King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand Passes at 88
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the king of Thailand and the longest-reigning monarch on earth, recently passed away, according to spokespersons at the palace (the original article can be found HERE).
At 88 years of age, King Bhumibol had reigned over his country for seventy years as head of state, weathering all manners of turbulence, including multiple coup attempts and various political upheavals. According to the prime minister, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will step in and become the new monarch.
In a message broadcast to the public via television, Prayut Chan-ocha proclaimed that Thailand would be holding a one-year time of mourning for their beloved king’s passing, and that all entertainment for the next month should be “toned down.” He went on to say that “(King Bhumibol) is now in heaven and may be looking over Thai citizens from there.”
While the king’s health had not be fairing well lately, it was reported last Sunday by the palace that he was “not stable.” Due to the fact that the king was so widely revered across the country—and even thought of as divine by many—hundreds of mourners have since gathered outside the Bangkok hospital where he took his final breaths, grief-stricken with the news of his passing. Various images can be seen of loyal citizens openly showing the feelings of his death—a display not unlike religion.
The history of the king was pivotal, far-reaching, and deep. Thailand has long been known as a chaotic, unstable, and volatile political environment, and even though Bhumibol was well on in years at his passing, it does not mean that the succession will go smoothly. According to the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok, this will be a formidable challenge for the government.
Interestingly enough, King Bhumibol took the throne after his his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, died, although Bhumibol was born in Massachusetts, USA. He was considered a “constitutional” monarch with limited powers but many of his citizens looked to him for intervention when tensions were high. As a result of his actions and persona, he was seen as a unifying and calming influence through multiple coup attempts and twenty different constitutions.
Despite his popularity, there are many who argue that he endorsed military takeovers and even failed to speak out against human rights abuses when he could or should have.
Since his passing earlier today, King Bhumibol has passed on the title of longest-reigning, current monarch to Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, who has been on the throne for sixty-four years.
Our best wishes go out to the people of Thailand and wish them the best now and for the future. After visiting there for a month in 2014, it was easy to see how much focus was put on the king–so much so that it surprised me. If most of the people felt as strongly about him as I saw in the media, then my heart goes out to them.
Rest in Peace.