When the king of Thailand passed away in October 2016, the world lost its longest-tenured monarch. The 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej had ruled for 70 years, and for the majority of Thai citizens was the only king they've ever known.
The king's son is supposed to inherit the crown, but that's been delayed for a year, due to extenuating weirdness. Jules Suzdaltsev has the story in today's Seeker Daily dispatch.
First of all, Thailand has several strange elements at play in its governmental system. It's one of the few remaining monarchies in the world. And although it's technically a constitutional monarchy, like England, the monarch is more than just a figurehead. For one thing, the king handles the country's $53 billion business investment network.
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Thailand also has a rather medieval law on the books known as lèse-majesté, which criminalizes any critical or insulting speech against the king. This makes open discussion difficult at any time, but especially during a transition of power like the one taking place now. While opinion on the former king was split, the tradition of the monarchy was always treated with respect. The incoming monarch threatens to end that tradition.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is often referred to as the "millionaire playboy" and he's been embroiled in several scandals. He also has ties to the exiled leader of the Red Shirts, a political faction opposed by the country's political elite and middle class. It doesn't help that he recently appointed his pet poodle to a high-ranking position in the Thai air force. Nevertheless, criticizing the regent or heir also falls under the"lèse-majesté rule and carries a jail term of up to 15 years for each offense.
That complicates matters, and so the crown prince's ascension to the throne has been delayed for a year, ostensibly as a period of mourning. However, the delay threatens to destabilize a perpetually rickety government. Over the past few decades, Thailand has undergone more coup d'états than any other country on earth. Since 1932, Thai citizens have seen a dozen successful coups, and seven unsuccessful coups. So, yes. It's complicated.
-- Glenn McDonald
The Guardian: Thailand's Heir Apparent Maha Vajiralongkorn Raises Fears - and Eyebrows
NPR: Why Does Thailand Have so Many Coups?
BBC: Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej Dead at 88