The 66th Birthday of King Rama X

His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (มหาวชิราลงกรณ บดินทรเทพยวรางกูร), King Rama X of Thailand

His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (มหาวชิราลงกรณ บดินทรเทพยวรางกูร), King Rama X of Thailand

I have been “silent” here on Asian Meanderings for quite some time now. I have, however, maintained daily (yes, daily!) and often lengthy articles on my main stamp-collecting blog — A Stamp A Day. As my place of work is closed today (and I have my regular weekly day off tomorrow), I felt that this holiday weekend would be a fine time to try and get caught up on my other blogs.

July 28 is the birthday of King Rama X of Thailand who ascended the throne upon the death of his father, the late King Bhumiphol Adulyadej (Rama IX) who passed away on October 13, 2016. No date has yet been set for the coronation but it should be remembered that King Bhumiphol ascended the throne upon the death of his older brother in 1946 but the coronation ceremony didn’t occur until mid-1950. This year, the celebrations of His Majesty’s birthday seem to be a bit less subdued than they were a year ago mainly because they coincide with the twin Buddhist holidays of Wan Asanhabucha (วันอาสาฬหบูชา) — which commemorates  the Buddha’s first discourse, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta — and Wan Khao Phansa (วันเข้าพรรษา) — an observance marking the beginning of Vassa, the three-month rains’ retreat also known as Buddhist Lent during which monastics remain in one place, typically in monasteries or temple grounds.

While Buddhist Lent Day falls on July 28 this year, the official name of the holiday is King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday (Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua Maha Wachiralongkon Bodinthrathepphayawarangkun — วันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัวมหาวชิราลงกรณ บดินทรเทพยวรางกูร). The remainder of this article is sourced from one I put together last year for A Stamp A Day which, was sourced largely from Wikipedia and English-language media here in Thailand.

Prince Vajiralongkorn in 1957 / สมเด็จพระบรมโอรสาธิราชในช่วงปี ค.ศ. 1957

Prince Vajiralongkorn in 1957 / สมเด็จพระบรมโอรสาธิราชในช่วงปี ค.ศ. 1957

His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (มหาวชิราลงกรณ บดินทรเทพยวรางกูร) was born on July 28, 1952, in the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall of the Dusit Palace in Bangkok. When the crown prince was one year old, Somdet Phra Sangkharat Chao Kromma Luang Wachirayanawong, the 13th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand of the Rattanakosin Era, gave the child his first name at birth, Vajiralongkorn Borommachakkrayadisonsantatiwong Thewetthamrongsuboriban Aphikhunuprakanmahittaladunladet Phumiphonnaretwarangkun Kittisirisombunsawangkhawat Borommakhattiyaratchakuman (วชิราลงกรณ บรมจักรยาดิศรสันตติวงศ เทเวศรธำรงสุบริบาล อภิคุณูประการมหิตลาดุลเดช ภูมิพลนเรศวรางกูร กิตติสิริสมบูรณ์สวางควัฒน์ บรมขัตติยราชกุมาร). He is the only son, the second of the four children of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit.

The Royal Family, 1966. Vajiralongkorn stands at far right.

The Royal Family, 1966. Vajiralongkorn stands at far right.

Vajiralongkorn began his education in 1956, when he entered kindergarten at the Chitralada School in Dusit Palace. After completing Mathayom 1 (grade seven), he was sent to study at public schools in the United Kingdom, first at King’s Mead School, Seaford, Sussex, and then at Millfield School, Somerset, where he completed his secondary education in July 1970. In August 1970, he attended a five-week military training course at The King’s School, in Sydney, Australia.

In 1972, the prince enrolled at the Royal Military College, Duntroon in Canberra, Australia. His education at Duntroon was divided into two parts, military training by the Australian Army and a bachelor’s degree course under the auspices of the University of New South Wales. He graduated in 1976 as a newly commissioned lieutenant with a liberal arts degree. In 1982, he completed a second bachelor’s degree in law with second-class honors at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.

Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed crown prince on December 28, 1972, at 12:23 in the stately Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, making him the third crown prince of the Chakri Dynasty. An excerpt from the royal command to establish the title of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn reads:

“As stated in the bliss or the royal statutes of the country, when a Royal Prince who is destined to be heir to the throne is mature, the King shall graciously bestow the rank upon him of Somdet Phra Yuphorot Mokutrotchokumon. At this present time, all people including citizens of nations all over the world shall accept and acclaim that His Royal Highness Prince Vajiralongkorn shall to succeed to the throne of the Kingdom. When His Royal Highness Prince is mature, at the time that he shall be established as heir to the throne, tradition and a royal tradition Kattii ceremony should be observed, consistent with the citizens and all leaders of the country of all sides. Therefore, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej hereby decrees for His Royal Highness Prince Vajiralongkorn to be His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn in accordance with the name written in the Supannabhat as: Somdet Phra Boromma-orasathirat Chao Fa Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun Sirikittayasombunsawangwat Worakhuttiyarajsantiwong Mahitalaphong Adulayadet Chakkrinaresyuppharajvisut Sayammakutratchakuman.“

He had taken up his duties while serving in the Royal Thai Armed Forces, including frequent provincial tours and representing King Bhumibol at a wide variety of official functions and ceremonies before he ascended the throne.

On November 6, 1978, the prince was ordained as a monk at Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), at age 26. As is traditional for royals, he stayed at Wat Bowonniwet Vihara for 15 days and under the monastic name “Vajiralongkornno”.

His Royal Highness Vajiralongkorn of Thailand climbs out of the cockpit of an F-5E Tiger II aircraft upon his arrival at the base during COMMANDO WEST IX, a joint US and Thailand training exercise. Photo taken on October 15, 1985.

His Royal Highness Vajiralongkorn of Thailand climbs out of the cockpit of an F-5E Tiger II aircraft upon his arrival at the base during COMMANDO WEST IX, a joint US and Thailand training exercise. Photo taken on October 15, 1985.

After completing his studies, Vajiralongkorn served as a career officer in the Royal Thai Army. He served as a staff officer in the Directorate of Army Intelligence, attended the Command and General Staff College in 1977. Vajiralongkorn trained for periods with the U.S., British, and Australian armed services, studying unconventional warfare and advanced navigation. He is a qualified fixed-wing and helicopter pilot. In 1978 he became head of the King’s Own Bodyguard Battalion. Later that year he interrupted his military career to be ordained for a season as a Buddhist monk, as is customary for all Thai Buddhist men.

On January 3, 1977, Vajiralongkorn married Princess Soamsawali Kitiyakara (born 1957), a first cousin on his mother’s side. They had one daughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha (born 1978). Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn started living with actress Yuvadhida Polpraserth in the late 1970s and had five children with her. Although Princess Soamsawali had refused divorce for many years, Vajiralongkorn was finally able to sue for divorce in the Family Court in January 1993. In the court proceedings, Vajiralongkorn accused Princess Soamsawali of being completely at fault for the failed relationship. She was not able to refute the charges due to the prohibition against lèse majesté. The divorce was finalized in July 1993. Princess Soamsawali and her daughter continue to play a significant role in royal ceremonies.

When Vajiralongkorn was introduced to Yuvadhida Polpraserth, she was an aspiring actress. She became his steady companion and gave birth to his first son, Prince Juthavachara Mahidol, on August 29, 1979. He later had three more sons and a daughter by her. They were married at a palace ceremony in February 1994, where they were blessed by the King and the Princess Mother, but not by the Queen. After the marriage, she was allowed to change her name to Mom Sujarinee Mahidol na Ayudhaya, signifying she was a commoner married to a royal. She was also commissioned as a major in the Royal Thai Army and took part in royal ceremonies with Vajiralongkorn. In 1996, two years after the wedding, Mom Sujarinee (as she was now known) decamped to Britain with all her children, while Vajiralongkorn caused posters to be placed all around his palace accusing her of committing adultery with Anand Rotsamkhan, a 60-year-old air marshal. Later, the prince abducted the daughter and brought her back to Thailand to live with him. She was later elevated to the rank of princess, whilst Sujarinee and her sons were stripped of their diplomatic passports and royal titles. Sujarinee and her sons moved to the United States, and as of 2007, she was known as Sujarinee Vivacharawongse.

Vajiralongkorn was married a third time on February 10, 2001, to Srirasmi Suwadee (royal name: Akharaphongpreecha), a commoner of modest background who had been in his service since 1992. The marriage was not disclosed to the public until early 2005. She gave birth to a son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, on April 29, 2005, and was then elevated to the rank of princess. Her son was immediately elevated to the rank of prince. In a magazine interview, Vajiralongkorn stated his intention to settle down.

