What we know so far:
- The world’s longest serving monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, died yesterday afternoon at the age of 88.
- Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared a one-year period of mourning, with the public urged to wear mourning clothes over that time, and flags will be flown at half-mast for 30 days.
- The King had nominated his only son, Vajiralongkorn as his heir-apparent. The Crown Prince has confirmed he will perform his duty as heir to the throne, however no successor has been officially announced.
- The Prime Minister says the crown prince has asked for delay in proclaiming him king so he can mourn with rest of the nation.
- Whoever becomes Thailand’s next monarch will inherit a fortune estimated to be worth between $30 and $40 billion, and regarded as the wealthiest royal budget in the world.
Goodnight… but not goodbye
And on that important note about the fate of snails in Thailand, we are drawing a slimy line in the sand, and calling it a day — after more than 12 hours of almost non-stop live blogging.
Thanks so much for following. If we got something wrong or missed something drop us a note in the comments.
We will be back in coming days with more news, views and discussion on what is truly a momentous occasion in modern Thailand.
In the meantime enjoy this song from Thai-owned Reading FC — affectionately AND appropriately known as ‘The Royals’.
Snail mail; huge news if true!
Not much going on in Thailand today, we guess.
Muangthong United crowned
Continuing our football theme, some terrible news for fans of Thailand’s Army United, Chainat, and BBCU after the Thailand Football Association announced that all football will be cancelled immediately, Football Channel Asia reports. As a result of the cancellation the Thai Premier League table as it currently stands is the end result.
That’s good news for Muangthong United, who are now champions. The upcoming League Cup final between Muangthong United and Buriram United will be decided by a lottery draw, which is probably every bit as stressful as the dreaded penalty shootout.
A coffin instead of a golden urn
There’s a really interesting snippet of reporting in this Reuters report on the royal convoy that carried King Bhumibol’s body from the hospital to the palace and past grieving subjects today; it points to a break for the past when it comes to the king’s funeral.
According to tradition, the bodies of Thai royals are placed in a golden urn. But palace officials said the tradition was no longer upheld and the king’s body would be placed in a coffin with a symbolic royal urn near it.
Read the full article here: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-king-idUSKCN12D32J
A little premature on Prem?
Over on Facebook the tireless Andrew MacGregor Marshall has more breaking news, which raises more questions about Prem and his role as regent — or not.
Could this point to moves to have Vajiralongkorn take up the throne sooner rather than later? Or is it more to do with not being able to have difficult conversations — even when it is more difficult when you choose not to have them.
Read Khaosod’s explanation here.
The Pontiff’s pigeon
Earlier we reported on the possible use of a telegram as means of delivering a condolence note from Russian President Vladimir Putin. STOP. Well, we’ve had another sighting of this lesser-spotted communication method. STOP. Zenit reports that Pope Francis has sent a telegram of his own, possibly by attaching it to a carrier pigeon carrying a fax machine. STOP. Their translation reads:
His Excellency Prayut Chan-ocha
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and I extend my heartfelt condolences to the Members of the Royal Family and to all the people of the Kingdom at this sorrowful time. I pray that, as a fitting tribute to the late King’s legacy of wisdom, strength and fidelity, all Thais may work together to further the path of peace, and I willingly invoke upon all who mourn his passing the consolation of divine blessings.
BBC correspondent Jonathan Head tweeted this a few hours ago.
Incredibly moving watching sobbing crowd quietly singing the king’s’ anthem as they say goodbye to King Bhumibol
— Jonathan Head (@pakhead) October 14, 2016
There is no doubt that there is genuine grief on the streets of Bangkok and beyond today.
See this video of a young Thai woman and listen to what she has to say about her recently departed king.
“He is like a father. I must say, he really is a father.”
Star-spotting in Thailand
Luther actor and James Bond candidate Idris Elba is currently in Thailand, training with a local kickboxer as part of an upcoming documentary series. He tweeted this tribute.
Do our readers know of any other visiting Western celebrities whose social media posts we can look forward to?
Handley and MacGregor Marshall on the Crown Prince
NPR has put up this audio story about the Crown Prince which features snippets of interviews with Paul Handley and Andrew MacGregor Marshall.
Sin City sadness
Las Vegas isn’t the first place you’d think would be in mourning for the King, but even in Sin City people are paying their respects. 3 News Las Vegas reports that the local Thai community are in shock after learning of the news and “many members arrived at the Thai Buddhist Temple…holding back tears.”
