BANGKOK – An afternoon downpour did not deter tens of thousands of black-clad Thais from converging on the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha on Sunday as they continued to mourn the loss of their late king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. They could have a long time to grieve before Bhumibol’s eldest son and heir, 64-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, becomes king. In a surprise announcement, Vajiralongkorn said he will remain as crown prince until he has had time to mourn. Just how long that will take is not clear. But it could be as long as a year before Bhumibol is cremated, and there has been speculation that his son will wait until then to take the throne.
BANGKOK –- In most electoral democracies, it would have been an improbable scene. Despite facing arrest warrants for insurrection and murder, an anti-government protest leader was escorted by security into the country’s parliament house, where he lobbied the senate head to replace Thailand’s elected government with an appointed administration. The body language suggested that protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban was no mere supplicant. A row of senators led by Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertcha greeted Mr Suthep, clasping hands and smiling as if deferring to the bluff former deputy prime minister. Outside, as night fell, several thousand backers of Suthep’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) sat on the street, listening to speeches bellowed through megaphones from the top of a truck as the meeting took place. “They have exchanged opinion for now, that is all,” said Senator Anusart Suwanmongkol, speaking afterwards.
BANGKOK — Thailand’s bitter political divide widened this week after two separate rulings by legal institutions forced Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office and raised the possibility that she could be banned from politics for five years. The developments also cast doubt over Thai national elections planned for July 20 after the country’s Constitutional Court voided the results of an earlier poll on Feb. 2, citing disruptions by anti-government protesters that prevented the poll from being completed nationwide in a single day, as required by the country’s constitution. On May 7 the Constitutional Court ruled that Yingluck and nine ministers had abused their offices when reassigning the National Security Council secretary in 2011 — a reshuffle that paved the way for the brother-in-law of Yingluck’s elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra, to take the position of police chief.
BANGKOK — In a controversial ruling that deepened Thailand’s political crisis, the country’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave office, ruling that she abused her powers when she transferred a government official from his post three years ago. The court also demanded the removal of several of Yingluck’s cabinet ministers who it said were complicit in the transfer, throwing the status of her caretaker government into uncertainty ahead of elections scheduled for July. Shinawatra’s opponents had accused her of transferring the official, National Security Council head Thawil Pliensri, as part of a reshuffle aimed at installing a member of her influential family as police chief. Appearing in court on Tuesday, she denied any wrongdoing, saying she “never benefited from any transfer of civil servants.”
BANGKOK – Hundreds of thousands of Thais lined the streets of Bangkok on Wednesday to see King Bhumibol Adulyadej make a rare public speech to mark his 85th birthday. “My heart feels so good today seeing His Majesty,” says Penpat Thaweekul, one of the vast royal-supporting yellow-clad crowd waiting under a hot sun to catch a glimpse of the now-frail king speaking from a distant balcony. The world’s longest-sitting monarch is portrayed as a widely-revered apolitical father-figure – but even with this representation, there are lines Thailand’s elected politicians cannot cross. Though the royal institution once enjoyed a near-universal respect, recent polarization has raised questions about that role and about the country’s future after his reign. After the king’s reign, “the royalist domination in politics will be in disarray, for sure,” says historian Thongchai Winichakul. The rest, he says is unclear, wondering, “Will their power decline or will they take a tighter control during the transition?”