If you are inclined to follow the rumours about King Bhumibol’s health then you could do worse than start with the meaty synthesis put together by Political Prisoners in Thailand. It includes all of the key sources.

In response to this style of coverage, the editorial team of The Nation has come out firing. They have suggested that “rumours on HM’s health are deplorable”. They parrot the standard rebuttals to any non-sycophantic coverage of the royal family and call on “those who began the rumours…to stop playing tricks on public sentiment”.

Instead of dismissing these rumours as “deplorable” I would suggest they are, in fact, the natural outcome of the very tricky situation that Thailand now faces. Efforts to block coverage of royal matters through the lese majeste law have only served to starve domestic and international audiences of reputable information. The resulting gaps are filled by innunedo, idle gossip, and, yes, informed speculation. Reacting to criticism of his unauthorised biography of the king, Paul Handley argued that “[t]he palace lives on gossip and rumor, at least that which benefits it.” The current wave of royal rumours are valuable fodder for those hoping to understand the country’s political future.

Investors, diplomats, journalists, academics, analysts, politicians and many others all have a professional interest in the difficult transitions that the kingdom may be facing. Strict control of official information and the threat of legal sanction have clearly failed to stop the rumour-mill.

Rumours about the king’s fragile health are as natural right now as the indignation that informs The Nation‘s commentary.