The late Thai king’s youth in Switzerland

King Bhumibol of Thailand, who reigned for seven decades, died in hospital aged 88 Keystone

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej has died at the age of 88, having ascended to the throne in 1946 to become the world’s longest-serving monarch. Early in his reign, he lived and worked in the Swiss city of Lausanne. 

This content was published on October 13, 2016

“King Bhumibol discovered his passion for music in Lausanne, first as a musician and later as a composer,” reads the book “King Bhumibol and the Thai Royal Family in Lausanne.” The book contains the memories of Cléon Séraïdaris, who served the king’s family for 26 years. 

Bhumibol Adulyadej lived in Switzerland on and off between 1933 and 1951, in a villa in the town of Pully near Lausanne. He lived there with his mother, sister and brother Ananda Mahidol, who was king before him. The family often took holidays in cantons Valais and Graubünden. 

Bhumibol was fascinated by photography, skiing, fast cars and nature. He received his baccalaureate at a cantonal school before studying natural sciences, law and political science at the University of Lausanne. He devoted a semester to studying Marxism, calling it “exactly what my people do not like”, according to another book titled "A King in Switzerland - the Helvetian Youth Years of King Bhumibol of Thailand", written by journalist Olivier Grivat. 

According to sources close to the family, his studies of the Swiss Constitution and democracy helped him develop Thailand’s democratic system. He also met his future wife in Lausanne, the current Queen Sirikit. 

Bhumibol’s time in Switzerland nearly ended in tragedy, however, when he crashed into a truck while driving his Fiat Topolino on the road between Lausanne and Morges. 

Viewed as a demigod in his native Thailand, Bhumibol leaves behind a country in political crisis whose future without its charismatic and beloved king has become more uncertain than ever.

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