In tenuously-related news, Muhammad Cohen on Forbes reports that with the King gone it could open the door to casino legalisation in Thailand. Thailand is one of only three ASEAN countries without legal casinos – the other two are Indonesia and Brunei:
“Laos and Cambodia have casinos along their borders that rely on Thailand’s 65 million people to come play. In addition, experts estimate half of Thai adults gamble illicitly, betting hundreds of millions of dollars at illegal casinos inside Thailand or through the underground lottery.”
Heaven knows I’m miserable now
Bad news for lovers of mournful but sharply-written indie pop, as well as lovers of daffodils (or is it gladioli?): former Smiths frontman Morrissey’s planned Thailand concert has been cancelled, SBS reports. The concert, scheduled for Tuesday, was a sell out, but promoters will refund the cost of tickets to fans.
The Foxes pay tribute
A quick update on our earlier post about Leicester City football club. BBC Leicester Sport on Twitter reports that the club’s players and staff held a minute’s silence this morning to pay their respect to the King. The players will wear black armbands for tomorrow’s game against Chelsea. A statement from the club reads:
Leicester City Football Club extends its heartfelt condolences to the Thai people at this sad and difficult time.
A hit to tourism
The Wall Street Journal has highlighted that the long mourning period could take a significant toll on Thailand’s already-struggling economy. We’ve previously mentioned the possible effects of the mourning period on Thailand’s automotive industry, but it could also have a significant impact on the country’s tourism industry which accounts for around 10 per cent of the economy. The report quotes Paul Chambers from Chiang Mai University saying some tourists might be put off coming to the country:
“The instability brought by his death will definitely diminish tourism,” he said.
MUST READ | For more analysis of the state of Thai tourism see David Beirman’s articles at Policy Forum.
Dimmed red lights and black dolls
The news of King Bhumibol’s death has even had an impacted on the world’s supposedly oldest profession, with Bangkok’s notorious red light district Nana Plaza — some three storeys and possibly the world’s largest sex complex — announcing it will shut down as it as it pays “respect and mourn the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great.”
Nana Plaza remains closed as we pay respect and mourn the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great. pic.twitter.com/bzaGXbpVrO
— Nana Plaza (@NanaPlazasoi4) October 14, 2016
Meanwhile, photos are emerging showing that even mannequins are grieving the loss of their revered king and father of the nation, by wearing black.
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) October 14, 2016
It’s probably better than wearing almost nothing at all.
Things are heating up for a fleeting look at royalty
The ever-excellent Jerome Taylor from AFP has this recent observation via Twitter:
Our reporting team have seen multiple Thais pass out from heat exhaustion while waiting for king’s body to pass. Many been waiting hours
— Jerome Taylor (@JeromeTaylor) October 14, 2016
Follow Jerome on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JeromeTaylor
King Bhumibol was the first non-British monarch to make an official tour of Australia, touching down in Canberra on August 26, 1962, accompanied by his wife, Queen Sirikit.
The Canberra Times reported that 5,000 people gathered to greet the royal couple at Fairbairn RAAF airbase, with another 7,000 lining the route to Government House. In news that will come as no surprise to any Canberran, the wintry weather put a damper on proceedings; “blustery winds and low temperatures” forced the couple to travel the route in a closed car, rather than the planned open Rolls Royce.
Read a recent ABC news story about the royal tour here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-14/king-bhumibol-and-queen-sirikit-of-thailand-in-australia/7932272)
A picture perfect life?
Sticking with our recent visual theme, here’s a photo of a young Bhumibol (left) with his brother Ananda Mahidol.
For more pictures of King Bhumibol’s life see this BBC photo essay.
If you’re in Thailand and wondering why your Facebook feed is full of people who are your friends (or at least your Facebook friends) instead of having to wade through targeted ads, it’s because Facebook has ‘turned off delivery of all ads’ to the country. Lucky Thailand.
A statement on Facebook’s business page reads:
On October 13, we turned off all delivery of ads to the country of Thailand. Thailand is in a period of mourning due to the death of the King and removal of ads is a cultural custom. We don’t yet know the duration of the mourning period. We’ll keep you posted of any additional details as they become available.
Up close and personal with POTUS
Speaking of Obama in Thailand, remember this?
We wonder what former Thailand PM Yingluck Shinawatra would have to say about Obama’s time in Myanmar?
Democracy sealed with a kiss. Now, where’s Prayuth?
