In her latest book, Duj Duang Tawan, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn shares personal anecdotes that give insight into His Majesty the King's commitment to education and information to improve the lives of the rural poor -- a shining example of a dedicated monarch. Here are excerpts.

KING AS TEACHER

His Majesty the King is interested in various fields of knowledge. He is a thinker and inventer who can explain his thoughts to others. He is a good teacher himself.

Often when he goes out to meet the people, he advises those who come to welcome him on various matters such as the preservation of watersheds and farming.

From my experience, an example of His Majesty's qualities as a teacher could be seen during a trip upcountry many years ago.

I was about seven or eight years old at the time and we were travelling in the same car. On the way, he taught me and my brother and sister how to determine the travelling time by calculating the distance and speed. He also taught us about the topography and at night he taught us about stars in the sky.

One day I teased people in the entourage by asking them how many grains of rice there were in a sack. Nobody answered. When His Majesty heard about this he had somebody fetch him a litre of rice and made me agree that the result of that calculation would be an estimate.

He told me to fill a cup with the rice to see how many cups it took for the whole litre. After that he told me to count the rice grains in the cup and multiply that by the number of cups I just got. The result was the number of rice grains in one litre.

Then I had to multiply that by the number of litres in one thang (a traditional unit for measuring rice). And multiply the result with the number of thang in one sack. What I got at the end was the number of rice grains in the sack.

That was the first time I learned to do estimate calculation.

A few years later when I had to study maths and do the exercises from the Education Ministry's text book, which were all similar to one another, I became bored and didn't pay much attention to the subject, claiming I didn't see any use for it in real life.

His Majesty cured my laziness by giving me just two maths exercises to do during the following summer break which lasted almost three months.

The first exercise was about water buckets which I was familiar with because the Hua Hin district where we spent the holidays was pretty arid and the buckets were necessary items.

Every time the Royal Medic Squad went out to visit villages we would gather money to buy buckets for the villagers. In the exercise, I had to calculate from the number of donated buckets the amount of water people used each day and the amount of rainfall.

To make it worse, it was assumed that the buckets had holes. There was simply no answer to this exercise.

The other exercise was about the income and expenses of a family which is rather poor. Despite the fact that the children of this family receive royal scholarships and some financial aid, they still have a hard time making ends meet.

One day, a member of the family became sick and, worse still, their house was hit by a heavy storm which damaged the roof. The family had to borrow money from a loan shark to buy corrugated iron and have their roof repaired. This exercise, too, had no definite answer. But it helped me learn about the prices of food and things because I had to find out the real prices from the market. I couldn't make them up.

From then on I no longer complained about studying mathematics.

As for geography, instead of just letting me learn it from books, His Majesty encouraged me to compare the landscape with the map. Clouds too. He taught me with real clouds in the sky, not just their names in the book. He didn't do this just with his children. He wants every Thai to have the chance to study. And this determination of his is evident in the "Rongrian Phra Dabos" project.

- From the article titled "Rongrian Phra Dabos" in A Compilation of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's Writings, Bangkok Bank, 1978, page 185-7.

PHRA DABOS PROJECT

The Phra Dabos project (initiated by His Majesty the King in 1976) is basically a kind of non-formal education.

There are lots of people in the society who are equipped with useful knowledge but these people don't have enough money to open a school of their own. At the same time, they don't want to work with the government. But they're ready to pass on what they know to others.

His Majesty said that the idea of the Phra Dabos project is like that of the Phra Dabos (hermits) in folktales. In the old days, anybody seeking knowledge would go into the woods to stay with the Phra Dabos, serve them and learn from them.

His Majesty said that even these days, there are still people who are glad to be Phra Dabos. We should provide them with the facilities and food they need, like creating a forest for them.

Meanwhile, children who come to study should have moral responsibilities so the relationship between the teacher and the children will be good.

