The youngKing Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand R.I.P.

The young King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand

King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand R.I.P.

The day that most Thais have been dreading for years has arrived – the day after the King has died. King Bhumibol was a revered figure in Thailand; many regarded him as semi-devine… a spiritual leader as well as the head of state. Rather like the Dalai Lama or The Pope.

It is perhaps difficult for Westerners who don’t know Thailand to understand, but he was the leading figure for Thais for seventy years. He may not have been crowned until 1950, but he became de facto king in 1946.

Millions of Thais were born, raised their families and died while he was on the throne. Many dictators and prime ministers came and went, some causing havoc, but the king was always there. He was the one rock of stability in a rising melee of Red and Yellow Shirts, who often fought bloody battles on the streets of Bangkok.

Without him to unify the nation, without him to restore calm to the hot heads, many Thais fear for the, their future.  Today, people look shell-shocked. One woman had told me that the king would live to 120 ‘to get Thailand sorted out before he allowed himself to die’. She can’t understand why he died and left the country in such a mess.

It is a difficult time for everyone, both royalists and non-royalists. Foreigners must be particularly careful. Lese majeste is a serious crime in Thailand and anyone can accuse anyone of it. One woman was reported for wearing black on the king’s birthday! Many Westerners come from republics and their lack of sympathy, if they express it, will not go down well.

I am Welsh and am not a monarchist, but when Queen Elizabeth dies, I would not express those opinions in England. I would expect to get hit.

Well, in Thailand, the equivalent might be to get killed or imprisoned. That is how dangerous the situation is at the moment. If you can’t bring yourself to emphasize with the grieving Thai people, don’t say anything, or mutter something about him having been a good man.

I expect a new influx of Australian inmates into Thai jails over the next few weeks.

R.I.P. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand

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All the best,

Owen