Obama pays tribute
US President Barack Obama has paid tribute to the late King, recalling a visit in 2012:
I had the honour of calling on His Majesty the King during my visit to Thailand in 2012, and recall his grace and warmth, as well as his deep affection and compassion for the Thai people.
With a creative spirit and a drive for innovation, he pioneered new technologies that have rightfully received worldwide acclaim.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her former president husband Bill Clinton have also expressed their condolences, saying the King was:
…a true servant leader, acting with wisdom, strength, humility, and genuine care for the welfare of all people. Our world needs more leaders like him today.
Still no word from Donald Trump on that heartfelt poem.
Foxes pay respect to King in the lion’s den?
Earlier this year, Leicester FC, the foxes, surprised the world by wining the 2015/16 Premier League.
It was a remarkable story — particularly since the season before they were on the verge of relegation.
The club are owned by Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, founder, owner and chairman of King Power Duty Free. Some credited their improbable success last season to good karma and Thai buddhist monks.
This week Leicester meet Chelsea FC — owned by Russian oligarch Roman Ambramovich and marked by their distinctive rearing lion crest. Will these members of the modern global aristocracy pay their respects to Bhumibol?
And in more football news, another club with close connections to Thailand are Reading FC, who play in The Championship, the second tier of English football. They’re owned by the consortium of Sasima Srivikorn, Sumrith Thanakarnjanasuth and Narin Niruttinanon.
This weekend the Royals take on Queens Park Rangers, a club owned by Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes. Whoever takes the points, it’ll be Southeast Asia FTW.
Today’s funeral rites
CNN has filed an informative report looking at what Bangkok should expect from today’s funeral procession. CNN journos Karla Cripps and Joshua Berlinger write that the King’s body will leave Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital for the Grand Palace where the funeral rites will be carried out. The procession will be lead by Somdej Phra Wannarat who will be followed by the Crown Prince.
Once the body arrives it will undergo a funeral bathing ceremony. The report also notes that Thais have lined up for the opportunity to pour water on a portrait of the King in the palace grounds, as a way to simulate the symbolic royal bathing of the King’s body.
Read the piece here: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/10/14/asia/thailand-king-bhumibol-adulyadej-death/
Japan’s businesses watch and wait
The Japan Times reports that Japanese companies operating in Thailand are assessing the impact of the King’s death. Thailand is home to a lot of Japanese car manufacturing — producing 1.91 million units in 2015.
The report says Toyota is planning to continue operating plants this week, but has yet to decide what to do from next week. Honda says it will decide its response based on the policies of the Thai Royal family and government. The Japan Times write that an official at a major automaker said marketing activities would have to be scaled back for up to a year.
A video of a royal funeral
What can we expect from King Bhumibol’s funeral?
This footage of the 2012 cremation of his cousin, Princess Bejaratana, gives you some idea of the pomp and ceremony when it comes to commemorating members of the royal family.
The princess died in July 2011 and laid in state until her burial in April 2012.
As the BBC reported at the time “her remains were transported in a large golden urn atop a gilded teak chariot pulled by more than 200 men in one of three processions.”
There will be no extravagance spared for Bhumibol.
Duterte stays on message
Even firebrand President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who has previously insulted everyone from Obama to the Pope, has maintained a respectful tone in offering his condolences.
“We are well aware that King Bhumibol was well-loved and held in utmost respect and veneration by the Thai people and by those whose lives he had touched during his lifetime. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and all those he left behind,” said Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
Now all we need is Donald Trump to write a heartfelt poem.
Australians and ambassadorial salvation
While only remotely related to all things royal, in that as plebs we are not, Australians head overseas in their millions each year — many to Southeast Asia and Thailand.
Here’s Nicholas Farrelly’s 2014 look through the lens of ‘reality’ TV at some of the trouble these traellers find themselves in and how the Australian Embassy comes to their rescue
If only there was some kind of advice for tourists…
Advice for tourists
The BBC has published a handy guide for tourists who have found themselves in Thailand on day 1 of 365 days of mourning. It includes a suggestion from the UK foreign office to wear “sombre and respectful” clothing, advice from Australia’s foreign ministry to “refrain from any behaviour that may be interpreted as festive”, and above all a reminder avoid any “declarations or discussions critical of the royal family”. I can’t imagine why…7 pm
Stuck in the middle with who?
Thailand’s soon to be king, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, could soon find himself stuck between two of the most polarising figures in contemporary Thai politics — current PM and junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, and former PM and divisive populist Thaksin Shinawatra.