The most concrete field of study so far is electronics and a few other subjects. Students who have finished the course can study further in a related field. Many have managed to use the knowledge to earn themselves a living.

- From HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's interview with Prof Pairash Thajchayapong, on May 12, 1995, on His Majesty the King and information technology, at the Chaipattana Building in the Chitralada Palace.

THAI JUNIOR ENCYCLOPEDIA

His Majesty told me about how HRH the Princess Mother used to teach him how to do research. And she did research herself, too. The Princess Mother told him that whenever her children had questions about things, she would try to find the answers. So she bought an encyclopedia for the whole family to use.

Later, His Majesty wanted to have that kind of encyclopedia produced for Thai people, in Thai.

He said that at that time, we Ñ the children Ñ were still of school age. The older child could teach the younger one. So he had them produced in three levels.

The High Level is for older children and grownups who do not have specialised knowledge in those subjects. The other two levels are Intermediate and Younger Kids.

Actually, it's not easy to explain complicated subjects in language young children can understand. But that was made possible with the help of several people. They've been working on the project for 20 to 30 years, producing one encyclopedia after another.

The encyclopedia compiles academic information in one place to make it easy to look up.

I'd like to cite a few parts of a speech His Majesty made to the committee in 1974:

"Again, we can conclude the purpose of encyclopedias: They're books that include all the knowledge humans have gathered since ancient times, processing it for later generations.

"Normally, this knowledge is learned at schools or educational institutions. But due to the lack of teachers and schools, there needs to be a source of knowledge where people could learn by themselves, or from relatives and friends who know more. Knowledge could be passed on from one person to another without having to be gained through school."

And here's a bit more from the speech.

"The purpose of this encyclopedia is to point out to readers and users that all sciences are related. It's not that a person who is specialised on one particular field can work completely on their own. Furthermore, it shows that to succeed, everybody must depend on another person Ñ one science is completed by another science.

"In short, it's education for underprivileged children and a conjunction of all sciences."

- From a speech titled "Education and National Development" given on November 7, 1995, at Sri Nakarindwirot University, Bangkok.

PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY

Their Majesties are very good at recognising people. They also remember what should be done for every single person. His Majesty has it all recorded in his head.

Other people can't remember such things and when they ask how His Majesty manages to do so, he says that if we care, we remember. When we care for people, love them and wish to help them find happiness, we think about them.

Hearing this, I felt like I'm the one who does not love the people and does not want them to be happy. And I felt guilty. So I had to find ways to compete with him (she laughs), to serve him. That's why I got to work on this database.

Actually, the truth is we wanted to do this, not him. He could remember it without any help.

- From HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's interview with Prof Pairash Thajchayapong, on May 12, 1995, on His Majesty the King and information technology, at the Chaipattana Building in the Chitralada Palace.

TOWARDS SELF-SUFFICIENCY

As for rural development, especially in remote and dangerous places, Their Majesties the King and Queen always cover all areas of life.

They would start by getting themselves accustomed to the villagers and trying to gain their trust. That is not so difficult for them because most people regard His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen as their father and mother who can help them solve problems and lessen their hardship. Whatever they say, people listen.

In areas where communication is lacking, His Majesty would put an emphasis on people's self-sufficiency Ñ enabling them to rely on external factors as little as possible, especially for rice. Everybody must eat rice. We've got to do everything that gives farmers enough rice to eat.

Also, we've got to make sure there are markets for their products so they have the money to buy the necessities they can't produce. Buying consumer goods is wasteful because you have pay prices that include transportation and service costs. So people should try to grow their own rice.

It is also important that the people enjoy good health and that patients get proper medical care. Sickness causes a lot of problems. Some people lose everything they have to pay the hospital bills.

We've also got to give the people the chance to have an education. At least they should be literate and able to read official documents to gain knowledge about new technologies. This is difficult in some remote areas. At some places, even though schools are available, students cannot go to school because they cannot afford to pay for the text books. Despite the fact that primary education is compulsory and free of charge. Some students have to work and some live too far away from school.

- HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn during an interview on Development and Aid to Rural Villagers, given to the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board in 1985.

NOBLESSE OBLIGE

The reason I like to help people is, I guess, because I'm used to it.

Ever since I was young, I've seen that His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen and Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother were always busy trying to find ways to help better the living conditions of the Thai people.

Following him around, I have witnessed the hardship my compatriots are facing. That makes me feel I should help with whatever I could. I shouldn't be idle. So when I grew up and had the ability to help, I just did it automatically, following His Majesty's instructions and guidelines.

Anyway, to help the people is a duty of the royal family. Besides, helping those who are in trouble is in accordance with Buddhist teachings. Merit-makers achieve happiness from giving, which is a merit.

One more thing Ñ I always feel that being royalty is a privilege. I get trust, help, knowledge and all kinds of cooperation. Dealing with people is also made easy. It's a hereditary benefit for the family whose ancestors have done good deeds for the country. The benefits fall on their children and grandchildren. So we should use this privilege for the good of other people.

- HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn during an interview on Development and Aid to Rural Villagers, given to the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board in 1985.

MASTERING TECHNOLOGY

Prof Pairash: Does His Majesty use a computer?

HRH: Yes, he does. He uses it everyday. And when he composes a song he doesn't use a ready-made music programme. He does it with an ordinary, basic one.

...These days when he writes stories he always writes them on a computer. But before he actually writes a long story he would first make up some short stories as experiments.

...Another thing he does with the computer is drawing. He doesn't use any modern software, but an old one. I don't know how he does it. He does it by himself. Like when he wrote the Phra Mahajanaka book, he also drew the picture of Phra Mahajanaka swimming while Nang Manee Mekhala flies towards him.

When drawing a map (for the book), he didn't use any map-making programme, either. He drew a map of India. And from what was said in the Jataka tale, he worked out where the places mentioned should be; like where Phra Mahajanaka swam, and where each character in the story travelled.

He plotted the places on a modern map. Then he got out the meteorological map and figured out what the weather would have been like on that day. He compared the situation to what happened when a fierce storm swept fishermen over to Bangladesh. He said the weather must have been like that.

He then compared different positions of the sun and the moon. Everything that he converted from the Jataka into modern-day terms, he typed on the computer.

He also writes his new songs on the computer. Songs like Pleng Rak and Menu Khai he did on the computer.

When typing letters or any other document, he does it on the computer himself. Also, he uses it to write speeches for different occasions, like the royal speech on December 4. After he finishes writing those speeches, he translates them into English himself and types the translated version on the computer. Now he is writing an autobiography. I have no idea how far he has gone. I've never seen it. But he writes it on the computer.

- From HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's interview with Prof Pairash Thajchayapong, on May 12, 1995, on His Majesty the King and information technology, at the Chaipattana Building in the Chitralada Palace.

BUILDING A DATABASE

His Majesty is interested in information and the filing of information. He gathers and files information he has, not on the computer, but in conventional files which he keeps in different categories. He's been doing this for a long time.

He told me that he has taught his filing system to Khun Khwankeo (Grand Chamberlain Khwankeo Vajarodaya) who now does the work for him.

If anybody asks Khun Khwankeo about His Majesty's royal duties during the early years of his reign, he'll find that Khun Kwankaew has all that information carefully filed. There are details about public health, the royal visits to the

United States and Europe in 1960, for example. Also, there are photographs taken by His Majesty's private photographers. Each of them is numbered in order to make it easy to retrieve . That's also a system he has set up.

- From the speech titled "Information Technologies Beneficial to the National Development" given by HRH Princess Sirindhorn on June 2, 1995, at the United Nations's convention centre in Bangkok.

 As for rural development, especially in remote and dangerous places, Their Majesties the King and Queen always cover all areas of life.