THE QUEEN IS particularly revered in the more remote and traditionally minded parts of Thailand, especially in the north and south where the monarchy is regarded as semi divine. The past year, though, has not been an easy one for the queen. In December she lost her eldest grandson Khun Poom Jensen, son of Princess Ubolratana, in the tsunami that hit Thailand's southern provinces. Despite her loss, Queen Sirikit, who is a patron of the Thai Red Cross, rallied to help survivors. Her keen interest in the southern provinces has been tinged with sadness before. She lost her closest friend and lady-in-waiting Princess Viphavadee Rangsit in an air disaster in 1977, reportedly caused by terrorists. Queen Sirikit keeps a palace in Narathiwat province and has been a frequent visitor since the troubles flared last year. She has a very 'hands on' approach to all she does and closely monitors the situation in the south. Like King Bhumibol, she cares deeply for her subjects, irrespective of whether they are Buddhist or Muslim. The problems in the south prompted her recently to make an unprecedented televised appeal for an end to the hostilities.