According to some analysts Vajiralongkorn cut a deal when Thaksin was PM to step down as king when he took the throne, making way for a republic.
But as Llwellyn McCann has pointed out here on New Mandala, it would seem that Prayuth’s military government has made an agreement with the Crown Prince that would put paid to any republican hopes.
It bears watching as to which way the Crown Prince leans — what if it could mean a return for the self-exiled Thaksin.
Thai shares rebound
After days of losses and an initial slump upon word of King Bhumibol’s death, Thai stocks have rebounded over the course of the day. Thailand’s SET has jumped 4.1 per cent, and other Asian indexes have also risen, as the Indian Express reports.6.40 pm
Not Rama X…yet
Khasod reports that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn will take the role of monarch when he was ready, and after mourning his father. This confirms General Prem Tinsulanonda, head of the Privy Council as regent.Reports Khasod:
Some succession law experts have expressed puzzlement at the news and warned the situation could prove legally problematic.
Thammasat University law processor Kittisak Prokati said interim parliament chairman Pornpetch was clearly required by Section 23 of the constitution to invite Vajiralongkorn, yet he did not do so Thursday night.
It’s not just legally problematic; it’s politically complicated. What do readers think; is Prem making a move? Or will Vajiralongkorn be crowned soon?
A Kings speaks, the nation listens?
In his twilight years King Bhumibol made fewer and fewer public appearances and speeches.
Here’s a 2013 New Mandala article by Joe Whitman looking at the King’s birthday speech at the height of ongoing political tension and conflict.
As the author notes:
The Bangkok elite have cultivated their positions in society by closely aligning themselves with the king. However, for the king, his time may sadly be running out. This means that the rich upper-class Bangkokians who have built careers through connections to the monarchy, the select families who have built their fortunes on favours and friendly deals, those whose position as ‘elites’ in society is determined by their proximity to friends of the monarchy, and the few families who have for generations had the rare privilege of high education and culture, they fear that their time at the top is also running out.
We will watch with interest to see just how prescient these observations will be.
King Bhumibol was only 19 when his older brother King Ananda Mahidol was found shot in the head in 1946. Here he speaks with David Lomax on BBC’s Soul of a Nation about that fateful day.
More all-star musical talent
Earlier we put out a call on social media for world leaders with musical talent (in the loosest use of the term) who could join our imaginary all-star band, put together as a tribute to the King’s undoubted saxophone skills. Thanks to@owlie63 on Twitter who quite rightly mentioned Bill Clinton’s saxophone prowess.
Big thanks also to Edith Mirante who made two great suggestions: former Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi – a man not above demonstrating his love for Elvis by bursting into song mid-interview – and former Czech President Vaclav Havel who was pretty much as rock and roll as they come.
According to Louder Than War Havel asked Frank Zappa to be Czech Minister of Culture, was a fan of the Velvet Underground and a friend of Lou Reed, and while on a trip to New York as president he took the opportunity to go to CBGBS. Quite a line up we’re building here. Any other suggestions? Can we find another guitarist to replace Boris?
And we’re back!
A quick break to catch our breath…
And resolve some server issues.
We should be back soon!
Meanwhile, this video from the New Mandala series, ‘Nation, Religion, King’ should be of high interest:
A remarkable and contentious reign.
In case you missed it, here’s New Mandala co-founder Nicholas Farrelly’s comprehensive look at the life and legacy of King Bhumibol published earlier today.
This video from Thairath shows the route that King Bhumibol’s body will take from the hospital to the palace. His body is expected to leave the hospital at 3pm, Bangkok time.
4.15 pmSpeaking of the succession
The whole world is talking about the death of King Bhumibol and Thailand’s succession — except Thailand. In this New Mandala article Christine Gray examines the he long-term legacies and paralysing effects of Thailand’s harsh lese majeste laws, particularly as one reign ends and another begins.
