Anniversary and operations

9 06 2016

Two monarchy stories have been prominent this week. One is about the 88-year-old king’s ongoing and tortuous last years as his health declines and the royal doctors work to keep him alive. The second story is of the muted commemoration of the king’s 70 years on the throne – a throne that he came to in still official mysterious circumstances of his brother’s death. Of course, as Andrew MacGregor Marshall says, the unofficial story is that the present king “killed his brother,” without necessarily implying intent. One newspaper report mentions the event.

Superstitious types might link the two stories.

About a week ago, the Royal Household Bureau reported another problem in the the king’s health, saying he was being “closely monitored for irregular function of his heart muscles…”. We commented that this might be cardiac dysrhythmia, that could indicate a heart attack, but that it could also be many other disorders. Within days, it was reported that the king had “received treatment for narrowing of the heart arteries with ‘satisfactory results’,” dealing with the coronary artery disease that often impacts the elderly.

The report states that “[d]octors performed a procedure known as balloon surgery to widen the arteries on Tuesday … after tests had shown insufficient blood in the heart muscles. Arteries on both sides of the king’s heart had narrowed…”. The Bangkok Post reported the Royal Household Bureau also inserted a “stent and rotablator in some locations, to widen the arteries…”. Details on the use of rotablator can be found here. Information on stents and balloon angioplasty is here.

Less reported in the international media has been the sickly Princess Chulabhorn’s hospitalization. The latest report on her condition – third report from the palace – is that she remains in hospital following a “biopsy on May 20 at the hospital after a polyp was found in her neck.” Late in May, doctors stated she “had a high fever at times and was still very weak.” The latest report says ” she remained very weak, and doctors therefore had recommended that she put off royal activities for a while longer.” It refers to “a successful operation to remove a tumour from her neck…”.

The commemoration of the king’s 70th year on the throne is not at all like the massive series of events staged on the 60th anniversary. With the king more or less out sight, unable to effectively do anything and very ill, such celebrations were never likely. Newspapers have specials, wire services have stories, the “compulsory” commemorative banknote has been released, world leaders sent regards and the military junta has arranged a few things.

The international media has shown some interest, with the International Business Times UK having not much of a story but quite a few high-quality photos that can be interpreted in various ways. Interestingly, the only two prime ministers of Thailand we can identify in them are Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.