by Vidagdha Bennett
With the qualities of compassion and concern largely wanting in global politics, much inspiration can be gained from the example set by Thailand’s great and beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. King Bhumibol, who celebrated the 60th anniversary of his accession on June 9th, 2006, is the longest-serving current Head of State in the world. At his splendid coronation ceremony in 1950, the 22-year-old monarch took an immortal oath:
“We shall reign with righteousness for the happiness and welfare of the Siamese people.”
Over long decades, King Bhumibol has truly fulfilled his oath by tirelessly devoting himself to projects aimed at bringing benefit and immediate relief to his people, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. The plight of the farmers in the country’s arid northeastern plateau, who depend on regular rainfall to harvest their rice crops, has drawn his special attention. The King applied his scientific expertise to invent a rainmaking technique called “The Sandwich.” It involves using two planes to bracket warm and cold clouds at different altitudes and seed them with chemicals, causing vapour droplets to form and fall towards the earth. This technique was first patented three decades ago.
As the need arose for greater precision in rainmaking, and also for the rain to fall over a wider area of the parched paddies, King Bhumibol developed the “Super Sandwich” technique. In 2002 he was granted a patent for the “Super Sandwich”, making it his fourth patent. He is believed to be the only member of a royal house to hold patents for his inventions. The official name of the patent, which was registered in the European Union, is “Weather Modification by Royal Rainmaking Technology.”
In early 2005, cloud seeding more than 1,000 times in less than one month was instrumental in easing the most severe drought in seven years. This drought affected more than 11 million people. Water levels in rivers and dams fell dramatically and rice paddies across the country became scorched and cracked.
The King personally directed operations from his command centre in Hua Hin where planes were taking off at least three times a day in a desperate effort to raise water levels in the Kaeng Krachan Reservoir. A story in the Taipei Times of April 15th, 2005 describes how water is wrung from the clouds:
“The propeller planes are packed with up to seven people including the pilot, scientists and technicians, all squeezed around large containers of chemicals ranging from silver iodine to ordinary salt and dry ice. Flying at about 3,000m over parched fields, dusty dams and thirsty rivers, the planes fly directly into clouds that most pilots avoid so scientists can dump their loads and wait for rain.”
Thailand’s success has led to requests for technical assistance from neighbouring Cambodia, as well as Indonesia, the Philippines, Oman and, as recently as February 2007, from the East African nation of Tanzania. Thai experts advise that cloud seeding is only effective under certain circumstances: the cloud cover must be suitable and the humidity levels higher than 60%. Throughout the Kingdom of Thailand, celebrations have already begun for King Bhumibol’s 80th Birthday, which will take place later this year on December 5th. Here is a leader who has won the hearts of his people by truly caring about them, by immersing himself in their problems and searching for practical solutions. Where another type of personality might have chosen to remain aloof from his people and to adopt a largely symbolic role, King Bhumibol has always aimed to be supremely useful to his country. Rainmaking is only one of the many environmental and agricultural projects to which this royal pioneer is committed. He is also deeply involved in issues such as pollution, over-logging, soil erosion and poverty.
In 2006, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, awarded King Bhumibol the UNDP’s inaugural Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to improving the lives of the Thai people.
Another world luminary who is full of praise for the King is Indian philosopher, poet, musician and spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, who is at present making his fifth visit to Thailand. In a song dedicated to His Majesty, Sri Chinmoy writes:
“King Bhumibol, Bhumibol! You are your life’s supreme compassion-role. O clarity-mind, charity-heart, majesty-soul, In your Kingdom, children’s nectar-goal.”
Reflecting on the nature of an ideal leader, Sri Chinmoy says,
“A leader is a ladder. Indeed, a leader is he who lifts his followers up, and not he who pushes his followers down. A supreme leader is he who has the dreamer’s eyes and the doer’s hands.”
King Bhumibol Adulyadej is undoubtedly a supreme leader is our world today.