More global tributes
World leaders have been quick to pay tribute to pay tribute to the King. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said “the world has lost a leader who was close to the people, a carrier of peace and unity and prosperity for the people of Thailand.” New Zealand PM John Key said the King “presided over a period of transformative growth and development that saw Thailand emerge as a regional leader.” Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull said that the King was a “major figure in modern Asian history. Under his reign, Thailand’s population grew from just under 20 million to over 67 million and of course the strides in economic and social development have been enormous.” South Korean President Park Guen-hye said the King was the “father of Thailand and its spiritual pillar”. The UN General Assembly held a minute’s silence in tribute, and outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon paid tribute to the King.There’s a video of that here: https://youtu.be/Gt8G0nU0QFs
All this talk of the King’s saxophone prowess got us thinking about other world leaders with musical talent. Could you put an all-stars band together from them? We can think of Richard Nixon on piano, Bill Clinton also on saxophone, former British Prime Minister Edward Heath could conduct (although we’re not sure that strictly counts as playing an instrument), and Boris Johnson might be available to play guitar (although complex songs might have to wait until he learns how a capo works). Any New Mandala readers have any other suggestions?3.20 pm
We mentioned earlier that King Bhumibol was an accomplished musician and composer. Here is his very first composition, Candlelight Blues, with lyrics by Associate Professor Sodsai Pantoomkomol.
And here’s him absolutely shredding it (is that the technical term for jazz saxophone mastery?) in 1988.
For a reign spanning 70 years, the King understandably picked up more than a few honours and designations in his time. The name Bhumibol Adulyadej means ‘Strength of the Land’ and ‘incomparable power’. The King was also enjoyed the dynastic name of Rama IX, which comes from being the ninth sovereign of the Chakri dynasty.
End of a postcard tradition?
If you wanted any more evidence of King Bhumibol’s affection for dogs, look no further than the series of New Year post-cards he sent to his subjects each December from 2005 onwards. Blogger and resident of Thailand, Richard Barrow, has maintained a collection on his site. I wonder what the 2016 postcard from the Royal family will be?
Half-mast, half a world away
Thailand is not the only country to fly its flags at half-mast in the wake of King Bhumibol’s death. The United Kingdom has declared all government buildings will fly the Union flag at half-mast, and it appears New Zealand has followed suit. I wonder how long it will be until we see the King’s face projected on the Sydney Opera House and Facebook offering a Thai flag filter?
A weak and characterless monarch?
Earlier in the day we published an article on King Bhumibol’s legacy.
Here’s another interesting, albeit more scathing perspective from Giles Ji Ungpakorn: https://uglytruththailand.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/king-pumipon-of-thailand/
“King Pumipon of Thailand was a weak and characterless monarch who spent his useless and privileged life in a bubble, surrounded by fawning, grovelling, toadies who claimed that he was a “god””
A life in tune
Bloomberg has put up a great photo gallery of images from the King’s life. Pick among them has to be a superb shot from 1961 of the King tooting on a saxophone while wearing a very sharp suit. He was, by accounts, a pretty good musician and in his younger days played with jazz legends like Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Stan Getz and Lion Hampton. He also composed his own music. Today Online has a great piece looking at the King’s musical talent that’s well worth a read:
“After ascending the throne, he formed a band to play with him at the palace and even set up a new public radio station which aired the live performances of his 14-member band each Friday. As recent as 10 years ago (2006), it was reported that the King still jammed with his band – although the location moved from Bangkok to the summer palace in Hua Hin.”
Read more: http://www.todayonline.com/world/asia/thailands-bhumibol-adulyadej-king-sax-snapshots-and-sailing
The day ‘Phumiphon Aduldet’ became King
70 years ago, AP newsman Alec MacDonald was in Bangkok the day after 20-year old King Ananda Mahidol died, making his younger brother ‘Phumiphon Aduldet’ King of Thailand. AP has reproduced the story Alex MacDonald filed from that day as originally published.
Blaxland on what’s next for Thailand
Remember that ABC666 interview with Dr John Blaxland we mentioned? They’ve put it online and it’s well worth a listen. In it, Blaxland chats to Breakfast Show presenter Philip Clark about what comes next for Thailand, and what it will be like for Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. Once again, the British monarchy make an appearance (not literally, sadly, although that would make for great radio):
There are parallels there with Prince Charles, living in the shadow of a long-reigning monarch is very difficult at the best of times. And it’s difficult for anybody to follow a great monarch.
Listen to the interview here: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/canberra/programs/breakfast/thai-king-dies-overnight/7931806
More on the game of thrones
While Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has been lined up as successor to the throne since 1972, there are many who would much prefer his older sister Princess Maha Sirindhorn to take the reins.
The International Business Times reports that Thailand’s ‘Princess Angel has closer ties with the current leader of the military junta than Vajiralongkorn does, however replacing him on the throne would be fraught with risk.’
As Senior Asia Analyst Ryan Aherin explains: “The King has already named Prince Vijralongkorn as his heir – meaning that any attempt to replace him with his sister could be interpreted as a violation of the King’s will.”
