Back in July, Andrew Walker posted a short review of Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles. This book continues to attract a great deal of interest. Anybody keen to quickly come up to speed on the issues it raises could do worse than trawl through these New Mandala posts. Over the past week or more, Andrew’s review has seen a lot of traffic, and a number of fresh comments about the book have been posted.

To bring the debate back to the top of the New Mandala pile, I have copied some of the new comments to this post.

In my view, the book is one of the few must-read perspectives on Thailand published in the last year (in Thai or English). The debate around its contents and approach keeps smouldering for good reason.

Recent comments here on New Mandala include:

Paul Chen | January 9th, 2007 at 4:45 am

Did the Author who wrote The King Never Smile?
Had met the King? Did he make personel interview with King?
If, Not why? and How can this book named a King Biography??
All contents might be a full true facts!
This is not Fair to the King!!
Do you agree??
Every Year Dec 5, the King Birthday, he got the chance to
speak to public only once a year.
Why the Book Author go to meet the King and have
personel interview with him.
This is Fair to him!!

anonymous | January 9th, 2007 at 10:12 am

Handley requested a personal royal interview, but was denied.

I wish that people who criticize the book actually read it. It’s a very factually correct biography, and the analysis is very interesting. I don’t agree with all the points, but if you’re interested in Thai politics and the King’s role, it’s a must read.

prem | January 14th, 2007 at 8:44 pm

If you’re really love the king ,you have to let him out of the politics. The king never protect Thai’s democracy but he protect his family and his conservative system as he did when Prem was the priminister. Thai people should learn to live with the principle of democracy ,not this beloved king .Don’t forget he can’t live forever. You have to develop yourself to live with the next King also.

Kasumo | January 23rd, 2007 at 2:42 am

Talking about being factually correct, on the first page of the book, Handley already got it wrong. King Bhumibol was born at the Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge Mass., not in Brookline. …. Need I say more…..

patiwat | January 23rd, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Kasumo, while technically true, that’s like saying that somebody born in Siriraj Hospital wasn’t born in Bangkok. The town of Brookline is opposite the Charles River from the city of Cambridge. Mt. Auburn Hospital itself is right next to the river.

Kasumo | January 24th, 2007 at 5:03 am


Let us move on to the second page of the book concerning HRH the Princess Mother. Handley wrote that “A commoner, part Chinese, Sangwal was born to a poor parents in 1900 just across the Chaophraya River from the Grand Palace.”

Also wrong !

HRH the Princess Mother was born in Nonthaburi Province according to the book “My Mother Told Me” by Princess Galyani Vadhana, her owed daughter.

HRH the Princess Mother’s grandfather lived across the Chaophraya River from the Grand Palace as Handley understood, but her father and mother moved to Nonthaburi before she was born. This is why HRH the Princess Mother actually born in Nonthaburi not just across the Chaophraya River from the Grand Palace. In fact, many websites got this fact wrong. So, was Handley.

If I have more time, I will point out to you further on Handley’s other mistakes on page 2. There are several more. And I can tell you, since his book has around 500 pages, there are plenty of other mistakes within the book and it shows how careful and how well research the author has been with his subject.

Well should I say any more….. =)

charles st. | January 25th, 2007 at 9:32 pm

The King is very rich. Thai Baht 3,000,000,000 is also tax-free.
It’s a real pity for poor Thai people. The rich keeps telling us to follow the Sufficient Economic Policy. Between the line is that the rich doesn’t want poor people to have more economic power.

“Let the people be poor and uneducated, they will be very obedient and easy to be controlled.” That’s the unspoken opinion from the blue blood and the anti-Taksin groups.