BANGKOK—Towering high in the heavens overlooking the courtyard of Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital stands an illuminated portrait of Thailand’s King Bhumibol, with a garland of dazzling neon lights proclaiming, “Long Live The King.”
But how long does the king have to live?
On his own private floor in this hospital on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, the 83-year-old king has battled Parkinson’s, depression and a series of strokes since being admitted here in September 2009.
Now his days appear numbered, a fact that has many in this nation of 68 million worried.
Someone who has always spoken openly is the country’s most famous social thinker and well-known Buddhist, Sulak Sivaraksa.
Despite his gentle demeanour, Sulak, even at 78, is accustomed to speaking truth to power, and he has been charged for it under the lèse majesté law.
Once close to the king, in fact part of “the inner circle,” he says, he had a falling out when he rejected the palace’s old official line that the king’s older brother had been assassinated.
“The truth is the present king killed his brother — accidentally. I’ve not only said it openly, I’ve published it,” he says. He was charged and last year let off, apparently on instructions from the king.
Looking to the future Sulak sees the end of an era.
“To put it negatively, I think the monarchy will end with the demise of the present King.