We’ve always been a fan of Andrew MacGregor Marshall and his work, but this is peak AMM, with more ‘BREAKING!’s than a bull in a China shop. Asian Correspondent credit him with being the first journalist to tell the world the news of King Bhumibol’s death. Surely it doesn’t get any better than this.
“If possible, wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public. Check local media regularly and follow the advice of the local authorities.”
The Shinawatras and the King
Both Thaksin and Yingluck have updated their social media to mourn the passing of King Bhumibol.
The sibling ex-Prime Ministers of Thailand were both ousted from power by the military, under accusations of abusing their power. Thaksin, the self-proclaimed “longest serving democratically elected Prime Minister of Thailand” is in self-imposed exile and who faces a two-year prison sentence if he returns.
Thaksin is said to be on friendly terms with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. The succession of Vajiralongkorn no doubt poses substantial concern to the military for this very reason, among others.
A booze ban, and appropriate undergarments
Thailand is considering implementing a booze ban out of respect for the King’s passing, placing the party plans of Australian tourists in jeopardy, The New Daily reports. Though perhaps that’s not such a bad thing, considering the recent uproar over the Budgie Nine in Malaysia? Meanwhile Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has urged Australians in the country to “dress and behave appropriately” at this time. So probably best to avoid this kind of undergarment.
Watch out for Les
ANU academic and occasional New Mandala contributor John Blaxland is out and about doing interviews today, and earlier spoke on Canberra’s ABC 666 radio. Afterwards, he got some excellent advice from ABC journo Linda Mottram.
Google goes dark
The Google Thailand homepage has gone black and white out of respect for King Bhumipol. In hover-text, the internet giant says: “Our deepest condolences for the loss of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.”
Here’s a must read 2016 article from Patrick Jory on Thailand and Internet censorship — something we know a bit about here at New Mandala.
The New York Post are running this piece on Vajiralongkorn that surely is a contender for headline of the year.
And as Lee Jones notes in this New Mandala article hot off the press, when it comes to reporting on Bhumibol’s regin the “media are long on cliché and short on analysis.” It will be interesting to see how the media portray and report on his son and successor.
Singing for their sick King
Andrew MacGregor Marshall posted this video of staff at Bamrungrad Hospital singing the royal anthem yesterday. It’s a rousing rendition.
Thais in mourning
Last night crowds gathered outside Siriraj Hospital to pay their respects to the King, and roads have been closed around the Grand Palace. Around the world, Thai communities are also gathering to mourn their beloved King together. Here are some photos and video from Twitter.
Bang goes the Game of Thrones conspiracy theory
Given poor public opinion on Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, there have been many rumours circulating that Princess Maha Sirindhorn is the preferred figure for succession. However, analysis from expert Giles Ji Ungpakorn suggests that interfering with the succession would be self-defeating for the Thai elite. As the author writes:
They are united in seeing Wachiralongkorn as the next king and if they deviated from this path, for example by placing Princess Sirintorn on the throne instead, they would immediately destroy all the “reinvented tradition” about the sacred monarchy. If an unsuitable member of the royal family can be discarded, why not just have an elected president?
What’s in a name?
Starts at 60 take a look at the life of the King with some interesting snippets about his earliest days. They report that King Bhumibol Adulyajeh’s name was chosen by his uncle King Rama VII and means ‘strength of the land, incomparable power’. The King was born in Massachusetts in the United States and his US birth certificate simply reads ‘Baby Songkla’.
Who is in charge?
According to royalcentral.co.uk, Thailand’s constitution states that “In the case where the King does not appoint the Regent under Section 16… the President of the Privy Council shall be Regent pro tempore.” This makes current head of the Privy Council, 96-year old General Prem Tinsulanonda, regent of Thailand, at least for the time being.
How long that remains the case is the million dollar question. See our update at 10.22 am for more on this.
Speaking of quotes here’s some words about Vajiranlongkorn from former PM Thaksin Shinawatra in 2009:
He’s not the King yet. He may not be shining [now]…But after he becomes the King I’m confident he can be shining … it’s not his time yet. But when the time comes I think he will be able to perform.
Read more at this New Mandala post from 2009.
Pakistan pays tribute
Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has paid tribute to the King and fondly remembered an important Royal visit:
The state visit of His Majesty King Bhumibol and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit to Pakistan in 1962 is still cherished as most important milestone in Pakistan-Thailand relations.
