Ailing Thai king triggers fears of political volatility
AS THE Thai king's health condition deteriorates, this time with many alarming signs, investor confidence in Thailand continues to plunge, with many fearing the first royal transition in 70 years would spell greater political and economic uncertainty for the country.
Yesterday, amid media speculation of the king's condition, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha cut short his visit to Chon Buri province, to the east of Bangkok, and hurried back to the capital to meet Crown Prince Maha Vajralongkorn.
The Bangkok Post reported that the capital's government has ordered security tightened around the clock for public safety.
All this came after the Royal Household Bureau released a statement on Sunday saying that the condition of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, was not stable.
The Nation newspaper yesterday reported that the love and respect the king commands among his people spurred many to wear pink to show their love for him.
Many also headed to the Siriraj Hospital where he has been receiving treatment for years to pray for his recovery.
According to analysts, the anxiety over the king's failing health is the main reason for the unending political turbulence over the past decade, as the rural supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra contended for power against the elites based in Bangkok.
The crown prince is widely seen to lack the same moral authority that his father has cultivated over seven decades as monarch.
Thailand has been under the military rule of General Prayut since May 2014 after he ousted the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup.
But analysts say most foreign investors have been waiting since for a clearer view of Thailand's political and economic outlook before returning to the country.
Since Sunday, Thailand's stock market has dropped by 6.5 per cent, heading towards its steepest weekly drop in three years, according to Bloomberg data.
Sean Yokota, head of Asia strategy at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB in Singapore, said the baht's slide was "mostly related to the king's health".
"It's about the political stability that the king has provided and his being a reconciliatory buffer between the major parties," he told Bloomberg. AGENCIES