Further updated: Unsubstantiated rumors and speculation

13 10 2016

Because the palace provides little information, there is considerable speculation about the king’s dying days.

Social media has some pretty long and involved discussions of what’s happening and what will happen.

Much of this is highly speculative. For example, there social media speculation that the prince returning to Thailand by a TG flight is seen as significant of something by some, such as control by the military junta. Some see his return as evidence that there will be no intervention in succession. We will soon know if any of this speculation and guessing is worth the huge efforts that go into it.

One current social media rumor is that the “old brass” from the Privy Council is currently meeting with the junta’s “new brass.” This seems  reasonable speculation and we’d guess that such a meeting would not be the first. If there is going to be any interference in succession, these are the main players but there’s no recent and compelling evidence to suggest that there will be such an intervention, but the junta’s Thailand is highly secretive and that needs to be kept in mind.

Reports from Thailand suggest that there is a calm “waiting” going on. That said, we can expect considerable grieving when it is announced that the king has died.set-index

Update 1: Here is another claim that needs to be considered carefully before believing it. And we mean the one by the junta’s “Deputy junta head for the Economy” Somkid Jatusripitak, who declares that the “authorities are now hunting for people who are causing Thailand’s stock market to plummet rapidly.” Apparently now infected by junta-itis, which affects the brain, detaching it from reality, he says he “has ordered Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC) to find people who are spreading rumours causing rapid fall on the nation’s stock market…”.

It’s the Royal Household Bureau’s announcements and then the failure of the junta and palace to say anything about the way they are dealing with the king’s demise that are causing the drop.

Somkid “said that Thai people should not become victims of those who are spreading rumours for personal gains, adding that people should trust in the nation’s economic potential and follow news from the government sources only.” See what we mean? Only believe the military dictatorship!

Then, remarkably, he added to the rumors: “This country is now at a very important moment and things will gradually get better…”. So the king is dead or about to die, now confirmed by this statement.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Princesses Sirindhorn, Soamsawali, Chulabhorn and Prince Vajiralongkorn are again at Siriraj Hospital. We see no mention of the queen, who is also hospitalized.

With 4 updates: Death watch I

12 10 2016

Those interested in the king’s health should watch the newspapers. Khaosod reports that royal events have been canceled. Prachatai reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has abruptly returned to Bangkok. An announcement by  him is due soon.

Update 1: Thai shares down sharply in afternoon trading. Down some 5-6%.

Update 2: The world’s media is onto the death watch story and speculates on the king nearing death and the upcoming succession. One report worth reading is by AFP.

Yet there is also a tendency for a repetition of previous palace propaganda – the “stabilizing influence” and similar mistaken perspectives. There is also the potential for considerable factual error. This creeps in when journalists play catch-up on things royal and Thailand. One example is a radio report from Australia which interviews Andrew MacGregor Marshall. The errors are by the reporter, who even fails to get the prince’s name right.

It is worth reading Marshall’s notes on succession, which includes his interpretations and a link to the Thai version of the 1924 law.

Update 3: An interesting question to ponder is how deep are the preparations for the announcement of the king’s passing. We know that the prince has returned and that several royal events have been cancelled. We know Prayuth rushed back to Bangkok to “possibly” meet the prince. There are questions too, some from social media: Does the jailing of a red shirt leader have something to do with the kings death and succession? Do the junta dolts fear a red shirt uprising and hence decided to quarantine a major UDD leader? What about the bomb scare and vastly increased security? Were these ways of preparing for any rumblings at the time the death is announced? We don’t know the answers, but speculation is rife.

Update 4: There was much social media expectation of an “announcement” about the king. Last night there was an announcement, from the Royal Household Bureau, and at the Bangkok Post, confirmed the king’s grave condition. It stated the “general condition of … the [k]ing has not been stablised and royal doctors are prescribing medication…”. In its “38th statement, the bureau said that [the king’s]… blood pressure dropped while his pulse and the levels of acid in the blood increased.” He also had an “inflamed liver.” In addition to antibiotics, “doctors also used drugs to control his blood pressure, employed a ventilator and performed continuous renal replacement therapy…”. The report at the Post states that: “Present at the hospital in Bangkok from Wednesday afternoon were HRH Princess Chulabhorn and her daughters HRH Princess Siribha Chudhabhorn and HRH Princess Adityadornkitikhun.” It added: “Later Princess Ubolratana arrived at the hospital, followed by HRH the Crown Prince who had just returned from abroad, and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.”

Updated: King’s health declines further

10 10 2016

The latest announcement from the Royal Household Bureau suggests that the end is near.

The Bangkok Post essentially reproduces the report from royal doctors that suggests a downward spiral.

It says that doctors performed a haemodialysis on “to purify his blood and changed a tube that drains excess cerebrospinal fluid in [his] lateral ventricles from 2pm to 4.40pm.”

