Not so long ago, to
be royal was to be power itself, and grace, and virtue. But no more. Although a regal aura
yet clings to kingly names, of Asia's mighty dynasties few survive to reign or rule. And
for most that do, respect and admiration are no longer automatic. They must be earned.
In this spirit, HER ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCESS MAHA CHAKRI SIRINDHORN lives out her role as a
member of Thailand's royal family. Born thirty-six years ago, she is a princess descended
of many royal kings. Her Chakri ancestors saved Thailand for the Thais and built a modern
state. Later they relinquished absolute power to pave the way for rule by law. Since 1946
her father, King Bhumibol, has been his country's constant beacon, providing certainty
that even though governments come and go, Thailand will endure. These days PRINCESS
SIRINDHORN is often at his side. Father and daughter are good company. They share a
preference for simplicity and a limitless interest in the welfare of Thai citizens.
"On and on," she once wrote in a poem, "I follow the quick steps of my
Even so, PRINCESS SIRINDHORN has a presence all her own.
Embracing all things Thai, she has become a force for cultural preservation. At her
initiative, dying handicraft skills are once again being passed from master to apprentice,
shadow plays rejuvenated, sacred temples restored, and classical works of music recorded
for posterity. She herself plays several Thai instruments, preferring the ranaad-ek, a
solo wooden xylophone till now played almost exclusively by men. By singing and performing
in public with Thais of all walks of lifeunthinkable for royal women of the
pastshe has helped spur an unprecedented revival of traditional music.
Educated from grade one through her doctorate entirely in Thailand, PRINCESS SIRINDHORN
has interests ranging from classical Asian languages to modern educational techniques and
theories. In 1984 she mastered remote sensing technologya tool for studying
Thailand's beleaguered environmentand today she teaches history at the Royal
Military Academy. As an inveterate world traveler, she generates esteem for her country
abroad. The books she writes about her travels become best-sellers, and the proceeds from
them she donates to needy children.
Of all things Thai, PRINCESS SIRINDHORN most of all embraces Thai children. Through a
foundation she started, many of Bangkok's orphans and unwanted children receive attention
and find new homes, while hundreds of refugee children are cared for by the Thai Red
Cross, which, with her mother, she leads. Also, through her efforts, deaf and blind
children throughout Thailand now have special schools, and thousands of pupils in remote
border areas receive nutritious lunches and learn self-reliance by growing their
vegetables. Generous with her own purse, PRINCESS SIRINDHORN inspires generosity in
others. Her projects are well funded and well managed. Moreover, to Thailand's children
she is not a distant benefactor. She takes stock of their progress personally, visiting
them everywhere she goes and bringing them cheer.
Cheer is perhaps PRINCESS SIRINDHORN's most pervasive gift to all the Thais. They are
cheered by her modesty, for she speaks softly and spurns ostentatious make-up and
clothing. They are cheered by her seriousness, for she turns away from idle celebrity to
devote herself to service. Not least they are cheered by her cheerfulness. In the smiling
PRINCESS SIRINDHORN, Thais find an image of what they themselves aspire to be: a people
moored happily to their traditions, yet treading confidently in the modern world.
In electing H. R. H. PRINCESS MAHA CHAKRI SIRINDHORN to receive the 1991 Ramon Magsaysay
Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes her making her royal office an
instrument of enlightened endeavor for Thailand, and her sparkling embodiment of the best
that is Thai.