The Queen of Thailand, Sirikit, celebrates her 81st birthday on Monday. She has been queen for over 63 years, which means she’s been doing her job even longer than the Queen of England, which quite pleases the Thai people. They love their queen. Ask them why and usually they’ll say something like, “She is very good to the people.”
She’s championed a number of hospitals in Thailand, including a children’s hospital and a new 10-storey hospital in Bangkok, both of which have been named after her. She’s also been the honorary president of the Thai Red Cross since 1956.
Everywhere we go in Bangkok there are tributes to the queen—along the boulevards, in the parks, even in the hotel lobbies. It’s as if the pope were visiting (and, indeed, the Thai people consider her to be semi-divine, rather like the Holy Father).
My guide, Ketsara, tells me that because of the queen’s generous nature, on her holiday (which is also Mother’s Day in Thailand) the Thai people try to do something of merit. For instance, there will be free haircuts. Thousands of barbers will set up in pavilions in the park and anyone who wants one can get a haircut. I think that’s a fine way to celebrate the queen. I might even get a free haircut myself. In her honor.