In November 2014, however, Vajiralongkorn sent a letter to the interior ministry asking for Princess Srirasmi’s family to be stripped of the royal name Akharaphongpreecha awarded to her, following allegations of corruption against seven of her relatives. The following month, Srirasmi relinquished her royal titles and the royal name and was officially divorced from Vajiralongkorn. She received 200 million baht (U.S. $5.5 million) as a settlement. They had been married for 13 years.

Vajiralongkorn holds the ranks of Field Marshal (Chom Phon) in the Royal Thai Army, Admiral of the Fleet (Chom Phon Ruea) in the Royal Thai Navy, and Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force (Chom Phon Ek) in the Royal Thai Air Force. He is qualified to pilot the Northrop F-5 and many other aircraft including the F-16 and the Boeing 737-400. At various times, he engaged in actions for counter-insurgency purposes in the North and Northeast of Thailand, as well as for protective purposes in areas around the then Cambodian refugee camps at Khao Lant, Trat Province. His military role in recent years has become increasingly ceremonial. As his father grew older, Vajiralongkorn took a more prominent part in royal ceremonial and public appearances. He officially opened the 2007 Southeast Asian Games, held in Nakhon Ratchasima. The event occurred one day after the 80th birthday of his father,

Vajiralongkorn (right) with his mother, Queen Sirikit. Photo taken on October 28, 1991.

Vajiralongkorn (right) with his mother, Queen Sirikit. Photo taken on October 28, 1991.

Vajiralongkorn established the “Crown Prince Hospitals” through funds donated by the public to serve as medical and health care centers for people living in remote areas. Crown Prince Hospitals had been set up in 21 locations in 1977. These hospitals had become major community hospitals providing services of international standard to the general public in 2011.

Also interested in agricultural development, Vajiralongkorn has accepted the “Mobile Agricultural Clinic Project” under his patronage. The project provides prompt services to farmers in order to enhance efficiency in farm production and solve farmers’ problems. It comprises experts in various agricultural fields who can advise farmers on plants, livestock, fisheries, and land development. He also offers suggestions on the tackling of agricultural problems, in addition to the application of agricultural technology to increase productivity and the improvement in the quality of agricultural production.

The team of the Mobile Agricultural Clinic can move quickly to various spots that are in need of help. It has worked steadily and is ready to provide technical services and transfer technology. With this project, farmers have been urged to be aware of agricultural development and the application of new technology.

In recent years Vajiralongkorn had represented the late King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, in presiding over the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony, which is meaningful to Thai farmers. Aware of the importance of efficient agriculture for better productivity, Vajiralongkorn emphasized full-cycle agricultural activities, believing they will help improve the quality of life of farmers, who are traditionally considered the backbone of the nation.

Vajiralongkorn has initiated education projects with the aim of improving children’s access to quality learning and instilling the concept of lifelong learning. He has special ties to the Rajabhat University system of 40 institutions of higher learning. The chairman of the Council of Rajabhat University Presidents of Thailand said that Vajiralongkorn has presided over commencement ceremonies at all Rajabhat Universities nationwide and personally handed out degrees to all Rajabhat university graduates every year since 1978. It is estimated that over the past 35 years at least 2,100,000 degrees have been handed out by the crown prince to Rajabhat graduates. In addition, every year he donates 42 million baht to a scholarship fund benefiting Rajabhat students.

Vajiralongkorn leading cyclists at the Bike for Mom event in Bangkok on August 17, 2015.

Vajiralongkorn leading cyclists at the Bike for Mom event in Bangkok on August 17, 2015.

Although Vajiralongkorn’s appearances have been less frequent than those of his sisters, who travel abroad to promote their homeland, he made two high-profile public appearances in 2015 in Thailand, known as Bike for Mom and Bike for Dad, leading thousands in mass bicycling events both in Bangkok and nationwide to honor the birthdays of his parents, Queen Sirikit and King Bhumibol. These two events promoted unity and health among the Thais of all classes.

As prescribed in to the 2007 Constitution, the cabinet requested the president of the National Assembly to invite Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn to the throne following the death of his father, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, on October 13, 2016. Vajiralongkorn was expected to succeed to the throne of Thailand but asked for time to mourn before beginning his reign. On the night of December 1, 2016, the fiftieth day after the death of King Bhumibol, Regent Prem Tinsulanonda led the heads of the country’s three branches of government to an audience with Vajiralongkorn to invite him to ascend to the throne as the tenth king of the Chakri dynasty. Vajiralongkorn accepted the invitation, saying in a televised statement: “I would like to accept in order to fulfill his majesty’s wishes and for the benefit of all Thais.” The government retroactively declared his reign to have begun upon his father’s death, but it will not crown him formally until after the cremation of his father. He maintained his residence at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall where he was already living before his father’s death.

