Junta chief to meet prince as fears over king’s health grow

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THAI­LAND’S junta chief Prayut Chano-cha said yes­ter­day he planned to hold talks with the crown prince fol­low­ing days of un­prece­dented con­cern over the health of ail­ing King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej.

King Bhu­mi­bol, 88, is the world’s long­est-reign­ing monarch and beloved by many in Thai­land.

But he has not been seen in pub­lic for nearly a year as he bat­tles a se­ries of ail­ments.

An un­usu­ally pes­simistic palace state­ment on Oc­to­ber 9 de­scribed the king’s health as “not sta­ble” with doc­tors rec­om­mend­ing he sus­pend all royal du­ties.

That sparked mar­ket jit­ters in­side Thai­land this week as well as pub­lic prayers for his well-be­ing.

Crown Prince Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn, who spends much time out­side the coun­try, is his suc­ces­sor.

“The Crown Prince is re­turn­ing [to Thai­land] and I will wait for him to grant me au­di­ence so I can brief him on the gov­ern­ment’s work,” Mr Prayut, a for­mer army chief who seized power in 2014, told AFP via text mes­sage.

Thai me­dia trav­el­ling with Mr Prayut in the eastern prov­ince of Chon­buri said the junta chief had abruptly can­celled all of­fi­cial en­gage­ments yes­ter­day af­ter­noon and re­turned to the cap­i­tal.

No rea­son was given, ac­cord­ing to me­dia which re­ported the can­cel­la­tion, in­clud­ing the ma­jor dailies Mati­chon and Thai Rath.

Se­cu­rity out­side the hos­pi­tal where King Bhu­mi­bol is be­ing treated was in­creased yes­ter­day with a hos­pi­tal of­fi­cial say­ing they ex­pected the crown prince to visit his fa­ther.

“The se­cu­rity has been stepped up be­cause the crown prince is com­ing to the hos­pi­tal,” a spokesper­son at Siri­raj hos­pi­tal said, ask­ing not to be named.

King Bhu­mi­bol’s health is a taboo sub­ject and palace of­fi­cials main­tain tight con­trol on news about his con­di­tion.

A dra­co­nian lese ma­jeste law also makes pub­lic dis­cus­sion of the suc­ces­sion all but im­pos­si­ble.

The Oc­to­ber 9 state­ment was no­tice­ably grim in its prog­no­sis. Pre­vi­ous state­ments have tended to end on a pos­i­tive note after suc­cess­ful treat­ment.

The king has bat­tled a range of ail­ments in the last two years in­clud­ing reg­u­lar in­fec­tions, breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, re­nal fail­ure and hy­dro­cephalus – a build-up of cere­brospinal fluid com­monly re­ferred to as “wa­ter on the brain”.

The lat­est an­nounce­ment caused Thai­land’s stock mar­ket to dip and the baht to fall against the dol­lar this week.

The main bourse plunged after the lunch break, drop­ping as much as 6.8 per­cent.

By mid af­ter­noon it had re­cov­ered some­what to 3.45pc down.

The Thai baht was headed to­ward its steep­est weekly drop in three years, trad­ing at 35.90.

Pri­vately many busi­ness lead­ers – both do­mes­tic and for­eign – fret that the king’s demise could lead to eco­nomic in­sta­bil­ity, es­pe­cially as there is no of­fi­cial dis­cus­sion on how the coun­try will han­dle his pass­ing.

Most Thais have known no other monarch and King Bhu­mi­bol is widely seen as a uni­fy­ing sym­bol in a coun­try rocked by decades of po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence and di­vi­sions.

The heir, 64, has yet to at­tain his fa­ther’s wide­spread pop­u­lar­ity.

Many Thais have started wear­ing pink in the be­lief it will bring the king good luck. A crowd of fol­low­ers gath­ered out­side the hos­pi­tal to pray.

“It feels like he is get­ting worse this time,” said Som­chit Nar­avi­chit, 58, tears welling in her eyes.

“Mil­lions of Thais are send­ing him sup­port, pray­ing for him and want­ing him to get well soon,” she told AFP. “He is like my an­gel. I pray to his photo on my bed­side ev­ery day.” –

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