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The Inventor and Development King

“Villagers have said that miracles happen wherever the King treads. Arid land becomes
fertile once again.”
To the uninitiated, it must be tempting to dismiss this approximate translation of a Thai
radio spot as worshipful hyperbole. Yet to Thais, apart from the obvious affection towards their
King, the statement contains a very real element of truth. For over half a century, His Majesty
King Bhumibol Adulyadej has applied his technical ingenuity and resources to improving the lives
of his people, in particular farmers otherwise at the mercy of nature. His inventions have helped
make droughts more bearable, water less polluted and innovation more widely appreciated.
What the Thai people have long known has again been given due recognition by the
outside world.
On 14 January 2009, Dr. Francis Gurry, Director-General of the Geneva-based World
Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) presented the WIPO Global Leaders Award to His
Majesty the King.
WIPO, a United Nations specialized agency with 184 member states, announced in
January last year that His Majesty would be the first recipient of this award – its most prestigious
recognition of outstanding contributions by world leaders to the cause of intellectual property to
promote development. In its press release, WIPO acknowledged His Majesty’s “remarkable
contribution to intellectual property both as an inventor and as an active proponent of intellectual
property as a tool for development”, also noting him as an artist who has “created over 1,000
works, including paintings, photos, musical and literary works such as songs and novels”.
Some of His Majesty’s best known projects relate to artificial rain. Rainmaking
techniques invented by His Majesty, with such memorable names as “sandwich” and “super
sandwich”, have brought welcome moisture to land parched by drought, and relief to thousands of
farmers.
The Royal Rain Project, as it is called, is one of the more than 4,000 royally initiated
development projects to date. Others include those pertaining to irrigation, farming, drought and
flood alleviation, crop substitution, public health, distance learning and employment promotion.
Another of his inventions well-known among Thais is the Chaipattana aerator. This
family of devices, building on villagers’ familiarity with water wheels, was developed as a low-
cost solution to help address water pollution in rivers, canals, swamps and marshes, in areas that
lacked an effective waste water treatment system. Examples of the major water treatment projects
which employ the Chaipattana aerator include those in Bangkok’s Makasan Lagoon, initiated by
His Majesty the King himself, and in Ayutthaya’s Bangpa-in Palace, implemented with
cooperation from the German business community. Today, the aerators are widely used to treat
water in both Bangkok and rural areas. One such aerator also stands in Woluwe Saint-Pierre Park
in Brussels.
Other royal inventions include water purification devices, a liquid-propelled engine for
small boats, as well as techniques for conversion of palm oil into palm diesel as an alternative
source of energy, and techniques to revitalize acidic soil.
In implementing many of his projects, the King, who studied science and engineering in
Switzerland before switching to law and political science to prepare for his responsibilities as a
constitutional monarch, has invented and developed along the way various tools and techniques
suited to the problems at hand and the areas concerned. A large area of the Chitralada Palace
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compound – the royal residence in the heart of Bangkok – serves as the King’s living laboratory
for research and experimentation related to his development projects.
The King’s many inventions have made him the owner of considerable intellectual
property. The Thai King is said to own over 20 patents and 19 trademarks, most of which are for
tools and techniques developed for and implemented in a range of rural development projects.
His Majesty obtained Thai patents for his rainmaking techniques in 1999 and 2003. His
“super sandwich” technique – so called because it involves seeding clouds with environment-
friendly chemical substances to produce cool and warm clouds at different altitudes – was granted
Patent #1491088 by the European Patent Office under the title “Weather Modification by Royal
Rainmaking Technology” in October 2005.
His Chaipattana aerator was earlier patented in 1993, and has since won quite a few
international awards and other forms of recognition. At the Brussels Eureka 2000, 49th World
Exhibition of Innovation, Research and New Technology in November 2000, His Majesty’s
Chaipattana low-speed surface aerator (model RX-2) won, among others, the WIPO’s Prix OMPI
Femme Inventeur Brussels Eureka 2000 Medal as a world’s outstanding invention, the Grand Prix
International Cup for ingenuity in efficient application of technology, and the Yugoslavia Cup
from the Group of Yugoslavia countries. Some of his other innovations also received prizes and
mentions at the same exhibition in 2001, namely the Bio-diesel Oil Project – Palm Oil Formula,
the New Theory Project and the Royal Rain Making Project.
The Royal Projects have continued to uplift the livelihood of Thais, particularly farmers,
in all parts of the country where agriculture remains a central part of life. Even Bangkok, which
suffers from chronic flooding and traffic congestion, have benefited from royally initiated projects
designed to alleviate the plight of urban dwellers.
The presentation of WIPO’s Global Leaders Award is important for Thais. Certainly, it
shows international recognition of the accomplishments of their beloved King. At the same time,
for a country which has more than once been taken to task for alleged intellectual property rights
violations, the fact that their King has proven to be a key advocate of such rights should help raise
the Thai public’s awareness of the importance of intellectual property rights protection. Already,
this has in part inspired the Thai Government to stress the importance of intellectual property in its
policy. Hopefully, it might even inspire our younger generations to follow in His Majesty’s
footsteps by inventing world-class technologies that would benefit their fellow man.

Tharit Charungvat
Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson and
Director-General of the Department of Information
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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