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Celebration Sunday for Thai royalty's trail from Cambridge to the throne

Posted by Brock Parker  August 12, 2010 04:07 PM

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He’s the longest reigning monarch in the world, but Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej got his start in Cambridge.

So Sunday, more than 82 years after King Bhumibol was born in what is now Mount Auburn Hospital, the King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation will unveil a new plaque near Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government commemorating the Trail of Thai Royalty in Massachusetts.

The plaque dedication at the corner of Eliot and Bennett streets at 10 a.m. will be followed by a day of celebrating Thai culture at the Longfellow House on Brattle Street in Cambridge.

“We want to educate people of the link between Thailand and Cambridge,” said Cholthanee Koerojna, president of the foundation. “It’s very unique. (King Bhumibol) is the only king in the world that was born in the United States.”

Koerojna and the foundation have traced the trail of the king and his family to 10 different locations in the state, including Cambridge, where his father, Prince Mahidol, studied medicine at Harvard University, and Brookline where the prince later lived with his wife Sangwan Talapat at 63 Longwood Avenue from 1926 to 1928.

King Bhumibol was born at Mount Auburn Hospital on Dec. 5, 1927, and his family moved back to Thailand the following year. He ascended the throne after his older brother was found shot in his bedroom at the palace in Bangkok in 1946.

Today Thailand has been entangled in political turmoil, and Koerojna said King Bhumibol has been ill for a year. He's been hospitalized in Bangkok since September, but he his health has improved recently, according to Reuters reports.

Jim Shea, manager and museum curator at the Longfellow House in Cambridge, where the king’s parents once visited, said that when the king dies it could lead to a crisis in Thailand.

“I know how much people love the king in that country,” said Shea.

Last year, Shea said journalists from Thailand visited Cambridge to mark the King’s birthday and interviewed him and other Cambridge residents about the connection between the city and Thailand.

Shea said he’s been surprised at the number of links between the king and Cambridge, including the realization that the king’s mother once lived at what is now his home at 44 Langdon Street in Cambridge.

“It’s a big deal for people in Thailand,” Shea said. “But, I think very few people in Boston realize these connections.”

Koerojna said the Trail of Thai Royalty will begin at Eliot and Bennett streets, which already has a monument commemorating the king’s birth and is formally known as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The trail will also include other locations in Cambridge, the King’s former home in Brookline, and other historic spots in Gloucester and Martha’s Vineyard.

After the plaque dedication Sunday, Longfellow House will host an afternoon of events celebrating the king’s legacy in Cambridge. Shea said 10 Buddhist monks will bless the Longfellow House, and a traditional Thai wedding (featuring a couple that is already married) will be held, along with other arts and crafts, music and a picnic.

More information about the event can be found online here.

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