030612-D-2987S-002.Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (right) escorts Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn through an honor cordon and into the Pentagon on June 12, 2003. Wolfowitz and the Prince will meet to discuss a range of bilateral security issues and the global war on terror. DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released) .

030612-D-2987S-002.Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (right) escorts Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn through an honor cordon and into the Pentagon on June 12, 2003. Wolfowitz and the Prince will meet to discuss a range of bilateral security issues and the global war on terror. DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released) .

Following the resignation of the councilors to Bhumibol Adulyadej, Vajiralongkorn has appointed 10 members of the Privy Council. The command was issued under Section 2 of the 2014 interim constitution, completed with Sections 12, 13 and 16 of the 2007 constitution on the king which were retained and remain in effect. The remaining seven members are Surayud Chulanont, Kasem Wattanachai, Palakorn Suwanrath, Atthaniti Disatha-amnarj, Supachai Poo-ngam, Chanchai Likhitjitta and Chalit Pukbhasuk and the three new members are Paiboon Koomchaya, Dapong Ratanasuwan and Teerachai Nakwanich. Prem tinsulanonda was re-appointed Privy Council president under royal command. On December 13, 2016, Vajiralongkorn appointed more new two members — Wirach Chinvinitkul and Charunthada Karnasuta. On December 25, 2016, the King one additional member, Kampanart Rooddit. On January 19, 2017, Privy Councillor Chanchai Likhitjitta died at the age of 71 due to blood-system problems. The new appointments and the death of a member brought the total numbers of the Privy Council to 13.

Thailand’s military-backed parliament voted overwhelmingly in January 2017 to make amendments to the interim constitution so as to allow amendments to the draft constitution as suggested by the new king’s office, a move likely to delay a general election scheduled for the end of the year. Critics said the new constitution would give the military a powerful political say for years or decades. The 2017 Constitution of Thailand was approved in a referendum in 2016, and was endorsed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn on April 6, 2017, Chakri Day, in a ceremony at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the office of King Vajiralongkorn had asked for several changes to clauses related to royal power in the draft constitution, a rare intervention by a sitting Thai monarch. After the death of King Bhumibol, political activity was paused during a period of mourning expected to end at the end of 2017, followed by the coronation of Vajiralongkorn and a general election.

King Vaijiralongkorn at the funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok on October 26, 2017.

King Vaijiralongkorn at the funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok on October 26, 2017.

There is a strict, and strictly enforced, lèse majesté law in Thailand. Criticism of the king, queen, crown prince, regents, and their pets has long been strictly prohibited, with large fines and prison sentences of up to 35 years being imposed. However, Vajiralongkorn’s private life continues to be a controversial subject of discussion in Thailand, although not publicly. Domestic and foreign-based media has been strongly urged to refrain from publishing negative remarks about the Thai royal family. On May 17, 2017, Thai officials warned Facebook following online postings of a less-than-flattering video of the King.

In July 2017, Thailand amended a royal property law to formally give King Vajiralongkorn full control of the agency that manages the multi-billion dollar holdings of the monarchy. That followed the transfer in April of various royal agencies from the government to the king’s supervision. The King has also been reshaping the palace staff and style — noticeable in the more robust language of some announcements: one official was fired for “extremely evil” misconduct.

Vajiralongkorn has spent much of the last few years abroad and has continued to do so since he took the throne. He owns a home in Munich, Germany, where his son is at school. A request to Thai embassies last year to say what they were planning for the birthday celebrations came from a “Munich Operations Office” with an address at the 5-star Hilton Munich Airport hotel, It was signed by Pinthep Devakula Na Ayudhaya, a minister at the Thai Embassy in Berlin.

The king’s life abroad has also contrasted with his very traditionalist approach at home, filled with ceremonies and where he has instituted weekend band concerts in order to “bring happiness to the people”.

Stamp commemorating the 66th birthday of His Majesty King Rama X, released by Thailand on July 28, 2018.

Stamp commemorating the 66th birthday of His Majesty King Rama X, released by Thailand on July 28, 2018.

