King of Thailand passes away at 88

By Dalton Valette

On Oct. 13, after years of struggling with various health concerns, Bhumibol Adulyadej, crowned as King Bhumibol the Great of Thailand, passed away. His Majesty was 88 years old. He will be succeeded by his son, Vajiralongkorn, the current Crown Prince of Thailand.

Bhumibol was crowned as king of the small Asian nation in 1946 and was regarded as the world’s longest serving head of state, reigning for just over 70 years. Bhumibol was often ranked by Forbes as the wealthiest monarch in the world with a fortune of upwards of $30 billion. Having served for so long, Bhumibol had garnered a fatherly reputation, a kind and soft spoken leader whose morality reigned supreme in the land. He was enormously popular with the people of Thailand and with his passing, the country has entered a yearlong state of mourning. A select number of Drew students who are from Thailand or who have family and friends in Thailand have changed their profile pictures to be only the color black as a sign of mourning for the deceased king.

His Majesty had been involved in dozens of political affairs throughout his reign, a far cry from the largely purely symbolic role of the monarchy in countries such as the United Kingdom. He and his wife worked alongside Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1940s for global peace and he reigned during a tumultuous period of military coups, many of while becoming massacres including the Thammasat University massacre of 1976. He played a vital role in the early 1990s in transforming the country of Thailand in a democratic system of governance which abandoned the long standing military government of the time in favor of a civilian lead one. In the early 2000s, Bhumibol was an early advocate for the international war on drugs but cited that the main root of the problem is addressing the need to curb drug usage in the countries, not simply to crack down on drug lords. In 2006, a bloodless coup lead by the military in Thailand succeeded in overthrowing the government and taking control of the capital, Bangkok. Today, it is still unknown the extent to which Bhumibol played in the coup or was aware of it. To this day, the Kingdom of Thailand is classified as a de jure unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, de facto a military dictatorship. Bhumibol health began declining in 2008 and he was confined to hospital wings for the majority of the remainder of his life.

With the passing of Bhumibol, tensions have risen as Vajiralongkorn prepares to ascend to the throne given Vajiralongkorn’s less popular standing amongst the people, leaving many to wonder if the prestige of the Thai monarchy will decline. Through all the turmoil, unrest and upsets, the Thai people have always looked up to Bhumibol as a father of all Thai people.  

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