Foreign Policy Digital

The King Is Dead, and Thailand’s Storybook Monarchy Might Be Next

As Thailand mourns its revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the public braces for an uncertain future.

BANGKOK — If it weren’t for the sea of black, it would have been easy to mistake the king’s cremation ceremonies for a family day out. Even in the pouring Bangkok rain, families were laughing and joking, officemates chatting as they waited in line, and schoolkids gossiping as they sheltered under building eaves. Volunteers in yellow kerchiefs — a splash of color amid the obligatory black of mourning — pushed wheelchairs for those too old to walk, manned nurses’ stations, and gave out water.

It had been just over a year since the 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej — or, as the language reserved only for the royal family has it, “returned to heaven.” During that time, his body had been lying in state in a closed coffin behind the , a great golden urn; in the past, his remains would have been in the urn itself, sloughing off flesh in preparation for

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