The first King Rama X definitive series of stamps released on July 28, 2018, in souvenir sheet format.

The first King Rama X definitive series of stamps released on July 28, 2018, in souvenir sheet format.

King Rama X banknotes: the 20-, 50- and 100-baht denominations were released on April 8, 2018; the 500- and 1000-baht notes were to be issued to banks on July 28, 2018.

King Rama X banknotes: the 20-, 50- and 100-baht denominations were released on April 8, 2018; the 500- and 1000-baht notes were to be issued to banks on July 28, 2018.

Official of the Thai Royal Mint holding a presentation case containing the complete range of King Rama X coins released in April 2018 including (left to right) the circulating 10-, 5- 2-, 1-baht, 50- and 25-satang coins as well as 10-, 5- and 1-satang coins which are used to balance accounts at financial institutions and don't circulate to the general public.

Official of the Thai Royal Mint holding a presentation case containing the complete range of King Rama X coins released in April 2018 including (left to right) the circulating 10-, 5- 2-, 1-baht, 50- and 25-satang coins as well as 10-, 5- and 1-satang coins which are used to balance accounts at financial institutions and don’t circulate to the general public.

Of course, the new reign has seen coins, currency and stamps portraying the new reign. Most of the new coins and banknotes began circulating in early April 2018 in conjunction with Chakri Day. The first issue of King Rama X definitive stamps were scheduled to be released in April as well but were delayed until today. The 12 denominations range from 1 baht to 100 baht (a total face value of 250 baht) and will be sold individually as well as in a souvenir sheet containing all 12 sold for 265 baht. Historically, these types of royal souvenir sheets have increased in value rather substantially. The Thai press is reporting that these, and the 10-baht birthday commemorative stamp are the first to picture Vajiralongkorn. This isn’t correct as there was a birthday commemorative stamp portraying him as King Rama X issued on his birthday in 2017 as well as a number of earlier stamps picturing him as a prince. The press also claims that the 10-baht stamp will actually be sold for 20 baht. The 500- and 1,000-baht banknotes are also due to begin circulating today.

King Rama X of Thailand

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Thank you, Google. Thank you, Getty. Image Frustrations 2018

For my stamp and postcard blogs (and sometimes for this one as well), I rely on historic images and maps of places all over the world. Many of these images fall into the public domain and are free from copyright. To illustrate my articles, I seek out high-resolution images on a daily basis and most of these come courtesy of Wikipedia.

When I’ve had to do image searches, however (sometimes current maps but usually vintage maps especially for former African colonies that no longer exist), my go-to for many years has been Google as I found their “View Image” button extremely useful especially when setting the Tools to show Large-sized images first. In recent months, I’d become frustrated when so many of the top results had been watermarked with Getty Images becoming especially prevalent.

I even spied a few of MY SCANS OF STAMPS AND POSTCARDS THAT I OWN with the Getty Images branding (why do I have to pay for a license when THEY didn’t ASK ME!).

This weekend, I noticed that Google Images no longer includes the “View Image” button in their results. They apparently announced this “improvement” on Twitter recently, something I missed until somebody steered me in the right direction:

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This Is Thailand #2: What’s on the Menu?

I love to go out to eat in Thailand as it’s always an adventure. The best food is to be had from the myriad of road-side stalls, some of which appear after nightfall along random sidewalks and others are more permanent affairs in markets or other long-established locales. There are indications as to what is on offer at some of these vendors but I long ago perfected the method of pointing at what I’d like to eat as I often don’t know the name in either Thai or English. In restaurants, I follow the same method of pointing at the picture of what I’d like. Sometimes these have a number. If English is involved, there is guaranteed to be at least one big example “lost in translation.” Here are a few of my favorites….

I think the most common menu misspelling has to be “crap” for “crab”. In fact, a Thai-English menu isn’t complete without this.

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This Is Thailand #1: Overloaded Cargo

In my summary article late last month — “I’m Still Here!” — I mentioned having accumulated a number of photos on the theme of unusual, unexpected or humorous things seen in the Kingdom of Thailand. It is quite common here to see things that leave you scratching your head and the usual expat response is simply, “TIT” — short for “This is Thailand”, meaning “No explanation necessary”. The countless misspellings, odd translations, construction misalignments, entire families (plus the family pet!) riding tiny motorbikes, and so much more become part of the landscape after one has been here awhile. However, if you stop noticing them altogether that may be a sign you’ve stayed too long!

