Images of royalty in Thailand are ubiquitous. Frequently the images found along streets and adorning doorways capture members of the royal family at ceremonies or in official poses. It is rarer to find images of the royals in more relaxed settings. These images from a collection amassed by Desmond Ball may provide New Mandala readers with another, less rigid, perspective on Thailand’s ninth Chakri reign.
Many of these images are from Border Patrol Police (BPP or Tor Chor Dor) collections. The BPP and royal family have, for over half a century, enjoyed a strong relationship.
If members of the royal household are traveling to the borderlands, it is the Border Patrol Police that inspect the destinations beforehand, and provide escort.
King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit have, on numerous occasions visited the Border Patrol Police compound at Khai Naresuan since it opened on 27 April 1954. While there, they have visited the firing range to watch, or join in. These images provide a useful record of some of these occasions from across the decades.
Princess Srinagarindra, known more affectionately as the Princess Mother, was till her death in 1995 closely associated with the Border Patrol Police. In 1964 she was made a patron of the organisation.
While Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn was involved with the Border Patrol Police through the 1970s, his interests are more closely tied with the Royal Thai Army, where he holds the rank of General. Nowadays it is Princess Sirindhorn who shows more public interest in the Border Patrol Police and its diverse activities.
Des Ball is a Special Professor in the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific. Colum Graham is a graduate student at the same institution. In late 2013 Ball’s two-volume study of Thailand’s Border Patrol Police will be published by White Lotus.