper Christmas Eve message associated with the birth of Jesus as well as the thrill of little children as they await their Christmas present surprises the morning after.
Princess Ubolratana also spoke of the importance of the Christmas tree and the significance, at Christmas time, of bells.
Christmas is becoming more popular in Thailand
Over the past few decades, Christmas has been growing more popular in Thailand driven by the importation of western culture but also, significantly, by the growing numbers, linked with the expat community, of foreigners in the kingdom for whom the tradition is seen as even more important than it is in western countries as a key link or touchstone to life at home.
On Christmas Day, Princess Ubolratana followed up her video by visiting the Watkhemapirataram School in Nonthaburi where she arrived dressed as Santa Claus with a sack of presents on her back including sports accessories and personal gifts.
Part of the Princess Ubolrataba’s ‘To Be Number ONE’ campaign which is aimed at fighting illegal drug use
The video and the event were featured on the Facebook page of the To Be Number ONE organisation, a government-sponsored initiative overseen by the Ministry of Public Health.
Established in 2002, the mission is to encourage and steer young people, up to 24 years of age, away from the dangers of illicit drug-taking.
On Christmas Day, the Director of Watkhemapirataram School, Charoon Charusarn, as well as teachers and students, gave the royal princess a warm welcome.
The Facebook video published featuring the festive princess received a particularly positive response with many followers and social media users wishing Princess Ubolatana a Happy Christmas in return.
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.