His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has always been the centre of the Thai people’s attention on the eve of his birthday, when he appears at the Disidalai Hall at the Dusit Palace to grant an audience to the Cabinet, senior civil servants, dignitaries and his subjects. All are eager to listen to his annual speech and his wisdom accumulated after more than half a century on the throne.
The desire and anxiety to receive his wisdom has been even stronger this year because the country has been embroiled in perhaps its worst-ever political crisis. But unfortunately this year his Majesty was unable to deliver his speech. He was earlier taken ill and the news was given by HRH Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who informed the Thai people that His Majesty was suffering from illness.
The King assigned HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to represent him in receiving birthday wishes from government officials and his subjects at the Dusidalai Hall on the eve of his birthday.
Both HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and HRH Maha Chakri Sirindhorn delivered short speeches in lieu of His Majesty the King. The followings are excerpts:
The speech by HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn:
“Today, His Majesty has assigned me and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to represent him in granting you an audience, for you to express your best wishes for His Majesty on the occasion of his birthday.
“His Majesty has told me to thank all of you for your wishes, which you have expressed out of your loyalty for him. His Majesty is delighted. He also returns the wishes to you.
“His Majesty wishes you happiness, physical strength, courage and mental strength. (He hopes) you will fulfil your duty to the best of your abilities for the country and the public. May you find happiness, prosperity and virtuous successes, for both yourself and the public.
“His Majesty is not present today because he has a minor illness. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who just met him, will tell you about his condition.
“In concluding this speech, let me inform you that His Majesty thanks all of you and returns your wishes. May you find happiness and prosperity, and see your every wish fulfilled.”
The speech by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn:
“When I met him yesterday (December 3), he was fine. When we were having a meal, he ate well. However, his throat developed some symptoms today. He is now suffering from bronchitis and esophagitis.
“He now cannot eat. He is being given saline solution. He has sputum in his airway. He feels unwell and exhausted. So far, he has no fever.
“When he regains his strength, he will grant you an audience. Now, he prefers to have some rest.
“His doctors may soon explain his condition in accurate medical terms. From what I see, his condition is not serious. He is just exhausted and has sputum. He is taking the saline solution and has been asked to drink lots of water. His Majesty has assigned the Crown Prince to represent him here”.
This is the first time in his 62-year reign that the king – the longest-serving monarch in the world – has not given the address. According to the BBC’s correspondent in Thailand, Jonathan Head, his failure to appear will be very unsettling for a country which looks to its monarch for reassurance and guidance in times of turmoil…