For Thailand, a portrait is crucial to preparations for succession

Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:12am EDT
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By Amy Sawitta Lefevre

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Look around anywhere in Thailand and chances are you will see a portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej displayed in offices, schools, banks or on the front of government buildings.

Recently, though, portraits of the king's son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, have increased as the kingdom of Thailand prepares the groundwork for its first royal succession in nearly 70 years.

In the capital, Bangkok, city authorities have erected gold-framed portraits showing the Crown Prince as a child with King Bhumibol, the pair wearing matching suit and ties. Others show him as an adult standing next to his father.

"There are more portraits of the Crown Prince now than a few years ago," said a palace source. "This is not by chance, but it is a way to try to pre-empt any future instability."  The source declined to be named citing the sensitivity of referring to the succession and the death of a venerated king.

The evening news on state television channels, which has a daily segment on Thailand's royal family, also has increasingly featured the prince and his family, including coverage of their trips abroad and attendance at seminars, sporting events and fashion shows.  

The thrice-married prince and his family -- two daughters from his first and second marriages, and a son from his third -- are seen more frequently  on state television and in glossy magazines.    

King Bhumibol, who assumed the throne in June 1946, is in failing health and has been confined to a Bangkok hospital since last May. He was recently treated for hydrocephalus, or 'water on the brain', according to the Bureau of the Royal Household, and is recovering from a fever and infection.

Most Thais have known no other king. Bhumibol's succession has prompted worries about instability in a country that has witnessed 19 coups or attempted ones and at least 19 constitutions since a constitutional monarchy replaced an absolute one in 1932.   Continued...

A picture of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej is seen on a bank building in Bangkok, Thailand April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva