The highly-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, passed away at the age of 88 in Bangkok on Thursday. The death was not unexpected, his majesty was in poor health and spent most of his final year in hospital.
King Bhumibol, known as Rama IX, came to the throne of the kingdom as a young man following the early death of his brother in 1946, going on to hold it for more than 70 years. For many decades the king was widely known as a man of wisdom and compassion not only among Thais but all around the world. Even in the midst of the nation’s political crises, the king knew how to defuse dangerous situations with only a gesture or a nod.
He often expressed his genuine desire to help the poor, identifying with them and using his royal power to fund projects that would benefit many Thai villages. And this mutual love and respect spread widely; his pictures can be seen everywhere in schools and business places. This relationship has endured throughout a remarkable era in which Thailand transformed from a country heavily depending on agriculture to a nation of trade and tourism. His loss is felt in the hearts and souls of Thais across the world.
Today, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha announced a one-year mourning period. Advice from the British Foreign Office calls on visitors to the country to respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time; access to entertainment, including restaurants, bars, and shopping areas may be restricted, and respectful behaviour is required in public areas.
As observers, and proud citizens, of the ASEAN region we at ASEAN Today would like to share our profound condolences for such a great loss. We truly honour his contribution to Thailand and hope his long-lasting legacy remains closely intertwined with the future of the nation.