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Thai King Celebrates 81st Birthday Amid Uncertainty

Posted December. 06, 2008 10:04,   


Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej celebrated yesterday his 81st birthday.

His royal guards set off firecrackers and many people took photos in front of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. Thais were also allowed to enter the palace.

Though the revered monarch could not deliver his annual birthday speech due to illness for the first time in 62 years since being sworn in as king, Thais did not look fazed.

They certainly had worries, however, over their king’s health and their nation’s political uncertainty.

Dangpron Patumwat, 36, said, “I’m worried about the king falling ill at a time when Thais are facing difficulties at home and abroad.”

Pongshak Tiemtam, 27, said, “The People’s Power Party, which is influenced by (former Prime Minister) Thaksin Shinawatra, will yield bigger influence on the political circle. I’m worried that Thais could face a more uncertain future.”

Yesterday, streets were packed with Thais in yellow clothes as a sign of their opposition to the government. On the other hand, few clad in pro-government red clothes appeared on the streets.

In front of the Grand Palace, Cheomsak Kuredangkam said, “Supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who usually wear red clothes, seem to have stayed home today.”

On Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Street, a 24-year-old woman said, “I support Thaksin, but no one can guarantee what future Thais will face if they lose their revered king. I just hope he will regain his health.”

One prediction goes as far as saying the death of the Thai king could spark a war between the northern and southern regions of the country. Another uncertainty is conflicts among ruling party members over the next government that have worsened since Thailand’s Constitutional Court ordered the disbanding of the ruling coalition Tuesday for colluding to bribe voters in the general elections.

PPP members have created a new party called Phuea Thai Party and are attempting to support a former PPP member as the next prime minister.

Two other parties that belonged to the former ruling coalition are opposed to the idea, however, warning of worsening political uncertainty if a former PPP member is prime minister. The English-language daily Nation in Bangkok said “Newin Chidchob,” consisting of 37 former PPP members, is against creating a new Cabinet led by former PPP members and is considering joining the opposition Democratic Party.

In the midst of political uncertainty, Thai’s interim government postponed emergency meetings on choosing the next prime minister that had been slated for Monday and Tuesday. Thai law stipulates that a new prime minister should be elected within 30 days.

The political turmoil has also hurt Thailand’s external credit rating. Moody’s lowered Thailand’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” Thursday.