Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, as a daughter and His Majesty's personal secretary, probably knows best how the King operates with a thorough understanding of the country's "big picture" while always having an eye for detail. The following is a transcript of the Princess' well-known interview with Radio Chula in 1987 which clearly shows HM's working principles, just as applicable today as they were back then. Click here for excerpts from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's book, Duj Duang Tawan, which looks at other aspects of HM's ingenuity and dedication to the Thai people.
'His Majesty's major task is to do his best to develop the country. However, his idea of development is not just to go into a village and blindly give directions.
First, he must know all the geographical conditions of the area-the height, the depth, everything. It seems he knows the entire country very well. That's because he's got first-hand experience, which he believes is very important.
And that's why he always drives the car himself during field trips and doesn't mind walking. He said it gives him insight into the place.
When travelling by other vehicles, like a helicopter, he also uses it as a chance to review and correct the maps. He would be very angry if we fell asleep. He said that to ride in a helicopter Ñ using petrol paid for by the public-is a privilege. And therefore we must make the most of it, for the good of the people. We can't just listen to the whirr of the engine and go to sleep.
Still, His Majesty was the only one who always observed the terrain down below and compared it with what was shown on the maps and aerial photographs.
It takes a long time to make a map, and sometimes by the time the map is finished, the landscape has already changed Ñ new settlements, new reservoirs that change the watercourses, for examples.
I don't know exactly when His Majesty began to use aerial photographs. But the furthest back I can recall is one day when I was little, and he asked me to help him arrange pictures of a project. I remember I quit to go out and play when the work was only half done. That's why I didn't gain knowledge in this field.
The aerial photos he uses are provided by the Royal Thai Survey Department and the Air Force's Directorate of Aerial Reconnaissance. Instead of using two reference pictures like we do, His Majesty can just look at a photograph and plot things down on the map. But sometimes he has trouble with mosaic pictures because in such pictures the same house can appear at two places.
He doesn't just use the photos provided by government agencies but also takes some himself. He always brings along both compact and SLR cameras. Like when the construction of a dam is completed, he would take pictures of the dam and the engineers. He keeps these pictures in catalogues.
Every time he rides in a helicopter, he takes pictures of the landscape below. Afterwards he lays the pictures out and tapes them together. The result is a makeshift aerial photograph which can be used for planning development projects.
Speaking of maps and aerial photos, I must also talk about His Majesty's use of satellite images.
They are one of the things he is interested in because he has long been involved in agricultural planning, working on artificial rain.
To help in agricultural planning and the making of artificial rain, you need to have knowledge of wind and rain, of meteorology.
Every day for the past 10 to 20 years, the Department of Meteorology has sent His Majesty the daily weather forecast map. Lately, they also send him the meteorological satellite photos.
His Majesty would then read the weather forecast map and the satellite images, make notes, and plot the paths of storms, their names, and the effects they tend to create. This information would be used in determining the development of agriculture and water sources.
Last year (1986), Bangkokians faced a big flood problem. Seeing the people's hardship and equipped with his map-reading habit, His Majesty believed he might find a way to alleviate the situation and fix some damage.
I had seen him working on his plan before the flood. First he hunted around for Bangkok maps, from the oldest ones he could find to the most current ones. Then he arranged them in chronological order to compare the city and its water drainage system during different ages. He also studied old aerial photographs.
When the flood crisis was about to begin, he went out to observe several areas. I didn't go with him so I can't give much detail. I once followed him after he left but couldn't find him. Instead, I got stuck in a tremendous flood, so I decided to go back home.
But from what he told me, whenever he goes on such observation trips he brings along officials from several agencies Ñ the Irrigation Department, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and other concerned agencies.
And like when he plans for rural development, His Majesty looks at each area to see how water naturally flows in and out of it. For different areas have different problems. If we look at it superficially, we tend to think it is the same flood problem.
But His Majesty looks at each place very closely and sees that they are actually different.
He considers every factor that contributes to the flood. And during his surveys he uses every person he knows, even if they are not engineers and do nothing related to engineering.
Policemen, for example. He would ask them to measure the water level and report it to him. He also asked a friend who lived in the flooded area to measure the water level at his house every day and keep him informed.
His Majesty also uses people he doesn't know by having people he knows ask their friends to keep records of the water level every morning and evening so he could use the information for his planning.
When he visits an area he would explain the system of that area and how its problem could be solved as well as how things work in other areas.
These days he understands Bangkok more thoroughly. He understands the water pattern in each canal Ñ its flood and ebb tides and what happens when it wreaks havoc, what goes wrong.
Some canals are no longer natural drains because they are blocked, sometimes because somebody used it to grow banana trees. In that case, His Majesty would gently ask people in the neighbourhood who the trees belonged to.
When the owner showed up, His Majesty asked him: "How much do you care for these trees?" And the man replied: "Not so much." Then His Majesty said: "Not so much means you still care a little".
He knew the man had consideration for him. So His Majesty told him that he didn't want to bully him but: "If you don't care for them so much, please allow me to have them cleared out." He always negotiates diplomatically like this.
Sometimes he gives ideas to officials and passes on the work to them. Anybody who could possibly help him with information he would use them. His idea is to gather all the information and keep it systematically and comprehensively.
For example, we can't just use hydro-engineering to explain a flood. There are several factors involved-the meteorological elements, the water in Bangkok, the water flowing down from the northern part of the country, and the sea water.
His Majesty seeks information from all sources. For example, officials concerned with hydrography, meteorology, irrigation and power generating. And many more. That's how he builds his database.