A new TV documentary looks at the childhood of His Majesty the King to mark the 70th anniversary of his accession to the throne
FOR THE FIRST TIME in history, the fascinating childhood years in Switzerland of His Majesty the King are coming to the small screen in a documentary series, “Paendin Wai Yao”, that premieres tonight at 8 on Channel TNN 24.
Two years in the making, it marks the 70th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne.
“Chalermpol Thanchitt, former Thai ambassador to Switzerland, and Phithak Chaiboon, founder of the firm Thai Documentary, came up with the idea for the series two years ago and put me in charge of writing the script and collecting historical facts,” says Sukanya Chaipasi. “The documentary pays homage to His Majesty through the story of his young years and the influence this had on his duties later in life.”
Sukanya and her production team spent a month in Switzerland, visiting several towns and places related to the royal family and speaking to those who had been associated with the King in some way.
“It was a challenging task,” says the scriptwriter, who is also the author of a book about the coup d’etat of 1932, which occurred while the King was at the family’s summer home in Hua Hin. “The change from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy resulted in some members of the royal family leaving Thailand for Lausanne in Switzerland,” she says.
The nine-part series begins with “Pathombot Soo Muang Lausanne”, essentially an introduction to Lausanne, which is the second-largest city on Lake Geneva and home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters as well as the Olympic Museum and Archives.
“It presents the story of Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkhla, who was the father of Kings Ananda Mahidol [Rama VIII] and Bhumibol Adulyadej [Rama IX] and is regarded as the father of modern medicine and public health.
“The Prince Father was invited by Prince Rangsit Prayurasakdi, later Prince of Chainat, to have a look around his Siriraj Hospital before deciding to study public health at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his earlier travels in Europe, he had made a stop in Genoa, a port city and capital of the Liguria region in northwest Italy, which was linked by train to Geneva, Zurich and Lausanne.
“After Prince Mahidol married Sangwan Talaphat in 1920, they went together to America but stopped over at the Hotel du Boulevard in Lausanne,” Sukanya explains.
The second episode “Flat No 16 and Villa Wattana in Lausanne”, traces the early days of Prince Mahidol and his young family in Switzerland and their life in that three-bedroom flat. “When Ananda – who was nine at the time – was recognised as king after King Prajadhipok’s abdication in 1935, they moved to a bigger house called Villa Wattana.”
In Part 3, “Education and Rearing”, the focus is on Bhumibol’’s studies. Sukanya found historical evidence in the form of a handwritten application covering several subjects and fees completed by the King, who listed himself as “Monsieur Bhumibol Adulyadej”.
In the segment called “Summer Camp”, the documentary looks at how the King first learned about nature and how this later inspired him set up the royal irrigation department, while “Rudoo Nao Kap Cheewit Bon Phukhao” shows the royal brothers having fun on skis.
“King Ananda Mahidol had an allergy and a doctor suggested that the pure mountain air could help him breathe easier. Both had skied since they were young and carried their skis themselves. There were no ski lifts in those days,” Sukanya says.
“Ngarn Silapa Pradit Soo Karn Tham Ngarn” reflects on King Bhumibol’s photography and carpentry skills.
“The King is also a great composer,” says Sukanya. “Professor Rapee Sagarik, who was a member of the band Aor Sor Wan Suk, says the King was always very happy when he was playing music.
“During his honeymoon at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin, the King ordered the band to play music all night long and royal guards danced along until the morning.”
“Phra Sahai”, the seventh part, presents a friend of the King who agreed to meet with Sukanya, while “Lysandre C Seraidaris” features the youngest son of Cleon C Seraidaris, a lawyer who served as private tutor to King Ananda and Prince Bhumibol in Switzerland.
The series closes with “Relations between Thailand and Switzerland”, which shows how the Royal Family has cemented ties with the alpine country over |the years.
n “Paendin Wai Yao” will|air every Thursday at 8pm |on TNN 24 (TrueVisions Channel 16 and 777), on True4U (TrueVisions Channel 24).