*ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT*
Well-wishers at Siriraj Hospital. September 25, 2009.
While local Thai papers are towing the official line that all is well with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, there have been serious rumors since he was admitted to hospital on September 19th.
Some rumors told directly to me have suggesting it is time to stock up on black clothing, others are more opaque.
From the Nation:
"There was a panic in early trading due to rumours, but the market rebounded," said Therdsak Taweethiratham of AsiaPlus Securities. "In recent weeks the stock market has been rising. Now investors are profit-taking."
The Bangkok Post:
"Rumours circulated throughout Wednesday that his condition [King Bhumibol] had deteriorated, prompting a 2.04 percent drop in the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).
The blogs are a little more creative.
New Mandala's cleaver use of a single quote:
"Less than forty-eight hours before he died the First Queen had reported that “His Majesty has improved in all respects.” - Extracted from Vella and Vella 1978. Chaiyo! King Vajiravudh and the development of Thai Nationalism, p1.
"There is sense of deja vu : Sovietology… When during the Cold War people were spending huge amount of energy and time to try to decipher what was going on at the Kremlin…"
"It’s a shame to serve such bullshit to the public. Shame on those people. Shame on Nation to write such non sense. The thai people have the right to know the truth."
Political Prisoners Thailand, while verging into conspiracy territory, comes up with something much more worrisome about the number of troops scheduled to descend upon the streets. (Also, they are the right on track to critically question the 2,000 "civilian volunteers" which are part of the security force):
"That’s a total of 36,000 security personnel mobilized. Even leaving aside the questions of human rights and intimidation, this is clearly way, way more than would be reasonable for controlling a rally that the government estimates will be “about 10,000 people.”"
"Suthep stated that “Attention will be given specially to Government House, parliament and Chitrlada Palace.”"
"PPT has no answers that we haven’t given before.However, this kind of mobilization is suspiciously large. If we were being really cynical and conspiratorial, we’d be tempted to link to an earlier post."
And finally, Bloomberg has a good story which captures how the King's health is making the market jittery:
"Speculation that the King’s health had deteriorated helped spark the biggest drop in the benchmark stock index in two months yesterday and the biggest decline since June in the baht."
A theme that emerges in this is that the Palace is seriously mismanaging their communication with the people leaving unanswered questions and fears to morph into dark rumors.
But an even bigger theme is that the whole succession, the embargo on honest reporting on the monarchy, fears of lese majeste, the unpopularity of the crown prince, republican sentiments, and all the other Yellow Elephant in the Room issues which the country is forced to try to ignore have left the nation unprepared for the inevitable outcome of all this.
The market is jittery because the nation is jittery.
Simply put, Thailand is not prepared for what will be the most profound cultural and political upheaval this country has seen in decades, some suggest the biggest upheaval ever, and all because we simply can not openly talk about the monarchy.
Long live lese majeste.