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Death of Bhumibol raises questions in Thailand


10-13-2016 21:35 BJT

Full coverage: King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej Passes Away

The death of King Bhumibol will of course have far-reaching effects in Thailand. His country has gone through a lot of changes in recent years... and it remains to be seen just how his death will affect the political scene there.

King Bhumibol's death is a heavy blow. But more than that, the country is looking at an even more complicated political landscape now. Citizens and observers of the country have been holding their breath for the royal succession, one likely to be marred by political turbulence. 

Thailand has changed dramatically during the six decades of King Bhumipol's reign. He served as an effective mediator between the reactionary forces and reformers. In later years, however, perhaps due to old age and health problems, the king withdrew to the sidelines…

After the military coup in 2014, then-general and now Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha positioned himself as the protector of the crown. He associates Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn with the former democratically elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. And support for Thaksin has not died down. There is an old rivalry between the so-called red shirts, who are Thaksin supporters, and opposition yellow shirts. 

During that period, King Bhumibol was always serving his people, providing confidence to Thais that stability could be restored.

The country's recently ratified constitution also adds to succession uncertainty. It effectively allows the powerful military junta to take action in the event of the king’s death to preserve stability.

It is anyone's guess as to who ascends the throne for now. But the real crisis following King Bhumibol's death will weigh heavily on the future of the country.

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