Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej celebrates the 60th anniversary of his rule. (Photo: Courtesy Royal Thai Government)

Few world leaders are as loved and respected as the 78-year-old Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej who celebrated his 60th year on the throne. One million Thais wearing yellow in honor of the king flooded Bangkok to see the monarch, who is largely a figurehead but definitely the defining symbol of the country. To mark the diamond jubilee, Thai fishermen pledged not to catch the endangered the giant Mekong catfish anymore. It sounds like North Korea except it wasn’t stage-managed and no one was hanged. Imagine this much love for Tony Blair, George Bush or Queen Elizabeth!

The party that began Friday continues this week in Bangkok where King Bhumibol receives royal visitors from 25 countries. The king is also giving out exquisite party favors to those who make it.

BBC’s slide show is evidence of Thais’ genuine adoration. The king ascended to the throne at age 18 when his brother died. Since then he has seen 17 military coups, 20 prime ministers and 15 constitutions. He rarely intervenes in the day-to-day political scuffles. He has, however, jumped into the fray when politicians get nasty and can’t seem to find a way out of an impasse.

Photo of Giant Catfish in Mekon River
Giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) caught in the Mekong River in Thailand. (Photo: Courtesy WWF)

Even in his old age, King Bhumibol tours the country’s poorest areas and initiates projects to cut poverty. The king is also a good friend of the environment. In his honor, the fishermen along the Mekong River have pledged to stop catching the giant catfish. The 294-kilogram (646 pounds) catfish caught in the same river last year was the largest freshwater fish ever recorded. These gigantic catfish have been the basis for a few Sci-Fi films.

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