Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is crown princess of Thailand. For her tireless work promoting her country, its culture, and its people, she is much beloved in the kingdom and well known out of it.
Sirindhorn ("maha" and "chakri" are titles that mean "great") was born in Bangkok in 1955, third child of the Thai king, Bhumibol Adulyadej; her elder brother is crown prince Vajiralongkorn, and she has an older and a younger sister. One of the brightest of the four children - though her youngest sister is no slouch either - Sirindhorn placed first in the national exams which all students write on the completion of primary and of secondary school. She ranked fourth in the prestigious and difficult national university entrance exams - which allow bright students from all walks of life an equal chance to attend public university.
She attended Chulalongkorn University - the first Thai royal to attend a local university - and earned a first class honours bachelor degree in history in 1976. She then did two concurrent masters programs, one in Pali and Sanskrit at Chulalongkorn University and one in oriental epigraphy (specializing in Sanskrit and Cambodian) at Silpakorn Fine Arts University. Finally she earned a PhD in developmental education from Srinakharinwirot University. (Don't think that just because these are Thai universities and she is a princess, this was easy; these are the best insitutions of higher learning in the country, and Sirindhorn earned her degrees through brains and hard work.) She has also taken courses in computers, cartography, meteorology, survey and photogrammetry, remote sensing and geographic information systems, and nutrition.
Since she was a teenager, Sirindhorn has accompanied her father and mother on their frequent trips to all parts of Thailand as they engage in philanthropic development work. Influenced by her hard-working and much beloved father, she has developed a special interest in agricultural development and in childhood development and education.
She is an important patron of the handicapped and helps them to improve their lives and functioning, in part through the use of technology. She is a major philanthropic figure on the Thai scene, and is executive vice president of the Thai Red Cross. She is chair of the Chaipattana Foundation, which oversees her father's development and environmental preservation projects; the Ananda Mahidol Foundation, which promotes higher education; the Rama II Foundation, which promotes and conserves Thai culture; the Sai Jai Thai Foundation, which supports disabled veterans; and the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation (named after her grandfather, a doctor), which presents annual prizes to the people in the international community who have made contributions to medicine and public health. And that's just a representative sampling. In 1991 she was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service.
Sirindhorn is also a teacher. She has taught education at Chulalongkorn University and social sciences at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, where she heads the department of history. She regularly attends academic conferences and seminars in Thailand and abroad.
A solid healthy woman, Sirindhorn enjoys the outdoors, and likes to trek around the countryside meeting people and learning about physical geography. She and her father are avid sailors, and she enjoys biking and jogging. She is a prolific writer, and proceeds from her published travel accounts go to the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Foundation, providing grants to approximately 1,500 needy students each year. She is an accomplished musician on various classical Thai instruments and writes music; she is also a Thai classical dancer. A Buddhist, she is often asked to take part in religious observances, and indeed she spends much of her time representing her father at state, diplomatic, and religious ceremonies.
Sirindhorn is much beloved by the Thai people. She is seen as heir to her father in the truest sense of the term, for she is a humanitarian who constantly demonstrates by her deeds how much she cares for her country and her people. No doubt it was partly in recognition of her dedication that in 1977 the Thai constitution was amended to allow women to take the throne in the event that there is no male heir, after which she became the first Thai woman ever to hold the title of crown princess.
Sirindhorn has never married and has no children.
The Golden Jubilee Network at kanchanapisek.or.th/biography/sirindhorn/index.en.html has an amazingly long list of accomplishments, titles, and honours accorded Sirindhorn, and was my chief source of information for this write-up.