During this process, “his blood pressure occasionally dropped. Medicine was administered and doctors put him on a ventilator to bring his blood pressure back to normal levels.”

By early Sunday morning, the “king’s pulse was faster and the blood pressure issue subsided. An inspection found higher levels of acid in the blood.” As well, an “echocardiogram found a sharp drop in blood injected into the lower left chamber of his heart as a result of high blood pressure in the lungs.” This seems to refer to what may be considered heart failure. The report states that “medicines were administered to enlarged blood vessels in the lungs. The pulse and blood pressure improved after that.”

The report states that the “medical team are watching his symptoms and giving treatments carefully because the overall symptoms of his sickness are still not stable…”.

This report seems the most negative issued from the royal doctors.

Update: The Bangkok Post points to sharp declines at the stock market as related to the king’s declining health. It states the “plunge came after the Royal Household Bureau said late on Sunday that His Majesty the King’s health was in an unstable condition after receiving haemodialysis treatment.”

“Dead” king “recovering” (again, perhaps)

2 10 2016

After having recently been (mis)reported as dead, it is reported in the Bangkok Post that, as has been the case umpteen times over the past decade, the king is again “recovering.”

In what is described as “the 36th announcement issued by the Royal Household Bureau,” the “royal medical team” has reported that the king’s “lung infection had subsided after treatment for a low-grade fever…”.

The bureau stated that “on Wednesday and Thursday, [the king]… had a low fever and a high pulse rate with a lot of phlegm. A blood test indicated that he had an infection and an X-ray detected some fluid in his lungs. The doctors gave him antibiotics on Thursday.”

At the same time, it is reported that “his urine output was still minimal. Doctors, therefore, are continuing to closely monitor his condition and are administering continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) treatment.”

In other words, the king remains desperately ill.

Further updated: King dead report

22 09 2016

euronews reports that the king has died. Unable to confirm this elsewhere at this point.

Update 1: euronews has now removed the report, although it still exists in French. We assume a reporting error or a practice run posted in error.

Update 2: For details about euronews, go here. This is the story that has been withdrawn. (We have been unable to locate any explanation from euronews for the publication and then its withdrawal.)

Revered in Thailand as a semi-divine, stabilising influence, King Bhumibol, known as Rama IX, has seen his country go through numerous military coups and 19 constitutional changes, during his long reign.

King Bhumibol acceded to the throne in 1946 after his brother, 20-year-old King Ananda, was found shot dead in his bed in mysterious circumstances.

King Bhumibol worked hard to restore the Thai monarchy to its former cherished status, which had been damaged by the abdication of his uncle in 1932.

In his early years Rama IX had been dominated by a powerful military hierarchy, but backed by his allies he reestablished the monarchy touring Thailand’s far flung provinces and focusing his efforts on agricultural development.

In 2006 his work was recognised by the UN and he was presented with the first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award.

Political turmoil has been a part of the kings reign.

His first major intervention happened in 1973 when democracy demonstrators were fired on by the military the king allowed them to shelter in the royal palace.

During the chaos of the past decade supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra accused senior royal advisors of plotting against the businessman politician. The stand off led to Bhumibol being accused of endorsing military takeovers and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses.

The king refused to get involved directly, but his influence was a factor when Thaksin’s election victory was annulled by the courts.

The king has suffered ill health for a number of years and has spent a good deal of time in hospital.

In his younger days he was an active individual enjoying photography, song writing and painting.

His health suffered its first set back in 1948 when his car collided with a truck between Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland and he lost the sight in one eye and seriously injured his back.

The future of the Thai monarchy now lies in the hands of the Maha Vajiralongkorn the Crown Prince of Thailand.

A man described by the Economist as “unpredictable to the point of eccentricity.”

Updated: King’s health emergency continues

11 09 2016

The long and seemingly torturous decline of the king continues after some seven years of almost constant hospitalization and regular and serious illnesses.

The latest announcement from the Royal Household Bureau is that the king has “no fever” and that his “blood infection has eased…”. The team of Siriraj Hospital doctors “have stopped administering antibiotics.”

The real message, however, has to do with failed kidney function: The report states “[h]is urine situation was still minimal. The medical team continues to administer CRRT treatment and is keeping a close watch on his kidneys…”.

Update: Thailand’s SET continued down on Monday.stocks

Updated: Promoting political allies I

10 09 2016

Military watchers in several media outlets seem to think that the selection of the next Army boss was “out of the box” because the choice was not from the dominant faction.

The Bangkok Post reported General Chalermchai Sitthisart’s appointment as causing friction between General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his elder, General Prawit Wongsuwan. Prawit is said to have wanted another officer.

