by Wint Jan
On 13th October, King Rama IX of Thailand, who served as the longest monarch in human history, passed away at the age of 88. Bhumibol Adulyadej was the great leader of his country and was loved by his people as a national father. We know this from his achievements during his life. After ascending the throne of Thailand in June of 1946, he contributed to the development of Thailand in a number of ways. When he was young, he visited every town in his country by himself to cut drug sales and to develop an agricultural industry for the stability of his people’s livelihood. Furthermore, he also tried to stabilise the politics of Thailand during the Dark May Incident in 1992 by stopping several military coups with his royal authority. This incident, which had the potential to severely damage the democracy of Thailand, was a good example of his power and control over his country. Although he received a negative appraisal that he could not properly deal with the political conflict in Thailand in 2006 after a physical illness, it is clear he fully contributed to planting the political stability and democratic basis of Thailand that had been established since 1946. And also because of his plan ‘the Thainess reformation’, which means “happy country to live”, Thailand has now become one of the most popular countries to visit in South East Asia. Indeed, a number of foreigners want to settle down in Thailand in the future. That’s why his people call him “the great king” and it is also the reason why Thailand is in such deep grief and mourning after his passing.
Fam Chittaphon (25), a Thai office staff member said, ‘This October is a very painful season for all of the Thai people and my heart is breaking in sadness because we have lost our warm father and great teacher’. Like his words, the royal palace in Bangkok was inundated with a flood of mourners during the first Saturday since his passing away. Some clothing shops even provided free black shirts for citizens to wear. The Thai government officially announced 30 days of flying flags at half- mast and one year of mourning for cherishing his memory. Furthermore, during the mourning time, a number of businesses like selling alcoholic drinks, football games, and music concerts will be partly restricted and even denied to the people of Thailand so they can respectfully mourn.
Comprehensively, it is clear that the passing away of “the great king” has brought great sorrow to Thailand. The country and its people are in a deep lamentation under silent and solemn moods, and even foreigners try to beware of words and behaviours in public during their stay inThailand. Meanwhile, in addition to those sorrowful atmospheres, there are some predictions that the King Rama IX’s passing away could bring some big changes to both Thailand’s economic and political situation, and the South East Asian political spectrum along with international trade.
Firstly, the economy of Thailand could be partly suffered due to the one year of mourning time. As mentioned above, there will be restrictions or evasions of the entertainment industries in Thailand during the mourning time. However, Thailand’s national business is hugely related to the travel industry and the industry is running with entertainment businesses. Therefore, although it is understandable the restrictions due to the people’s deep respects for the former king, a point we can grasp is that the mourning time could damage a travel industry, causing a bad situation for the country’s entire economy to some extent over next one year.
Secondly, Thailand’s political situation could face a confusion in a future due to next king. Today, the strong royal authority of Thailand king to stabilise a political situation consists. It is because the King Rama IX steadily tried to stabilise the political insecurity of Thailand and the people of country ardently supported his actions with a respect, fortifying his monarch power during 70 years. In short, it is true that the strong monarch power in Thailand has contributed to stabilisation of political situation of the country, and the power has been come out from Thailand people’s support and respect over the king although the King Rama IX was a great leader himself. However, Maha Vajiralongkorn (64), the legal successor to Thailand’s throne, has been continuously losing his popularity amongst the Thailand people. The reason for this has to do with many failed marriages and messy private life. Furthermore, Thailand people are not welcoming the next king’s political stance. The people regards his political point of view is not neutral but is somewhat biased when considering his strong acquaintance with Thaksin Sinawatra, who seriously divided national opinion of Thailand in 2006 as the former prime minister and tried to make Maha Vajiralongkorn as the next king.
Therefore, it is true that the next king’s popularity is in a bad situation today and he would have a weak royal authority due to poor support from the Thailand people in a future. Indeed, a number of people of the country have already started to take action against his ascending the throne. In this situation, it is quite dubious his week royal authority without the support could properly stabilize a political situation or could cope with a political crisis ofThailand. Particularly, when considering the Thailand’s unstable political culture with a frequent military coups occurrence, the next king’s week position and power could cause a huge chaos in the political structure of Thailand afterward.
Lastly, the unstable political situation in Thailand in a future could change the political spectrum of South East Asia. Thailand is one of the strongest countries in the region and has contributed to maintaining a power balance in South East Asia with its strong military power and diplomatic influence.
However if the country faces inner political problems in the future due to another military coup with weak royal authority, it could change and shake the region’s entire power balance and stability and it could cause a number of political and diplomatic disorders in South East Asia. Furthermore, South East Asia is one of the most important regions for international trade because a number of trade vessels pass through the Strait of Malacca. In particular, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China hugely rely on this route for oil importing from the Middle East and for exporting their goods to Europe, Africa, and India.
However if Thailand is politically unstable, this could cause serious problems for international trade and those Far East countries because political chaos in Thailand could have an adverse effect on the entire region’s political stability, including the trading routes. Therefore, an unstable political situation in Thailand would be a bad situation not only for South East Asia but also for international trade. A number of international relations research institutes around the world have already started to analyse Thailand’s situation with regards to those possible changes.
To conclude, Thailand and the world have lost a great leader. Bhumibol Adulyadej left a number of great achievements for his country and human history. But meanwhile, it is also apparent that there could be some fluctuations in Thailand, and the political spectrum of South East Asia with his passing. Although we cannot come to a conclusion concerning the country and the region yet, King Rama IX’s passing away clearly become an important issue for Thailand and South East Asia today.