13 October 2016
I live in a country (Sweden) which is 8,626 km away from where I call home, ‘Bangkok, Thailand’. The city where I live (Gothenburg) is almost 500 km away from the nearest Thai embassy, which is the diplomatic representation of my country. This is the moment when I want to be home the most, to be with someone who would understand the grief I am experiencing.
The world around me is still the same as if nothing has happened. People are still laughing while having fika and enjoying their everyday lives. With 6 degrees Celcius in the afternoon, Gothenburg is colorful with several shades of autumn. Leaves are beautifully falling everywhere. However, on the other side of the world, Thai media and social network are turning into black and white, Thais are mourning their loss. We lost our King today.
Studying a master's degree in Sweden, I am surrounded by people from several countries with different cultures, religions and beliefs. This could make it difficult for them to understand our cultural contexts. Thailand has a royal institution that we love and respect. Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the world's longest-reigning monarch. The King is not a figure, not a living god, not a ruler to us, but a Father and the spirit of the nation.
One of my international friends wondered why Thai people love their King so much. In all honesty, so have I.
I just looked at her with tears covering my face and I believe that answered her enough, because she said
‘Seeing you cry, I know he was a great man!’
Yes, he was!
My friends usually say that I am not very ‘Thai’. I am not shy. I am not a girl who has 50 different types of smile and say 'yes' while I want to say 'no'. I confront, I discuss and I argue hard, especially now, when I am studying a master's degree at Chalmers, where critical discussion and analytical thinking are a ‘must’. We question everything, no matter the source. Studying aboard and growing up in a modern world where globalization affects the way I behave and think, somehow has made me question my love for my King and the benefit of a monarchy in today’s rapidly changing world.
Questioning is not wrong because at the end of the day, this love for Him is unconditional just as his love is for us, his children. It is hard to explain this love in short. It is even harder to mention everything the King had done for the Thai people. Similar to how hard it is to answer the following questions
Why do you love your family?
Why do you love your mother?
Why do you love your father?
And he was the father of out nation - of almost 70 million. That’s all.
He never asked us to love him. He asked us to love each other. It was not his eminent status, that compelled this love. It was Him as a person; He who could have chosen to spend a life of luxury in a palace but chose to walk on dirt roads to visit his people in every inch of Thailand with his paper maps before the time of GPS and google maps; He who dedicated his life for the happiness of his people to improve their living conditions; He who was selfless with his heart that belonged to his people.
No matter how globalization has changed me, in the end it is only at the artifact and behavior levels. The level of value remains the same. That will never change and I am for sure THAI from the day I was born until the day I die.
Stepping on the bus at 11pm, I was thinking that here in Sweden, I didn’t need to worry if the bus would leave before I got my 2 feet on the bus. I also thought about how at 11pm I felt safe walking alone in the dark (but not warm!). I would never feel this way in Thailand. Then I realized what people said ‘my Home…may not be the best country in the world, but I am proud to say that I have lived in the country with the greatest King!’.
It may be 8,626 km away from home but my King once said 'my place in this world is being among my people, the Thai people’, therefore, the distance will never make any difference, our beloved King will always have a special place in our hearts…forever and always.
Written by: Angsusorn Apirajkamol