Thailand King Cancels Speech, Prime Minister Elections Cancelled
For the first time in decades, the King of Thailand cancelled his annual speech a day before his birthday. The absence during the recent turmoil shocked the nation. The 81-year-old monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej was too ill to deliver his speech on Thursday.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej's failure to show up for the anxiously awaited address shocked a country already reeling from three years of political turmoil and uncertain about its future.
The elections set for December 11 have been cancelled by the Thai government, which was due to select a new Prime Minister. The house speaker did not say when the new date would be given, adding to the current unrest.
The session was due to take place on Monday and Tuesday (local time) following a constitutional court ruling this week that disbanded the ruling party and two coalition partners and ousted Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.
While in most modern 'democratic' countries royalty and Kings don't have much real political power, the King of Thailand's supporters have been intricately involved in the latest protests and dissolution of the governing party.
After the 2006 coup, the 15th in Bhumibol’s reign, officials tried to tell foreigners that protocol obliged the king to accept the generals’ seizure of power. Thais got the opposite message. The king quickly granted the coupmakers an audience, and newspapers splashed pictures of it, sending Thais the message that he approved of them. In truth the king has always been capable of showing his displeasure at coups when it suited him, by rallying troops or by dragging his feet in accepting their outcome. And he exerts power in other ways. Since 2006, when he told judges to take action on the political crisis, the courts seem to have interpreted his wishes by pushing through cases against Mr Thaksin and his allies—most recently with this week’s banning of the parties in the government.
King Bhumibol (also known as Rama IX) has been King of Thailand for sixty years, where he serves as a constitutional monarch who has stepped into Thai politics numerous times in the past:
Although King Bhumibol is a constitutional monarch, he has several times made decisive interventions in Thai politics when there were bloodshed or when Thailand was in turmoil. He was credited with facilitating Thailand's transition to democracy in the 1990s, although in earlier periods of his reign he supported some military regimes, including Sarit Dhanarajata and more recently, the Council for Democratic Reform. He has also used his considerable influence to stop coups, including recent attempts in 1981 and 1985.
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