He also paid tribute to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn:
The people and the Government of Pakistan remain indebted to His Majesty’s generous support to the affected people of 2005 devastating earthquake in Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The relief goods were personally brought to Pakistan, as a very special gesture, by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Read more on this at Business Recorder.
A new longest-serving monarch
More on that ‘battle royale’ over the longest-serving Monarchs. As we mentioned earlier, King Bhumibol’s death means that Queen Elizabeth II is now the world’s longest-serving monarch, with 64 years on the throne. In comparison, Bhumibol served as King for 70 years. The BBC rounds up the world’s longest reigning living monarchs, but we wanted to know have many people in history beaten Bhumibol’s record? According to the New York Times, the top verifiable spot goes to King Sobhuza II of Swaziland, who reigned from the age of just 1 until his death at age 82.
Do people still send telegrams? Has any reader ever received one? According to seattlepi.com Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences in a telegram that said the King won “sincere love of his people and high respect abroad.” What next? Pigeons? Although in the next paragraph they describe it as a ‘letter’, so who knows?
Hold the front page
Some beautiful work by the Thai media today with coverage of the King’s death on the newspaper front pages. As AFP reports, many of them have ditched colour for monochrome and grey. This lovely front page from the Bangkok Post is arguably the pick of the bunch, but you can see them all here: http://www.thepaperboy.com/thailand/front-pages.cfm
11. 35 am
The King and his dog
King Bhumibol was known for his compassion to stray dogs and cats, and adopted many during his time, including his beloved pet-dog Thongdaeng. Thongdaeng became an Internet sensation after King Bhumibol wrote a heartfelt book about her in 2002. She came back in the spotlight last year when a man was arrested for insulting her a few days after her death.
Essential New Mandala read: ‘Dog v dog: Theatrics of the Thai interregnum‘.
Where to now for Lese Majeste?
Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code says that anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be punished with up to 15 years in prison. But under the controversy-prone Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, these draconian laws will only look more absurd, The Economist writes.
At least you have the Internet
Hope that show you were watching didn’t end this week’s episode on a huge cliffhanger, because for the next month Thai TV networks will be showing only “a pre-prepared rolling state media program” AFP reports on Yahoo News. It isn’t just domestic channels that are affected, international news networks like the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera were also replaced with the same programming.
Thai markets slump
Marketwatch.com reports that markets have suffered a downswing after reports of King Bhumibol’s death, with the Thai baht sliding more than 2 per cent against the dollar. More losses are expected throughout the day.
A Playboy Prince
Who is Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn? From his multiple divorces, to a leaked video of a raunchy birthday party, to that time he promoted his poodle Foo Foo to the rank of Air Chief Marshal, The Guardian brings you up to speed on the controversies surrounding Thailand’s heir-apparent.
And readers may be interested in David Camroux’s excellent New Mandala article on the comparison’s between the Crown Prince and the second and final president of North Vietnam, Ton Duc Thang.
K Rudd has his say
Not to be left out of the trickle of global tributes, former Australia PM and wanna be UN head Kevin Rudd has joined in:
Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has expressed his condolences on twitter, describing King Bhumibol as a “great and wise” ruler
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) October 13, 2016
Australian government expresses condolences
Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has released a statement on the death of King Bhumibol, expressing his condolences and warmly recalling the deep friendship between the King and Australia.
— Charles Croucher (@ccroucher9) October 13, 2016
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Boris and Thailand
We have just wasted far too much time trying to ascertain whether British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson – who paid his own tribute to the King overnight – has ever said anything that may have insulted Thailand. If not, it would be a surprise, as there are few places around the globe which haven’t had been on the receiving end of some of his colourful language. Here’s a CNN map on ‘how Boris Johnson insulted your country’. Looks like Southeast Asia has been largely untouched. Any readers know any different?
But getting back to the task at hand, here’s what Boris had to say about the passing of the King:
“I am greatly saddened to hear of the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He was greatly respected at home and around the globe for his wisdom and dedication. I offer the people of Thailand and the Royal family my profound sympathy at this sad time.”
10. 50 am
British Royal succession
The Herald Scotland takes an unusual angle, highlighting that following the death of the King, Queen Elizabeth now takes the mantle of the world’s longest-reigning living monarch. But it also notes that the Queen is “unlikely to acknowledge such a record, particularly as the Thai people are grieving for their revered head of state.”
