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Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010


Thai king's call for unity

The King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej celebrated his 83rd birthday on Dec. 5. The national festivities that lasted nine days were heartfelt, not only out of real loyalty to the king, the world's longest reigning monarch, but out of concern about his health and the future of the royal institution.

The king took the throne June 9, 1946, and has provided leadership and stability throughout an often-turbulent era. Despite demonstrations, coups and virtual civil wars, the king has been the ultimate authority to which all Thais submit.

That role has been critically important in recent years as Thailand has been roiled by political conflict and seemingly intractable and deepening divisions.

Unfortunately, the king's health has weakened. He has been hospitalized since September 2009 with a lung infection and the palace has provided little information about his condition. There is great concern about the future of the monarchy.

The king's children do not command his respect nor claim his authority. In the absence of his stabilizing presence, the foundering ship of state could run aground.

In his annual birthday speech, the first public address since antigovernment demonstrations in Bangkok this spring claimed nearly 100 lives, King Bhumibol called, as always, for unity and reminded his subjects to "carry out their duty for the benefit of the country."

Thailand's politicians should take that admonition to heart.

They must remember to serve the entire country, rather than their narrow class and personal interests.

Sadly, it is a reminder that seems ever more necessary in Thailand and elsewhere.

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