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    Posted December 4, 2013 by
    BANGKOK, Thailand

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    By Michael Yon, Date: 12/3/2013

    December 5 is His Majesty's birthday. As an American, I was raised since birth to reject all kings. That is our upbringing and what we are taught in school, and with good reason.

    However, the King of Thailand is a rare exception. King Bhumibol and his wife have earned huge respect from other world leaders. For Thai people he is like an incredibly loved grandfather. The Royal family has done a great deal for women's education, conservation, and bringing peace, where possible, between people who in other countries would be at war.

    The King had a huge hand in replacing the scourge of opium with coffee plants, other crops, and literally flowers. This is why I often buy street flowers in Thailand -- The Royal Project gave me a tour up north, and that made me realize that much of that opium was replaced with commercial flowers, and so when I buy flowers I know it is feeding a farmer who otherwise might grow opium.

    I also buy local Thai coffee, and am partial to the Akha brand, which is raised by Akha hill tribe who used to grow opium. Akha people do not even drink coffee, but with help of the Thai government and the Royal Project, today many of them are coffee farmers. (Great coffee, too.)

    Even during this unfortunate fighting, all sides are taking a time out to honor his birthday tomorrow.

    Amazing, isn't it? People plan to take a day off of fighting and that provides moments for reflection.

    Of course, on December 6 the fighting might start again, but at least everyone will take a moment to think before going to fists and triggers.

    The King's birthday is a good moment to try an Akha coffee, and to buy some flowers.

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