Peo­ple’s king

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

A W Eoften hear the words “raja berjiwa rakyat” be­ing used to de­scribe how a king is loved by his sub­jects. Ap­ply­ing the same to His Majesty the late King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej of Thai­land would bring new mean­ing to the phrase. Not only was he a revered fig­ure who helped unify the na­tion dur­ing his 70-year reign as the world’s long­est-reign­ing monarch he also ini­ti­ated some­thing that the Thai peo­ple could iden­tify with. They have ben­e­fited from it, and it is poised to con­tinue for a long time. A quote from one of the mourn­ers said it all, “We lost our father to­day,” she said. “He is a father ... that wanted to do ev­ery­thing, the best thing, for his kids.”

One of the best things was his pro­found thoughts on “suf­fi­ciency econ­omy” that has put Thai­land and its cit­i­zens into a mind­set that binds them as his beloved sub­jects. It was founded on the idea of sus­tain­abil­ity long be­fore it be­came fash­ion­able.

The king has been quoted as say­ing, “Be­ing a tiger (Asian eco­nomic tiger) is not im­por­tant. The im­por­tant thing is for us to have a suf­fi­cient econ­omy. A suf­fi­cient econ­omy means to have enough to sup­port our­selves … we have to take a care­ful step back­ward … each vil­lage or dis­trict must have rel­a­tive self-suf­fi­ciency.”

As a con­cept its ap­pli­ca­tion is broad-based and cov­ers all lev­els and sec­tors of the econ­omy. Even fi­nance, real es­tate, and international trade and in­vest­ment have ben­e­fited by us­ing the prin­ci­ples which em­pha­sise the mid­dle-path, rea­son­able­ness, and cre­at­ing im­mu­nity for one­self and so­ci­ety.

This could be traced to the 1950s where he ad­vo­cated self-reliance or sustainable farm­ing, which later gained gen­eral ac­cep­tance in the 1970s when he pro­moted the phi­los­o­phy in his speeches. One statement on Dec 4, 1974 spelt out the goal of the phi­los­o­phy: “I ask all of you to aim for mod­er­a­tion and peace, and work to achieve this goal. We do not have to be ex­tremely pros­per­ous … If we can main­tain this mod­er­a­tion, then we can be ex­cel­lent …”

More sig­nif­i­cantly it is said to be based on the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple of Thai cul­ture and values em­brac­ing pru­dence, and so­cial im­mu­nity, one that uses knowl­edge and virtue to shape a liv­ing style to­wards “real” hap­pi­ness as an in­te­gral part to the qual­ity of life. Read­ing this to­day, it puts him way ahead be­fore the world came to re­alise the sig­nif­i­cance of the “suf­fi­ciency econ­omy” dubbed as “sustainable de­vel­op­ment”.

Ac­cord­ing to The King’s Suf­fi­ciency Econ­omy Learn­ing Cen­tre the vi­sion is to es­pouse the phi­los­o­phy by prac­tis­ing step by step in learn­ing how to be self-de­pend­able in ev­ery­day life so as to ame­lio­rate the qual­ity of life and pro­mote well-be­ing. It builds on values like hon­esty, in­tegrity, peo­ple’s ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion im­bued against risks by us­ing lo­cal wis­dom in man­ag­ing lo­cal re­sources.

In the con­text of na­tional de­vel­op­ment “suf­fi­ciency econ­omy” is said to put em­pha­sis on the pro­duc­ers or con­sumers to pro­duce or con­sume “within the limit or lim­i­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing in­come or re­sources first” to re­duce de­pen­dency. At the same time in­crease in­stead the abil­ity to con­trol the pro­duc­tion them­selves with­out fac­ing un­due risk from not be­ing able to ef­fi­ciently con­trol the mar­ket sys­tem.

While the con­cept “does not mean that one must con­stantly be fru­gal” pro­vided that it is within one’s ca­pac­ity, it does cau­tion that most peo­ple of­ten spend be­yond their means. And this can threaten sta­bil­ity. The king said in his 1998 birth­day speech: “Suf­fi­ciency means to lead a rea­son­ably com­fort­able life, with­out ex­cess, or overindul­gence in lux­ury, but enough. Some things may seem to be ex­trav­a­gant, but if it brings hap­pi­ness, it is per­mis­si­ble as long as it is within the means of the in­di­vid­ual …”

Oth­er­wise the con­se­quences can be un­pleas­ant and chaotic as in­di­cated by the 2006 event that led to the civil­ian gov­ern­ment be­ing de­posed. Al­legedly this was due to the poli­cies then that “were in­con­sis­tent with the king’s phi­los­o­phy” in pro­mot­ing self-suf­fi­ciency as one of the fun­da­men­tal roles of the state. On his 80th birth­day this was made clear again when the prime min­is­ter pledged “to al­lo­cate 10 bil­lion baht (al­most US$300 mil­lion) for projects to pro­mote well-be­ing in line with King Bhu­mi­bol’s suf­fi­ciency econ­omy prin­ci­ple.”

The king was in­volved with the wel­fare and well-be­ing of his sub­jects in a prac­ti­cal and con­sis­tent way be­yond mere pro­nounce­ments. He took the trou­ble to fol­low through of­ten go­ing down to the

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