The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej

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Yale University Press, 2006 - Religion - 499 pages
Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej, the only king ever born in the United States, came to the throne of his country in 1946 and is now the world's longest-serving monarch. The King Never Smiles, the first independent biography of Thailand's monarch, tells the unexpected story of Bhumibol's life and sixty-year rule-how a Western-raised boy came to be seen by his people as a living Buddha, and how a king widely seen as beneficent and apolitical could in fact be so deeply political and autocratic. 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 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, has 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.

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Great book!!

User Review  - kto12 -

I am from Thailand and have been living in the US since 1991. I read Thai magazines and newspapers and they only say good and neutral stuff about the Thai Royal Family. The King Never Smiles offers ... Read full review

The king never smiles: a biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Early on, Handley declares that current king of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej's restoration of the Thai monarchy is, in fact, "one of the great untold stories of the 20th century." The dense history he ... Read full review

Selected pages


1 A Dhammaraja from America
2 From Pure Blood to Dynastic Failure
Revolution and Exile
4 Restoration to Regicide
5 Revenge of the Monarchists194649
6 Romance in Lausanne Bhumibol Prepares to Reign
7 The Cold War 195257
8 Field Marshal Sarit The Palace Finds Its Strongman
14 Whos the Enemy?
15 In the Kings Image
16 Family Headaches
17 Another Coup for the Throne
October 1976 Redux
19 Sanctifying Royalty and Stonewalling Democracy in the 1990s
20 Another Family Annus Horribilis
21 The Economic Crash and Bhumibols New Theory

9 Bhumibol in the 1960s A Dhammarajos Brilliance Unfolds
10 Going to War
11 Reborn Democrat?
12 Royal Vigilantism and Massacre197476
13 What Went Wrong Cosmic Panic Buisness Failure Midcareer Crisis
22 Going into Seclusion Can the Monarch Survive Bhumibol?
Index m

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About the author (2006)

Paul M. Handley is a freelance journalist who lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia for more than twenty years, including thirteen in Thailand.

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