The Post reckons The Dictator “went for an army chief from outside of the ‘Tiger of the East’ ranks to quash the growing assumption of a leadership monopoly which could sow seeds of distrust and stoke conflict within the army.”

The argument was that “unity in the force has never been more important at a time when the country is transitioning back to democratic rule…”.

That’s where we got lost. No such transition is likely. What drives The Dictator and his junta is making sure that they control Thailand’s faux democracy after an “election.”

Unity means loyalty and a deep determination to defeat the Thaksin Shinawatra “regime.”

This is why the other key appointment is Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong as commander of the 1st Region Army. Apirat has shown a merciless hatred of the red shirts. He will shoot to kill if required.

That kind of loyalty is critical to the junta’s political ambitions into the future.

Another report at Reuters was a little odd. It states:

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Friday endorsed a new army chief in an annual reshuffle, an appointment from outside the faction that has dominated the army for several years, surprising some experts.

We don’t think the king could do anything like this while hooked up to myriad life support systems. How are such “endorsements” occurring? Who is signing? No regent has been appointed so the assumption is that the king is able and understands what’s happening. That seems unlikely.

Update: The Bangkok Post has more on General Chalermchai’s appointment. It identifies him as a member of the “red beret” special army combat unit. It states that he is “known to enjoy the support of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda and privy councillor and former prime minister Gen Surayud Chulanont, who is also a red beret.”

Stocks and royal health

9 09 2016

Most Thailand-based news outlets have had “difficulty” reporting the king’s decline. Fear of lese majeste and internalized notions of self-censorship inhibit real reporting.

Interestingly, Khaosod has linked the king’s renal failure with the stock market’s week of declines.

They did this by noting that there are some events wishing the king luck.


Further updated: Keeping the king alive

5 09 2016

This was originally posted on 3 Sept. Because the updates are important, we have re-dated it.

How long will the royal doctors keep the king alive? When does keeping him alive become a unnatural act. Based on the many reports of his health crises, we think that time must have long passed.

The idea that the king can continue to “operate” politically – approving junta laws and the like – is simply ridiculous for a man who seems so ill that he has been bedridden and non compos mentis for months.

Never mind, his royal body continues to have life, of sorts, and the doctors remain hard at work.

AFP outlines the latest death watch report from the Royal Household Bureau.

It says the “hospital-bound” king “has received treatment for a ‘severe’ blood infection…”.

In the past couple of months, in addition to this illness, he’s been reported to have “a series of ailments, including bacterial infections, breathing difficulties, heart problems and hydrocephalus — a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid often referred to as ‘water on the brain’.”

The statement from the palace this time said “blood tests revealed the king was suffering from a ‘severe infection’.” It stated that “his heartbeat was fast and he had very thick mucus. A test result of the mucus and blood indicated a severe infection…”. He had fluid on the lungs, fever and low blood pressure. He’s probably received huge antibiotic doses, something he’s had repeatedly in recent months.

The fear of letting the king die naturally reveals much about Thailand’s royal house and the military’s politics.

Update 1: As usual, the royal household reports that the king is “improved.” At his age and after so much serious and unending illness, the king is “alive” but little more.

Update 2: Andrew MacGregor Marshall has an important Facebook post on the king’s ill health. He covers some of the material we dealt with, but in more depth. His post is well worth seeking out.

The fears over the king’s health may well have caused the recent turmoil on the Thai stock exchange. As AMM also points out, Bloomberg is one of the few news outlets to name names. It states: “Thailand’s SET Index fell 1.9 percent, the biggest drop since April. The decline followed the latest update on the health of Thailand’s 88-year-old king…”. Initial declines were much higher, suggesting rumors and fear.

Near death recoveries

1 08 2016

Both the king and queen spend all their time in hospital, each suffering the multiple ailments of the old. They are both kept alive by teams of doctors. Alive may not mean that they are able to do anything at all, including breathing.

The Royal Household Bureau is issuing regular “reports” that are irregular and still opaque.

One recent report has the queen being moved from Siriraj hospital to Chulalongkorn Hospital. This routing seems regular now. She was moved because an “x-ray showed a slight inflammation on her lungs and blood tests showed an infection…”. Why she isn’t treated at Siriraj, where she resides and where the king is treated is unclear.

As always in these reports, the queen is said to be “improved, with her fever having “subsided and coughing … eased…”. Even so, “she will remain at the hospital for a while longer before being moved to the same hospital as the king.” That is, moved back to another hospital.

Meanwhile, AFP reports that the king still has a fever and continues to be treated with antibiotics. The Bureau stated: “After taking antibiotics his condition has got better but he still has some fever…”.

It seems the king is on antibiotics all the time and has repeated fevers. He also continues to have problems with his catheter that drains excess spinal fluid.

Both seem essentially terminally ill, with doctors working very hard to keep them alive.

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