Jigme is the most well known Bhutanese name in Thailand
When His Majesty the King, then the crown prince, visited the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 60th anniversary in November 2006, Thailand noticed.
Dubbing him “Prince Charming”, the Thai media ran story after story about the dapper, young bachelor with his Elvis sideburns weeks after he had left. Needless to say, Thai women have been coming in droves to visit Jigme’s Bhutan ever since. Yes, the statement holds true ten years on, though that faint romantic hope has diminished after the beloved Queen took his hand.
And it was not just his looks nor was it just the fairer sex that added to the Jigme mania. It was “his grace and good manners” that won hearts the Bangkok Post wrote. A picture of His Majesty humbly proffering the traditional Wai greeting (palms pressed together and head bowed) went viral and prompted much admiration from the people.
After the departure of the two dozen Kings, Queens, Dukes, Princes, Princesses and Emirs from around the world, the name Jigme stuck.
Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University student Chalinee Nanjantha was a young school student when she first caught a glimpse of the young Crown Prince. “He was a young and handsome Prince that I could remember easily,” she replied to the Bhutanese with a grinning emoji.
Now one could say it was an infatuation, as romances built on physical attractions usually are and one would be wrong.
Since the visit, Thais have been avidly following His Majesty, reading books about Bhutan, and search as you may, there is not a single Thai that has anything but good to say of “Jigme”.
Minjur Dorji Dukpa, who works in Bangkok has had firsthand experience of the genuine love and respect that the locals pay His Majesty. A daily conversation, he says, goes as such:
“Where are you from?”
Many liken his Majesty to their late King Bhumibol The Great at a time when the latter was working selflessly for the people and their welfare and this has further heightened the popularity of his Majesty in Thailand. It is the biggest respect that a Thai can pay to any world leader for King Bhumibol was considered near divine by his people.
“His devotes himself to doing whatever he can for his people,” said Gritsana Huayjan, “and that’s why King Jigme’s popularity continues.”
Thai media too have continued regularly following His Majesty over the years and many newspapers published front page stories of the Coronation, Royal Wedding and birth of the Gyalsey.
More recently, when the royal couple visited Thailand to mourn the tragic loss of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, people dressed in mourning black queued on the street to the Grand Palace to sign on the condolence book of their greatly beloved monarch called out “Long Live the King” as His Majesty and the Queen left the Palace grounds.
Their Majesties had arrived the day after the passing along with the eight months old Gyalsey.
Miss Phutthawadee Leelahacheewa, a Thai language teacher volunteer at the Royal Institute for Tourism and Hospitality who has been here for almost a year and has grown familiar with Bhutanese customs was deeply touched by the gesture.
“I know Bhutanese do not have a custom of wearing black as mourning attire and their clear display of respect in choosing to wear it touched me deeply,” she said. “Besides, bringing along the young Crown Prince, was a moment of joy at a sorrowful time for the country and bringing the prince on a long flight to another country for the first time is another sign of the love King Jigme has for our King.”
Thiwaporn Kaewnopparat runs a restaurant with her Bhutanese husband and has been living in Thimphu since 2003.
She was one of a group of Thais invited to the Tashichodzong to light the 1000 butter lamps along with Their Majesties and all members of the Royal Family.
“Their Majesties personally offered us his condolences,” said Cherry, as she is known, “It was a wonderful, genuine gesture and we were all so touched.”
Miss Leelahacheewa who is attending the rituals being performed at the Memorial Chorten for the late King Bhumibol was travelling across central Bhutan and could not attend the lighting ceremony at the Tashichodzong.
“I was invited to light butter lamps at the Trongsa and Jakar Dzongs where flags were flying half mast and offices were closed in mourning. I met a lot of people. Some elder people were also lighting lamps for my King and when I asked, they said though they didn’t know much about him they heard he is like King Jigme so they came to pray for him,” she said. “A lot of them hugged me and I felt just like I was home.”
“I just want to say thank you.”
The deepening friendship between the two countries is attributed completely to His Majesty, The People’s King, or rather, The Peoples’ King and as His Majesty’s reign passes the ten year milestone today, the peoples of Bhutan and Thailand look towards the ever maturing relation as one.