Jalil Javed, and Henry Kincaid-
Thailand is currently in the midst of a 5-day funeral in honor of the late King Bhumibol IX, who passed away last October.
Thailand declared an official year of mourning.
The late King Bhumibol was the world’s longest reigning monarch and acted as both the figurehead and the spiritual leader of Thailand. Under Rama IX’s monarchy, Thailand became the most economically prosperous country in the region and resisted the communist revolutions that took place all across South East Asia. Violent revolutions that took hold in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, all of which are neighboring countries, were all avoided by Thailand, while their economy continued to prosper. But things could have been different. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge killed around a quarter of the entire population, and almost completely destroyed the country’s infrastructure within a few years. The King also personally oversaw many successful developmental projects in the poorest regions of Thailand, which to led to many Thais being lifted out of poverty. Due to Thailand’s rapid development over the many decades of Rama IX’s reign, it is easy to see why he is held in such high esteem by the country’s populace.
Born in Boston, USA, in 1927, Bhumibol was the first monarch to have been born in the United States. During his reign, 30 Prime Ministers have served, as well as a number of military leaders. King Bhumibol continued to guide the country throughout many different forms of government and military coups. In 1957, a military coup led to the 3rd Prime Minister of the country, Plaek Phibunsongkhram, being overthrown; this, in turn, led to the rise of military dictatorships, including that of the infamous Thanom Kittikachorn. Three years later, in 2006, another coup d’état took place, this time in order to remove the at-the-time Prime Minister, Thaksin Chinnawat, from office, who was accused of corruption. Two years after that event came the 2008 Thai political crisis in which ‘Red Shirt’ protestors stormed the Government House, the headquarters of the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport at different points over the course of several months. The last military coup occurred in 2014, with the currently ruling junta in power until the next general election, which will likely occur in November 2018.
Part of the great sadness over the funeral was that King Bhumibol successfully led the South East Asian country through many crises, both regional and global. The King was a highly popular figure and seen as a source of stability amidst a changing political atmosphere. Despite many different forms of government, the monarch remained a central, prominent figure throughout, well-loved by his people.
The late king’s funeral has seen thousands of black-clad Thais mourning as a golden chariot carrying the monarch’s remains was paraded near the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The events will likely have seen upwards of 300,000 individuals attend the ceremony to pay their respects to Rama IX.
Featured Image Credits: AP