Thursday, October 13, 2016

Death of a Buddhist King: Thailand

Spontaneous outbursts of emotion, rare in Asia, have been few and far between as the beloved king's death was expected. There was a vigil in effect for the hospitalized 88-year-old (

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (left) with family
This (Theravada) Buddhist king was the world's longest reigning monarch. He was beloved by his people, staying out of politics and war as much as possible. Meanwhile, military coups, business alignments and scandals were brought on by prime ministers and junta generals, which sought his blessing to soothe the people. The law against any kind of criticism of his majesty made him immune to public ridicule. Even an implicit jab or unflattering Facebook post could get one years in prison. Here's the story from the former empire's propaganda arm, the BBC.

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, has died after 70 years as head of state.
The 88-year-old king was widely revered but had been in poor health in recent years, making few public appearances.
He was seen as a stabilizing figure in a country hit by cycles of political turmoil and multiple coups.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will be the new monarch, the prime minister has said.
The announcement
The royal Buddhist family tree of Thailand with King Bhumibol on second row (BBC)

After two days of speculation and rumors surrounding the king's deteriorating health, the palace announcement confirming his death finally came early on Thursday evening.

"His majesty has passed away at Siriraj Hospital peacefully," a statement said, adding he had died at 15:52 (08:52 GMT).

In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said Thailand would hold a one-year mourning period, that flags would fly half-mast and all entertainment functions must be "toned down" for a month.
In a later statement he urged vigilance, saying national security was a top priority.
"Everyone will need to be alert in every region and throughout the country to ensure safety," he said.

The king's death comes as Thailand remains under military rule following a coup in 2014.
A palace official, speaking to crowds outside the hospital, said the body of the king would be moved to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok on Friday.

The people's grief
Visits to Thailand and its many Theravada Buddhist temples are a trip (nattapan72/flickr).
New king: Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn
King Bhumibol was widely respected across Thailand, and thought of by many as semi-divine [deva-human hybrid or demigod, which is the possible origin in the West of the "divine right of kings" concept in that the sky visitors ruled humans then left behind their children with human mothers to rule in their place as regents until their return].

Hundreds of mourners gathered outside the Bangkok hospital where he died, stricken with grief at the news. More

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