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One of the first things a visitor to Thailand learns is the remarkable amount of love and admiration the Thai people (and many expats) hold for HRH King Bhumibol Adulyadej (known in the West as Rama IX).  It is also highly illegal in this country to say anything bad against the monarchy under the lèse majesté laws.  (I recently read a very good account about these laws as they apply to Thailand but can't seem to find it now...)

Until recently, there's been only one widely-available English-language biography about the present king (In His Majesty's Footsteps:  A Personal Memoir by Vasit Dejkunjorn).  However, Yale University Press this month published a second, The King Never Smiles: A Biography Of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej by Paul M. Handley.  Supposedly, the book casts portions of the monarchy in a negative light and has been banned in this country.  Just trying to access Yale's information page on the book from a Thai ISP brings up this page:

This translates as

"Sorry, the web site you are accessing has been closed by Royal Thai Police due to inappropriateness such as pornography, gambling or contain [sic.] any information which is deemed to violate national security".
I pre-ordered the book a couple of months ago from long before I knew anything about the ban; my desire was simply to know more about what I consider a very interesting subject (my respect for the king and the rest of the royal family is very close or equal to that of Tim and her friends).  I had doubts that the book would actually arrive in Phuket but arrive it did yesterday.

The first few paragraphs of the preface show that the author was aware of the risks going in:
A journalist or academic who takes an interest in Thailand soon learns that one topic is off-limits:  the modern monarchy.  One is told variably that there is nothing more to say than the official palace accounts; that such matters are internal; that the subject is too sensitive and complex for palace outsiders to handle; or simply that it is too dangerous, and one risks expulsion or jail for lèse majesté.

Most people give in to these explanations with little argument.  It is easy to do; nearly every Thai one meets expresses unquestioning praise for the king, or at least equivocates to the point of suggesting that there is really not much to be said:  the history that is in the open is the whole of it....
This is a book that I'm looking forward to delving into, despite reading several reviews stating that certain allegations aren't supported by facts.  I doubt that any criticisms of the monarchy contained within will diminish my respect of the king one bit, having previously lived in a nation where many openly and aggressively pursue negativity against the country's leader.

It's so refreshing to reside in a place where all of the people overwhelmingly adore the king and his family; it's definitely one of the things I find most attractive about the Thai people and emphasizes their attitude/philosophy of sanuk (basically, "having fun" in whatever you do).  We non-Thai people can certainly learn a lot from this...

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Thanks for sending along that comment and glad you received a copy of the book. I've read most of the book, and found it fairly hard going, and I already have a decent grasp on Thai history, so I wish you the best of luck.

I may do another updated review of the book, but we both must be fairly careful about what we say here on the web. I'm living here in San Francisco, and so don't really have much threat, but you living in Chalong is another story, so be careful.

I first went to Phuket in 1979! About 5 years ago I was back on the island, and spent some time with some American expat, and we did lunch in Chalong. Superb, but the dude later took me to his pharmacist in Phuket Town where I picked up some totally fake Viagra.

I went to Albequerque (that spelling is a bitch) a few years ago on press trip with SATW, and really enjoyed that town, and saw the Latino art show with Cheech Marin's collection, a very, very impressive collection of his art, which is now being shown here in SF.

Do send me an email, use my Hotmail email addy, and I'll later pass along my real email addy.

Carl Parkes