In Memorium, Thailand Philately

Thai Stamps for the Royal Cremation Ceremony

 

The Kingdom of Thailand is preparing for its final farewell to the most beloved monarch this nation has ever known. Even in Phuket, an island some 12 hours south of the capitol city of Bangkok by bus, one sees preparations for the massive funeral which will occur from October 25-29. Television, social media, and websites are almost exclusively black and white as of the beginning of this month and numerous commemorative items are beginning to fill local shops.

A new series of banknotes began circulating just under two weeks ago (I just received my first of the new 100-baht notes) and four commemorative coins are set for release in the near future; I may attempt to obtain the 100-baht coin but the gold 50,000-baht will have to remain a dream.

Three million copies of the new stamps are being released on October 25; I didn’t find out about the pre-sale (August 28-September 11) until a couple of days ago so hopefully I can find them on eBay or elsewhere (Thailand Post is certainly making it difficult to purchase their stamps lately). The stamps are really beautiful, but I can say that about virtually every stamp the Kingdom issues.

Three sheets will be released under the Thailand Post issue number TH-1135 and the official name “Royal Cremation Ceremony of the Late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej Commemorative Stamps”. The first sheet will include nine 9-baht stamps bearing various portraits of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama the Ninth. The second sheet features three 3-baht stamps portraying major components of the Royal Cremation Ceremony — the Royal Urn, Phra Yannamat Sam Lam Khan (the Golden Palanquin with Three Poles), and Phra Maha Phicha Ratcharot (the Great Victory Royal Chariot). The third sheet contains a single 9-baht illustrating the Royal Crematorium and the candlelit mass mourning ceremony held at Bangkok’s Sanam Luang ceremonial ground on October 22, 2016. The background of this sheet features Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall, where the body of His Majesty King Bhumibol is lying in state.

These stamps, as so many other details about the Royal Cremation, have received extensive media coverage so I expect them to be rather difficult to obtain. Several Thai-based stamp dealers are already offering attractive presentation folders for the set. Older stamps portraying King Bhumibol have already seen high selling prices offered on eBay and other online auction sites.

While I have had to forgo a previously-planned trip to Bangkok in order to view the funeral processions due to work commitments, the 26th will be a public holiday so that the entire country can mourn on the day of the actual cremation. Each of Thailand’s 77 provinces has erected replicas of the massive funeral pyre (as well as nine replicas in Bangkok plus the original) so that people who cannot travel to the capital can participate locally. I plan to attend Phuket’s ceremony. I assume that there will be big-screen televisions near the local replica, broadcasting the procession in Bangkok.


General Pursuits, Stamped Holidays, Thailand Philately

October Is National Stamp Collecting Month

NOTE: This article also appears, virtually the same, on Asian Meanderings — my main blog about my life in Thailand.

Since 1981, the month of October has been celebrated as National Stamp Collecting Month in the United States and Canada. November is National Stamp Collecting Month in the Philippines.

I began collecting stamps around the age of nine years old; counting a few breaks for other pursuits (girls, music, travel to name but three), I estimate that I have been involved in the hobby for a little more than 30 years. I promote it whenever and wherever I can these days, having begun collecting again following my move to Thailand more than a decade ago.

November is National Stamp Collecting Month in The Philippines
November is National Stamp Collecting Month in The Philippines

At the beginning of July 2016, I started a blog called A Stamp A Day on which I feature a different stamp (usually from a different place) each and every day. Different countries and territories have been included in a more or less alphabetical order and historic anniversaries and birthdays have been marked on occasion with an appropriate stamp. The write-ups (background histories on the issuing entities and details about the stamps) are often quite lengthy!

ASAD” is my second stamp blog; Philatelic Pursuits is still active with a post or two each month. I also have a blog dedicated to postcards that I receive through Postcrossing, trades, or traveling friends and family members. I feel that the hobbies of philately (stamps) and deltiology (postcards) compliment each other. I recently changed the name of my postcard blog (for the third time) and it is now called Postcards to Phuket.

I live in Phuket, an island province in the south of Thailand. It wasn’t long after I’d arrived here that I discovered the Phuket Philatelic Museum in the administrative capital of Phuket Town. My first visit was in the midst of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I’d already been struck at how Thai people worshiped the king as a deity and had been swept up in royal fever. Seeing the beautiful stamps issued in his honor spurred me to return to the hobby.

While never much of a museum (a few dusty displays of telegraph equipment and several frames of stamp “reproductions” at the present), the Phuket Philatelic Museum contained a large shop which was filled with Thai stamps dating back to the early 1970s (all sold for face value), first day covers for the previous year’s releases, albums and supplies in a dedicated room.

About three years ago, the shop was moved to a counter in the museum lobby to make room for Thailand’s first drive-thru post office. Many of the supplies such as albums and ornate stamp pages plus older stamps were gone but at least I could still purchase the new-release stamps and first day covers (going back a year or so) as well as the annual yearbooks. The main clerk spoke good English and was extremely helpful. She was reassigned about a year ago, replaced by a woman who speaks very little English but is quite cheerful and always let me go through the stock books.

I recently visited the Phuket Philatelic Museum for the first time in quite a while and was told that they weren’t selling stamps anymore. There were a few first day covers remaining (most of which I already had). The clerk told me she didn’t know if they would receive any stamps in the future. She seemed quite upset about it. I’m actually worried that the museum itself might close down as I believe the sales counter was the only income source. There’s a meeting room that I believe used to be used by a local stamp club but I could never get any information about meetings, etc. I’ve had ideas in the past to organize a Postcrossing meeting there amongst members who live on the island or to form my own stamp club, but I just haven’t had the time.

I am now unable to purchase any Thai stamps locally; one visit to a nearby post office left me wondering if the two clerks on duty even knew what a stamp was!) I will have to rely on mail order until I find someplace else. It’s a shame as there have been some very interesting stamps issued by Thailand recently. I am looking forward to finding out what Thailand Post has planned to mark the one-year anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death; there’s already been an extensive series of banknotes and coins announced by the Royal Thai Mint.

The whole of October leading up to His Majesty’s cremation at the end of the month will be a period of intensified mourning in Thailand. The initial period lasted from his death on October 13, 2016, to the beginning of December (his birthday) when his son formally accepted the succession and became King Rama X.

While a number of people have remained wearing black for the entire year (including all teachers such as myself), it will once again be expected in public starting (I believe) today. Since midnight last night, all Thai television stations are broadcasting in black and white only; most of my Thai friends have changed their Facebook profile and cover photos to greyscale today. The public are requested not to engage in any festivities during the month of October and many entertainment and sporting events will be canceled.  There will be many other signs of mourning and I will put together another article in the near future detailing some of those.

I plan to do my part by combining my celebration of National Stamp Collecting Month with a memorial to the late king. I’ve decided to feature only Thai stamps on A Stamp A Day during the month of October, mainly those portraying King Bhumibol. I plan to keep the commentary to a minimum so that I’ll have the time (and energy!) to write a few how-to-collect articles for Philatelic Pursuits and add a few things to Postcards to Phuket as well.

Happy Stamp Collecting Month(s)!