Thailand: Political instability looms over Thailand after King’s death

By Kirsty Johansen/ SBS

Thai political analysts have warned the country’s political stability could be put at risk as people mourn the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadei for the next year.

It comes as Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has urged the nation not to worry about the succession to the throne with the head of the Privy Council appointed as temporary regent and reports the Crown Prince’s coronation will be pushed back by another year.

“One important message from the Crown Prince is that he urges the public not to worry about the governing of the country or the succession to the throne because on this matter the constitution, the Royal law and customary practice all indicate what needs to be done,” said Prime Minister Chan-Ochoa.

Thais continue to grieve for King Bhumibol who died on Thursday after 70 years as head of state, visiting the Grand Palace and holding prayer ceremonies.

Political Science Associate Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak from Chulalongkorn University said King Bhumibol’s death could put the country’s political stability and timeline for democracy at risk, with Thailand’s military-led government likely to push back elections to 2018 and keep political unrest in check after the death of the monarch.

“I’m afraid we will see some rising emerging dissent build and the authorities have to be very careful on how to deal with that and I also think that the centres, the critics, detractors also have to look at the greater good of Thailand,” said Mr Pongsudhirak. On the Thai resort island of Phuket there’s been tension with police and soldiers having to disperse hundreds of people seeking confrontation with a man they believed insulted the country’s King.

At the Grand Palace counselling tents have been set up for the thousands of people overcome by grief and stress. Medics have treated more than 200 people for hyperventilation. Volunteers are on hand everywhere giving out free food and drinks. Tanawat Norpech told SBS he wants to help mourners faced with very hot weather conditions. “The only objective is that to do good deeds for the King. He did so much for us and this is a little piece of something that I can do,” said Mr Norpech.

Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the oldest in the world. The community there is still reeling from the King’s death. Wasana Attanasuntararat’s store has been in the family for 104 years, with members of the royal family often visiting. “I have Chinese blood but we are treated the same. We all love the King so much”, said Ms Attanasuntararat. Businesses are hoping to get back to normal soon.