Thailand’s expats react to the passing of the King

As Thais mourn for the passing of the beloved late HM the King Bhumibol Aduladej, expats across Thailand suffer as well. Whether they are in pain because they felt a connection to the late King or are suffering as they see their friends and colleagues in pain, Coconuts asked a few of them how they were feeling in the wake of such a monumental world event.

Englishman Tom Earls has lived in Thailand for many years. When he learned that HM the King had passed, he said, “The first thing I noticed was that the hairs on my arms were standing on end. It was a really visceral reaction, but it wasn’t so much the event itself that provoked it, rather the implications it has for Thailand.”

“I guess I hadn’t really thought about just how much my Thai friends would be affected, so, no I really didn’t expect it to have as much of an impact on me as it did.”

“I have been surprised by the expat reaction. Either more people than I thought have genuine feelings of affection for the King, or they feel compelled to project that image.”

“I think Thai people will take enormous pride from the fact that expats are mourning alongside them. Sometimes people just want their opinions to be validated, and this feels like one of those times. I think those who choose to mourn will be judged in a positive light, and those who take a step back will also be completely understood,” he said.

American Darra Christensen said, “I was watching the news at a friend’s house. I thought of all the people who had been sitting outside Siriraj Hospital and my heart dropped. I couldn’t imagine how deeply saddened and distraught everyone must have been feeling in that moment.”

“I’ve grown exponentially melancholy and somber since the announcement.  Seeing everyone so heartbroken has truly shown me how paramount and vital the King [was] to this country. I’ve never seen anything comparable to this back home.”

“I’ve learned the typical textbook life story of the King. It seems that this country will remember him as an extremely hard-working monarch who had an integral part in the economic, social, and political development of Thailand.”

As far as mourning, she said, “I do not feel as if we are expected to mourn but there is an obvious expectation to be respectful. Expatriate participation in mourning for the passing of the King is something that I don’t see being problematic, so long as it is done with respect.”

David Pfizenmaier, a half-German, half-Thai man who grew up in Germany said, “Even though I wasn’t born in this country, during the last five years I have really felt a connection to the people and to the King. I feel the love and respect all the time from the Thais to the King.”

“It’s so hard to describe my feelings. On one hand, I’m glad I was there for a historical moment, but on the other hand, I always hoped to be away from Thailand when this happened. But I was right there in the middle of it and I felt all of it.”

“He was really a King of the people. I hope that people will follow his example and make the best for the country.”

Megan Rogers, an American, said “When I first moved to Thailand a few years ago, I was immediately taken with [HM the King] — his hobbies and interests and talents and, of course, all of the strides he made for Thailand and how much he loved his country and people.”

“I’m generally a very empathetic person, so even though this is not a person I knew personally, I know how much he meant to an entire country. I think as a foreigner who has called this country home for multiple years, I am both allowed and expected to mourn, at least just by wearing black and showing my respect. I haven’t felt any judgement for sharing my love and heartfelt thoughts with my Thai colleagues and friends — I think of this country as my home now, and I think it would be stranger if I ignored his passing. I think mourning is very personal and everyone, Thai or foreign, expat or holiday traveler, should be able to mourn in the capacity that they feel.”




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