Read Matthew Phillips excellent New Mandala article on the British and Thai monarchies, and the challenges they face in the digital age.
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Lost in translation
The Straits Times reports that the Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore has announced that there would be events dedicated to the remembrance of the King. You’re going to need to read Thai for this one though, as Facebook’s ‘translate this post’ isn’t going to help you out, unless the event really does involve ‘miserable pizza’.
10. 40 am
We are just gonna leave this here:
Srirasmi: divorced and humiliated.
Foo Foo: dead.
Vajiralongkorn: Thailand’s next king? pic.twitter.com/XMTyCi5igG
— Andrew MacG Marshall (@zenjournalist) February 4, 2015
Air Chief Marshal Foo Foo for dinner
The Guardian writes that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn once promoted his pet poodle Foo foo to the rank of Air Chief Marshal of the Royal Thai Airforce? According to a confidential cable exposed by Wikileaks, US ambassador Ralph Boyce once hosted a gala dinner at which the Crown Prince was guest of honour.
Boyce wrote that “Foo Foo was present at the event, dressed in formal evening attire complete with paw mitts”.
Of course, you can read more about that in our archives.
Singapore hits Facebook
The Straits Times reports that key figures from Singapore have paid tribute to the King via posts on Facebook. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took to the social media site overnight to praise a man who “dedicated himself wholly to his country and to improving his people’s lives.” He also shared a photo from his meeting with the King in 2009 during the ASEAN summit in Hua Hin.
Meanwhile acting Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean wrote on Facebook that the King was a “wise and much loved monarch who did much for the people of Thailand” and “contributed to strengthening the good relations between Thailand and Singapore.” Senior Minister for State Josephine Teo – also on Facebook – said the King would be remembered for “his great contributions to the Thai Kingdom, and his enduring friendship between Thailand and Singapore.”
India Today reports that Indian Congress President Sonia Gandhi has said that India has lost a good friend with the passing of the King and described him as a “unifying figure” who had faced many challenges, but served his people with great commitment and honesty.
The speculation begins…
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has indicated that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn has decided not to be crowned King until a period of appropriate mourning with the public has passed.
Perhaps this is to improve Vajiralongkorn’s image as someone with appropriate decorum and stature to be at the apex of the Thai political system. Is this Vajiralongkorn’s own doing, or is it something that he has been advised to do?
For the time being, the Regent and chair of the Privy Council Prem Tinsulanonda, aged 96, assumes the responsibilities of the monarch, and is protected under Thailand’s draconian lese majeste laws.
It has been suggested that an appropriate period of mourning may be a month. This means Prem would wield considerable power for that long over the monarchy, and the Crown Property Bureau.
Prem Tinsulanonda reportedly has had a difficult relationship with Vajiralongkorn. For an elderly conservative Thai noble, Vajiralongkorn must present quite a challenge to one’s identity.
Prime Minister Prayuth has worked hard to insure a smooth transition, and Prem is not an adversary. But what influence he really has over these refined elites who have long clasped at power, as a relatively rough around the edges military man, remains to be seen.
Indeed, it is difficult to know what is happening behind the scenes. But their power plays and our speculation have surely only just begun! What do New Mandala readers think? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
What next for lese-majeste?
What does the King’s death mean for Thailand’s harsh lese-majeste law? A Reuters piece on the Australian Financial Review highlights that “King Bhumibol himself said in a 2005 speech that he was open to criticism and those jailed for offending him should be released…” but also points out that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is “a staunch royalist and under his government there has been a surge in prosecutions and tougher sentences for lese-majeste.”
The life of the people’s king
From the controversial death of his brother King Ananda Mahidol in 1946, to meeting Elvis, and his love of jazz. Straits Times Indochina Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh has penned this piece on the life of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Well worth a read to bring you up to speed on why the King is so revered in the country.
Europe pays tribute
Tributes to the King continue to pour in from around the world. From the European Union Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission have put out a statement about a “well-loved and revered King” and praised his “rural development projects [which] improved the lives of millions in Thailand.”
They added he will be fondly remembered in Europe for “his outstanding commitment to the promotion of sustainable development.”
On Thursday 13 October Thailand’s long-ruling King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away. He was 88 and had ruled the Southeast Asian nation for 70 years — the world’s elongest reign for a modern monarch.
As many Thais gathered mourn his loss the world watches on — wondering what it all means. In this rolling coverage New Mandala scours the globe for news and views on the succession and what might come next, as well as offering its unique voice and insight into Thai royal politics.