I’ve lived in the “Land of Smiles” for thirteen years and nothing really shocks me anymore. There are still pleasant surprises and for those I am grateful. Nothing here makes me really upset or angry (anymore). The occasional “unfortunate” incidents are dealt with in a more-or-less Thai sabai-sabai (“easy, no problem”) manner and quickly forgotten. I was even able to laugh at my near-arrest (paperwork completed but not filed) for walking on the sidewalk (“impeding traffic” as I couldn’t make room for motorbikes desiring a shortcut rather than using the road) within a day or so of it happening. Most of the “TIT” moments I take in stride and many I find endearing and part of the reason that I love living here. I hope that you find enjoyment in them as well.

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I’m Still Here!

Yes, I’m still in Phuket, Thailand. Still teaching English. Still collecting stamps and postcards. Still reading as much as I have time for. Still healthy. Still single. It my be a new year, but life continues at the same relaxing and stress-free pace that keeps me rooted in the “Land of Smiles.”

I cannot believe that I haven’t written an entry for this, my “flagship” blog, in nearly four months! Much of the blame rests with my own laziness or, perhaps, I have become too accustomed to what I previously called the “strangeness” of Thailand and don’t feel as compelled to write about “everyday” occurrences.

True, my daily routine has become a repetitive cycle of going to work, going home, while reading a bit and eating something along the way. It also includes writing each and every day, most of that being for my year-and-a-half old blog A Stamp A Day (ASAD) for which I have amassed 580 entries (not missing a single day since July 1, 2016!). The research and compilation of articles for ASAD takes away much of my free-time energy and my other blogs have suffered as a result.

I apologize.

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October is National Stamp Collecting Month

Since 1981, the month of October has been celebrated as National Stamp Collecting Month in the United States and Canada. November is National Stamp Collecting Month in the Philippines.

I began collecting stamps around the age of nine years old; counting a few breaks for other pursuits (girls, music, travel to name but three), I estimate that I have been involved in the hobby for a little more than 30 years. I promote it whenever and wherever I can these days, having begun collecting again following my move to Thailand more than a decade ago.

At the beginning of July 2016, I started a blog called A Stamp A Day on which I feature a different stamp (usually from a different place) each and every day. Different countries and territories have been included in a more or less alphabetical order and historic anniversaries and birthdays have been marked on occasion with an appropriate stamp. The write-ups (background histories on the issuing entities and details about the stamps) are often quite lengthy!

“ASAD” is my second stamp blog; Philatelic Pursuits is still active with a post or two each month. I also have a blog dedicated to postcards that I receive through Postcrossing, trades, or traveling friends and family members. I feel that the hobbies of philately (stamps) and deltiology (postcards) compliment each other. I recently changed the name (for the third time) and it is now called Postcards to Phuket.

I live in Phuket, an island province in the south of Thailand. It wasn’t long after I’d arrived that I discovered the Phuket Philatelic Museum in the administrative capital of Phuket Town. My first visit was in the midst of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I’d already been struck at how Thai people worshiped the king as a deity and had been swept up in royal fever. Seeing the beautiful stamps issued in his honor spurred me to return to the hobby.

While never much of a museum (a few dusty displays of telegraph equipment and several frames of stamp “reproductions” at the present), the Phuket Philatelic Museum contained a large shop which was filled with Thai stamps dating back to the early 1970s (all sold for face value), first day covers for the previous year’s releases, albums and supplies in a dedicated room.

About three years ago, the shop was moved to a counter in the museum lobby to make room for Thailand’s first drive-thru post office. Many of the supplies such as albums and ornate stamp pages plus older stamps were gone but at least I could still purchase the new-release stamps and first day covers (going back a year or so) as well as the annual yearbooks. The main clerk spoke good English and was extremely helpful. She was reassigned about a year ago, replaced by a woman who speaks very little English but is quite cheerful and always let me go through the stock books.

I recently visited the Phuket Philatelic Museum for the first time in quite a while and was told that they weren’t selling stamps anymore. There were a few first day covers remaining (most of which I already had). The clerk told me she didn’t know if they would receive any stamps in the future. She seemed quite upset about it. I’m actually worried that the museum itself might close down as I believe the sales counter was the only income source. There’s a meeting room that I believe used to be used by a local stamp club but I could never get any information about meetings, etc. I’ve had ideas in the past to organize a Postcrossing meeting there amongst members who live on the island or to form my own stamp club, but I just haven’t had the time.

