There have been celebrations in Thailand to mark the 50th birthday on Monday (5 December) of King Bhumibol Adulayadej (poomiponn adoola-yadedd).
There have been celebrations in Thailand to mark the 50th birthday on Monday (5 December) of King Bhumibol Adulayadej (poomiponn adoola-yadedd). For the occasion a curfew was lifted by the government and 22 prisoners jailed after an abortive coup eight months ago were released.
SYNOPSIS: For once people in Bangkok were able to forget the political turmoil that has been disrupting life in Thailand. In late October a military coup ousted Prime Minister Thanin Kraivichien (taanin Kri-witchee-en) and replaced him with General Kriangsak Chamanand. There'd been an earlier attempt to unseat Prime Minister Kraivichien in March which failed and was followed by the execution of one of the ringleaders.
But in line with a policy of national reconciliation and to observe the king's birthday, 22 of the plotters were free from prison on Sunday. They included military officers, policemen and six journalists. In addition nearly half the country's prison population had their sentences reduced or received pardons, including 90 prisoners who'd been under sentence of death. In all about 44,000 convicted criminals have benefitted from the amnesty.
Thailand's political intrigues have had little effect on King Bhumibol. Born in the United States, he was educated largely in Switzerland and spent much of his younger days in the West. He's been described as an enthusiastic sportsman and jazz musician who manages to rule effectively despite the varying fortunes of his prime ministers and military leaders. After the former king, his elder brother, died in suspicious circumstances, he stayed away for two years before returning to claim the throne. In 1952 at the age of 25 he crowned himself in Thai tradition ruler of the country's 28 million people.
Only three days before the king's birthday it was announced that Thailand and communist Vietnam would go ahead with a plan to exchange ambassadors following a year of tense relations between the two countries. The tension eased after Prime Minister Kraivichien, an anti-communist, was ousted. And on Friday a two-paragraph communique announced that immediate steps would be taken to normalise relations.