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Thai King Bhumibol dies

After 70 years of reigning, Thailand’s King Bhumibol, the longest reigning active monarch, died on 13th October after a series of health issues that kept him away from public events for nearly a year. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, fought against several illnesses during the last few years, including hydrocephalus, and remained in hospital for much of last year.

Bhumibol’s reign commenced on the 9th of June 1946 after the unexpected death of his brother, King Ananda however, Bhumibol was not officially crowned until May 1950 after he’d finished his studies in Switzerland. Seven decades later, Thai people will once again have to wait for a new monarch, as King Bhumibol’s eldest son and heir apparent since 1972, Maha Vajiralongkorn, has delayed his appointment due to the state of mourning the country is currently in. 64-year-old Vajiralongkorn, however, does not enjoy the same popular support that his father did. Having spent much of his time in his residence in Munich, many people wonder whether he will manage to head the nation. In the meantime, the President of the Privy Council, Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, was appointed Regent Pro-tempore.

In the absence of Bhumibol, Bangkok lacks of a figure of authority and unification. While insults against the king or his family are punished with 15 years in jail, the deceased sovereign was highly revered by his people and the political civil leaders.

His efforts to help the poorest people in Thailand were acknowledged with the first UN Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received in 2006. Yet, Thai political instability is not new: a Military Junta seized power in 2014 severely damaging the rule of law and economic strength. Despite the pledge of holding elections in 2017, the recently implemented constitution reduces power of elected authorities.

Thailand will remain in mourning for a year, and for the time being celebrations of any kind are banned, a decision which may have serious economic implications for the country. Tourism is likely to be affected too, as entertainment services may have limited operating hours. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office encourages potential travellers to respect the country’s mourning and keep track of local media.

Following King’s passing, Thai People expressed their condolences at the front of the Grand Palace. On 19th October Prince Vajiralongkorn chaired the Merit Making ceremony, to honour the King after seven days of his death. Further ceremonies are scheduled 50 and 100 days after, according to newspaper the  Bangkok Post which displays a black and white website to mark their mourning.

30/10/2016

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