We’ve been thinking whether the king should be included in the spiritual sphere and ultimately we decided that he should. King Rama IX has been leading the Thai for the past 68 years, so for the younger generations he’s always been the king and it seems like he might stay that way forever. Not unlike the shrines, the images of the king are omnipresent. His portraits hang in houses, at schools, in shops, each government building is covered by a screen which broadcasts the king’s involvement in the given aspect of administration, and every self-respecting institution tries to receive the royal patronage in its name.
His gigantic portraits can be found at metro stations, decorated with flowers, incense and huge amounts of gold ornaments. The cities are studded with Thai flags and the always present royal flag. Each Monday the Thai wear yellow and gold to honour the king, and their shirts are marked with royal symbols.
Yellow polo shirt with king’s emblem comes back into fashion every Monday
Lèse-majesté (offending the king) is fundamentally one of the most serious offences of the Penal Code and entails the risk of 3 to 12 years imprisonment. It’s worth remembering that even pointing at the king or his image with a leg might be considered an offence. And while the true source of king’s position should be traced back to the mundane political disputes and conflicts between groups of interests - which will be discussed in the entry about Thai politics - it’s hard to deny that the society has been successfully instilled with the idolatrous worship for their monarch.
An analogous comparison might be made between the social image of Pope John Paul II among the Poles. His figure became an element of religious mythology around which specific motifs and rituals have also been created. The resemblance can be also noticed in how certain influential circles build religious veneration around him and by transferring a real life person into the religious canon increase their own legitimacy. But that is also a story for the next, decidedly more political, entry.
Text from projektazja.pl