The King Never Smiles
A Biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej
Paul M. Handley; With a New Preface
January 31, 2017
520 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Paul Handley provides an extensively researched, factual account of the king’s youth and personal development, ascent to the throne, skillful political maneuverings, and attempt to shape Thailand as a Buddhist kingdom. Handley takes full note of Bhumibol’s achievements in art, in sports, and in jazz, and he credits the king’s lifelong dedication to rural development and the livelihoods of his poorest subjects. But, looking beyond the widely accepted image of the king as egalitarian and virtuous, Handley portrays an anti democratic monarch who, together with allies in big business and the corrupt Thai military, protected a centuries old, barely modified feudal dynasty.
When at nineteen Bhumibol assumed the throne, the Thai monarchy had been stripped of power and prestige. Over the ensuing decades, Bhumibol became the paramount political actor in the kingdom, silencing critics while winning the hearts and minds of his people. The book details this process and depicts Thailand’s unique constitutional monarch—his life, his thinking, and his ruling philosophy.
Thailand’s reigning monarch has just celebrated his sixty-year jubilee and this is the first serious biography of him. … It is key to understanding the extraordinary events of the past year. … For too long, the issue of the monarchy has been the prone elephant that analysts of Thai history and politics have had to treat carefully around. That era should now pass. … In sum, this is the classic story of an exceptional man recrafting a monarchy against the grain of an era. But with a difference.”—Chris Baker, Asia Sentinel
Thailand between 1974-76, and on the impact of the 1997 financial crisis, find Mr Handley at his analytic best. … Mr Handley also has some important remarks on the uses and abuses of the lese majesté laws in Thailand.”—Grant Evans, Far Eastern Economic Review
"A significant contribution to the sparse literature on Bhumibol. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice
"A critique of the world’s longest reigning monarch and his machinations for domination at the cost of scruples. It unveils the throne’s self-protecting alliances with army bosses, drug dealers, bankers, monopolists, and the C.I.A., and evaluates the long-term damage done to Thai politics by the king’s obsession for controlling state and society."—Sreeram Chaulia, Worldpress.org