King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, one of the longest-reigning monarchs in history, died on October 13th in Bangkok. The beloved monarch, regarded as semi-divine by the Thai people, reigned during a period of great change for Thailand. However, after his death, the future of the monarchy is uncertain in Thailand, as Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn has unexpectedly said he was not ready to take the throne, and asked for some time to mourn with the Thai people before his appointment as King.
Born in Massachusetts in 1927, Bhumibol Adulyadej was the son of a minor Thai Prince studying at Harvard and his commoner wife. His father died young after the family moved back to Thailand, and his mother moved the family to Switzerland, returning to Thailand briefly after Bhumibol Adulyadej’s brother Ananda Mahidol acceded as King of Thailand in 1935. The family lived in Switzerland until after the Second World War, when they returned to Bangkok. However, six months later, King Ananda Mahidol mysteriously died, and Bhumibol Adulyadej became His Majesty The King of Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej returned to Switzerland to complete his studies, finally returning to Thailand in 1950 for his Coronation. A week before, he married Sirikit, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. The King and Queen had four children, including Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who now becomes King.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was seen as a unifying and calming influence through numerous coups and 20 constitutions in Thailand during his reign. King Bhumibol Adulyadej was respected across Thailand, and thought of by many as semi-divine. A statement by the BBC best sums up the atmosphere in Bangkok on Thursday: Thailand’s father figure, a beacon of stability in a divided and worried country, had died. A new, more uncertain era has begun.
A Palace Official said the body of the King Bhumibol Adulyadej would be moved to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok on Friday. Tributes to the late king were released by Heads of State around the world: British Prime Minister Theresa May also paid tribute to the King, saying: “His Majesty guided the Kingdom of Thailand with dignity, dedication and vision throughout his life. He will be greatly missed.” US President Barack Obama called the late king a “tireless champion of his country’s development“. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement that he hoped Thailand would honour King Bhumibol’s legacy of commitment to universal values and respect for human rights. The Bhutanese Royal family led prayers in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Queen Elisabeth II sent a private message to the Thai Royal family. The King of Belgium stated: “Deeply saddened by the passing of HM King Bhumibol at the end of a long Reign. Our thoughts go to His family and the Thaï population.” The Romanian Royal family also released a statement.