Bhumibol Adulyadej Dead or Alive? Thai king’s ill health raises succession taboo

Bhumibol Adulyadej Dead or Alive? Thai king's ill health raises succession taboo
Bhumibol Adulyadej Dead or Alive? Thai king's ill health raises succession taboo

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, was admitted to hospital on Wednesday night in Bangkok.

Thailand’s military junta has increased patrols in the country as King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s health deteriorates, it has been reported. The information came from global risk consultancy group Verisk Maplecroft, which predicted “political chaos” for Thailand if the king dies.

Hundreds of Thais have gathered outside Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, where the ruler remains in an “unstable condition”. As the world’s longest-reigning monarch, he is extremely popular among the people of Thailand, who see him as a symbol of stability.

“Increased security presence and arrest of the opposition leader indicate that the junta is preparing for any potential instability related to an announcement of the king’s death,” said Ryan Aherin, Senior Asia Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

“The succession to the throne remains a potentially destabilising issue as the crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, is unpopular with many of Thailand’s political elites due to his flamboyant behaviour that is seen as socially unacceptable.”

As the crown prince’s succession to the throne nears, the Thai government has increasingly enforced laws that prohibit discussion that is derogatory towards the country’s royal family. Prince Vajiralongkorn, who has close relations to the ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, could also be seen as a threat to the legitimacy of the military junta – which has always survived on the notion that it is acting with the king’s authorisation to maintain stability.

Analysts remain unsure whether the new king would support the military junta. This will be a strong contrast with current conditions for the junta, which saw King Adulyadej approve an article that provides them with executive and judicial power, therefore legitimizing the coup.

“It is uncertain whether the crown prince will give his official blessing to the junta once he becomes king,” said Aherin. “With elections not due until 2017, if the prince were to revoke the royal sanction of the junta, it would trigger political turmoil.”


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