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The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej Hardcover – July 28, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (July 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780300106824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300106824
  • ASIN: 0300106823
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 assembles more than meets the high expectations he sets for himself. Bhumibol, ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty and the first American-born Thai monarch, took power in 1946 during a time when being king was not the most desirable job in the country. Handley offers a substantive history of the monarchy reaching back 500 years, providing the framework for understanding Bhumibol's challenge as king and "leading theologian" following the 1932 coup that turned the old kingdom of Siam, an absolute monarchy, into the constitutional monarchy of Thailand. While rendered politically weak by the coup and subsequent power struggles, Bhumibol has quietly salvaged the relevance of the monarchy while maintaining the image of bodhittsava-like figurehead, a tricky and necessary accomplishment for a country balanced between modernity and ancient Buddhist and Hindu tradition. Dynamic in both his professional and personal life, Bhumibol grapples with insurgencies, growing leftist sentiment and an alliance with the U.S. to combat Communism, finding time along the way to dabble in everything from water development projects to jazz composition. This absorbing and well-researched volume should please Asian history buffs and those interested in the topical challenge of leading a traditional society into the modern world.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

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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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Saraburian on September 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As someone who spent my childhood in upcountry Thailand, went to state schools there and later in Bangkok and had an advance degree from a US University, I thought i would share with my countrymen how we perceive the King. My conversations with friends, colleagues, and most of the comments here by Thai readers/reviewers say I was totally wrong.

The book hits the nail in its head when it says that most thai my generation (I was born in the turbulent year 1976, when the right-wing government crushed student protestors and the King declared the event "the saddest day in Thai history") have always seen the King in the best of lights - and it was not something that wasn't well-planned by someone. In retrospect, I agree with the author about how the palace has orchestrated all their efforts on setting the royals in the best of lights, i.e. making all the royal projects look far more important and successful than their real worths by downplaying efforts by governments, presenting the royals in the way of super-human, in every aspect possible. When I was a young adult, I did not have a second thought about what the media was protraying the king and the royal family, i accepted it as truths and I don't have any reason to believe that most of my countrymen would see things otherwise - everything was so grand, so well orchestrated and thus so believeable.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on January 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an American born in Thailand in 1949, and having lived there until 1975, I enjoyed having the dim memories of this period of my life brought to full clarity. I was surprised that given my youth that I would remember all the Thai names. The description of the competition between the civilian government and the monarchy to improve the lot of the Thai people brought back a memory when I was only five or six; I was sitting on the lap of Prime Minister Phibunsongkhram at a ribbon cutting ceremony of a agricultural research station in Khon Kaen in the impoversihed Northeast (Pak Isan), where I lived most of my early years. I remember when Prime Minister Sarit imposed price controls on food when one of his many wives complained about the prices. He also had bus drivers shot when caught racing their buses; which cut down on the number of accidents. I grew up with an appreciation for benevolent dictators; and even today believe that the goal of the neocons to spread democracy to all countries is naieve. I also remember hearing many rumors about the royal family which I never thought would be revealed; so reading this book helped to put the puzzle together, and has brought my knowledge up to date for events that have happened since 1975. My respect for the King has not diminshed from these revelations. Indeed, I have a greater respect for the King having read the book; as it reveals a strategy that through moral leadership, he could restore the monarchy to such as elevated position in Thai politics that he could work behind the scenes to bring down both military or civilian governments when their level of corruption hurt the Thai people. When news came out about the recent coup, I understood completely.Read more ›
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199 of 243 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The first official printing of this book just came out this past week. Respectfully, has anyone of the previous reviewers read the book? If not, please do so and come back to give a fair review of it (if you really care about the subject enough) and stop sounding ridiculous.

This is a section for potential buyers who seek your thoughts about the book so that they may decide whether or not they should buy it, not about what you think about the King before reading it. There are online forums for you to post your personal comments without having to read this rather thick book. If you know how to use internet, you can find those online forums, too.

(What's funny is that some people found these reviews of the book helpful when the reviewers hadn't even read the book.)

The first reviewer (bottom one) might have read the review copy before it was officially printed since s/he posted his review in mid-February. S/he gave a pretty fair assessment of the book. One correction though, the King was never an Olympic medalist. He won a gold medal from the Southeast Asian Games (SEAGAMES).

I agree with him/her about the early reign portion of the book. The first 100+ pages was well researched with only a few controversies that actually sound hearsay added. They sound hearsay because the lack of concrete proves or sources. Most of these controversies are nothing you can't find on the internet websites with the right keywords on simple Google searches or wikipedia. It also helps if you know how to read Thai to read this book.
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