Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
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Thailand’s king and its crisis
A right royal mess
Dec 4th 2008 | BANGKOK
From The Economist print edition
Thailand’s interminable political conflict has much to do with the taboo subject of its monarchy. That is why the taboo must be broken
EVEN the most revered of kings, worshipped by his people as a demigod, is not immortal. Thais were reminded of this last month when six days of ornate cremation ceremonies, with gilded carriages and armies of extras in traditional costumes, were held for Princess Galyani, the elder sister of their beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej (pictured above). There was talk in Bangkok of the princess’s funeral being a “dress rehearsal” for the end of Bhumibol’s reign, 62 years long so far. Making one of few public appearances this year, shortly before his 81st birthday on December 5th, the king did indeed look his age.
The funeral only briefly calmed a political conflict that has raged for three years between supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister ousted by royalist generals in the 2006 coup, and an opposition movement backed by much of Bangkok’s traditional elite, apparently including Queen Sirikit. But the day after the ceremonies ended a grenade exploded among anti-Thaksin protesters, killing one. The anti-government protesters, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), who had been occupying Government House since August, then seized Bangkok’s main airports, causing chaos. The siege was lifted only eight days later, after a court dissolved the main parties in the pro-Thaksin coalition government.