I am now unable to purchase any Thai stamps locally; one visit to a nearby post office left me wondering if the two clerks on duty even knew what a stamp was!) I will have to rely on mail order until I find someplace else. It’s a shame as there have been some very interesting stamps issued by Thailand recently. I am looking forward to finding out what Thailand Post has planned to mark the one-year anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death; there’s already been an extensive series of banknotes and coins announced by the Royal Thai Mint.

The whole of October leading up to His Majesty’s cremation at the end of the month will be a period of intensified mourning in Thailand. The initial period lasted from his death on October 13, 2016, to the beginning of December (his birthday) when his son formally accepted the succession and became King Rama X.

While a number of people have remained wearing black for the entire year (including all teachers such as myself), it will once again be expected in public starting (I believe) today. Since midnight last night, all Thai television stations are broadcasting in black and white only; most of my Thai friends have changed their Facebook profile and cover photos to greyscale today. The public are requested not to engage in any festivities during the month of October and many entertainment and sporting events will be canceled.  There will be many other signs of mourning and I will put together another article in the near future detailing some of those.

I plan to do my part by combining my celebration of National Stamp Collecting Month with a memorial to the late king. I’ve decided to feature only Thai stamps on A Stamp A Day during the month of October, mainly those portraying King Bhumibol. I plan to keep the commentary to a minimum so that I’ll have the time (and energy!) to write a few how-to-collect articles for Philatelic Pursuits and add a few things to Postcards to Phuket as well.

Happy Stamp Collecting Month(s)!


A Flag for Phuket

Tri-Color Flag of Thailand, 1917-2017

Tri-Color Flag of Thailand, 1917-2017

I love flags. Since starting my A Stamp A Day blog some fourteen months ago, I have made flags and coats of arms a feature of each entry.

Indeed, my daily commitment to that blog is one of the reasons that there are often long periods of inactivity on my other blogs. I decided to take a brief break from “ASAD” this weekend; I’d published a more than 16,300-word article about the discovery of RMS Titanic on Friday that wore me out. My intention was to stay away from the computer this weekend…

“Creating” a flag for Phuket was never on my to-do list.

Phuket Provincial Emblem

Phuket Provincial Emblem

I never really paid attention to provincial flags growing up and very few of the flags of the individual United States intrigued me aside from those of Hawaii and New Mexico. I was thrilled, however, to discover the flag of Penang in Malaysia when I first visited there around 2010. I wondered why didn’t Phuket have its own banner.

Recently, I taught a class about the current tricolor flag of Thailand which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its adoption later this month. The main reason that the colors of red, white and blue were chosen were that the king of Siam wanted to show his support for the Allied nations against Germany after he’d joined them in the First World War. I thought again that Phuket needed its own flag.

A design idea popped into my head as I was writing my “ASAD” entry last night about taking a blogging break. The entries there always end with an appropriate flag and coat of arms.

Some of my favorite flags have always been those of the British Commonwealth which featured the Union Jack in the canton (upper left portion) of the flags along with an emblem, coat of arms, or other symbol in the fly portion. It’s an enduring symbol of power, I feel. It was only recently that I discovered a few French territories had the same sort of flag with the French tricolor in the canton.

This provided the inspiration I needed for the Phuket provincial flag design. I placed the Thai tricolor flag in the canton and placed the provincial emblem in the fly. Simple but it looks great. I only tried two backgrounds — red didn’t look good (too much like the British red ensigns of the Royal Navy, plus the red “bled” into the Thai flag portion); light blue reminded me both of the surrounding Andaman Sea (one of the colors of the Penang flag) and the Royal Standard of Her Majesty Queen Dowager Sirikit, the widow of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

I like it!

I then decided to find out how to make an animated “waving” version, expecting complicated Adobe Photoshop tutorials. While I did see a few of those in the Google search results, I found two websites with online tools to create the effect. One didn’t work but I’m very pleased with the results from Marijn Kampf’s abFlags.com. I simply uploaded a (maximum) 500 pixel version of my image and waited a couple of minutes before downloading a zipped folder containing static and animated waving versions of the flag. Very cool!

Don’t be surprised if I start creating even more flags. I am just now thinking of how a Muang Phuket Local Post flag might appear. Or a Jochim Family flag…