Remembering The Late Princess Mother
Published on: July 28, 2019
In August we celebrate Thai Mother’s Day and this article is dedicated to HRH The Princess Mother, an influential mother, who strived to always be a great example to her children and raised three of the finest citizens of Thailand.
By Vanasobhin Kasemsri
Though Thai Mother’s Day which is celebrated on 12 August, is in the recognition of HRH Queen Sirikit’s Birthday Anniversary and honors her as the Mother of the current King, HM King Rama X, I would like to take this opportunity to also acknowledge another great mother figure, HRH Somdet Phra Srinakarindra Boromarajajonani or known to the Thai people as The Princess Mother as she was the mother of two Thai Monarchs (HM King Rama VIII and HM King Rama IX) and contributed so much to our country’s development.
When I was young, my mother enjoyed telling me tales of The Princess Mother and I would listen with interest and wished that I could have had the chance to meet this remarkable woman. My mother always stood by The Princess Mother’s teachings and always taught me to be humble and help others who are less fortunate.
Having come from a very humble background, a commoner who lost both her parents at a very young age, The Princess Mother never gave up her aspiration to pursue her studies. This was what my mother always reminded and until this day the words “Never Give Up” are still inside my head!
At the age of 13, The Princess Mother became interested in nursing education and was sent to study at Siriraj Hospital School of Midwifery and Nursing until her graduation at the age of 16. She was the youngest to graduate and thus received a scholarship to study nursing overseas, where she met her Prince and the real-life fairy tale followed, as she ultimately married HRH Prince Mahidol, son of King Rama V and became the mother of three, HRH Princess Galyani, HM King Rama VIII and HM King Rama IX respectively. The Royal couple lived abroad for many years while HRH Prince Mahidol was receiving his Doctorate Degree in Public Health in the United States. Upon returning to work in the medical administration field, sadly HRH Prince Mahidol passed away, leaving The Princess Mother, age 29 as a single mother who raised three young children on her own.
The Princess Mother was very close to her children and she raised them by “leading by example” and was forceful in bringing them up to be good citizens. She became actively involved in the community so her children could see her actions. She and a group of other ladies formed the “Sewing Circle” and sewed clothes to be given to the poor and the less privileged.
The Princess Mother’s children had the chance to see a different world, and not the “royal” world as they grew up in Switzerland and enjoyed living close to nature. They grew up with other commoners and eventually traveled back to Thailand when The Princess Mother’s two sons became Kings. From their humble upbringing, they worked tirelessly to help better the lives of the Thai people, especially the poor, less fortunate and the disadvantaged. Unfortunately, the reign of King Rama VIII was short-lived as he passed away at the age of 20.
During the reign of the late King, HM King Rama IX, The Princess Mother wished to travel and help the communities in the distant provinces of Thailand. In many of these locations, there were no roads or easy access for travelers. She saw first hand the poverty, the lack of education and lack of medical help and introduced many royal projects to help the Thai people.
She helped to build schools in remote areas (from her own pocket money or from donations) and was instrumental in providing support to the Border Patrol Police families. Today across the border provinces, children have places to learn the Thai language and culture, which helps to instill “Thainess” and a sense of belonging for all including the hill tribe villagers and immigrant families.
In the area of Public Health, the wellbeing of the people was a top priority as The Princess Mother continued to pledge her husband’s beliefs and dedication. She contributed her own allowance to provide scholarships to medical and nursing students. The Princess Mother also funded the building of many provincial hospitals and nursing schools around the country.
She also launched the Volunteer Mobile Medical Assistance Program, where volunteer doctors and nurses would travel to remote villages either to help treat the villagers who lived too far from existing hospitals.
As for Environmental Conservation, The Princess Mother took interest in the livelihood of the hill tribe communities up in Northern Thailand. She introduced the Doi Tung project to provide land for the villagers to plant and to help in reforestation for the Thai forest after severe destruction from traditional crop growing of the hill tribes. Doi Tung area now is rich with vegetation, with plants and trees that are grown for food and to provide income for the people.
In Social Welfare, The Princess Mother donated an allowance of 100,000 baht to establish the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. The goal for the foundation was to teach the villagers how to make Thai crafts to raise their own income. Since then the foundation has grown tremendously and is creating sustainable development in the rural hill tribe communities, providing education to the villager’s children, vocational training to the people and ideas for how to maintain their livelihood.
Taking care of the handicapped and the disadvantaged was another interest of The Princess Mother. She visited homes and schools for the handicapped and oversaw the Support Foundation for the Handicapped. The Princess Mother set up the Thai Prostheses Foundation to help provide artificial limbs for free and the New Life Foundation to provide homes and support to the Leprosy community.
In June 1970, HM King Rama IX honored the Princess Mother with a royal title of “ Somdet Phra Srinagarindhara Boromrajajonani” to show his recognition for all her royal projects to help better the lives of his people. In 1985, to honor the Princess Mother’s contribution to Thai society, the Thai Government initiated the 21st of October of each year, which coincided with the Princess Mother’s birth anniversary to be the National Social Welfare Day. However, it was later changed to the National Nurses Day, as we know of today, in recognition of her role as a former nurse as well as her continued support to the nursing community and education.
HRH The Princess Mother passed away peacefully at Siriraj hospital in July 1995 at the age of 94, leaving behind ongoing Royal projects that are still very beneficial for Thai people.
For more information about The Princess Mother’s royal projects and how you may contribute, please visit up the following foundations that are still working to support her charitable causes: The Princess Mother’s Charities Fund of Thailand, Mae Fah Luang Foundation, and the Prostheses Foundation in Thailand.
Photos courtesy of The Princess Mother’s Charities Fund of Thailand.
About the author
Vana Kasemsri, a Thai national born in the US, has lived overseas for a significant part of her life. She has been a BAMBI volunteer and member since 2014, and now works for B Grimm Company, overseeing their charity and conservation projects including “Saving the Tigers”. Vana enjoys spending her free time exploring Bangkok and its surrounding provinces with her family. She hopes to share her views on nature conservation and her travel experiences with newcomers to Thailand and BAMBI members.
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