The Rendon Group Snapshot – 17 October 2016

by TRG Alerts Admin on October 24, 2016

The Rendon Group

17OCT16

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King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand Dies at 88

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A woman cries while holding up a portrait of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej while his body is being moved from the Bangkok hospital where he died to the Grand Palace, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

This week’s snapshot focuses on the 13OCT death of Thailand’s longtime monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the ensuing uncertainty over the nation’s future. Bhumibol was born in the US and was an important ally for Washington in combating the spread of communism in Southeast Asia during the Cold War. Many Thais came to see the King as a unifying-figure who they saw as being dedicated to the wellbeing of the citizens. Moreover, the military junta, which seized power in a coup two years ago, derives its authority from the king. The announcement of the king’s death was met with with anxiety, as critics charge his son lacks his father’s charisma and has dealt with his enemies ruthlessly, displaying his low regard for democratic institutions. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn decided he would not immediately ascend to the throne as King Rama X, and Prem Tinsulanonda, a former Thai prime minister and head of the king’s advisory council, will serve as a caretaker to the throne. This move may temporarily assuage fears of the possible reign of the Crown Prince who has been embroiled in scandals over the years and has a problematic friendship with the ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The country’s economy is uncertain without a uniting figure. Low-level tension could develop into the reemergence of conflict when the military decides to hold elections, which are scheduled for late 2017.

News summary of events during the week of 10OCT16 – 17OCT16

  • 10OCT: The Thai stock exchange plunged by 2.97 percent, a day after news that King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s health had become “unstable.” (DPA)
  • 11OCT: Doctors at the Siriraj hospital in Bangkok said the King was having problems with his kidneys, blood flow to the left side of his heart and blood pressure. (CNN)
  • 12OCT: Security outside the hospital where the ailing monarch is being treated was stepped up before a planned visit by his son, following unprecedented concern over the king’s health. (AFP)
  • 12OCT: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha cut short a trip to the country’s east and flew back to the capital to meet the crown prince in a previously unannounced move that comes as concerns grow over the health of the king. (Guardian)
  • 13OCT: King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch who was seen as head of an institution central to Thai identity and as a father-figure to the nation, died in hospital, the palace announced. (Reuters)
  • 13OCT: All Thai television channels — including international satellite networks — were replaced with black and white palace broadcasts following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. (AFP)
  • 14OCT: Tens of thousands of black-clad grievers lined the streets near the Grand Palace in Bangkok to pay tribute to the king. (TIME)
  • 14OCT: The country’s biggest foreign investor, Japan, said it would offer support to its firms in the kingdom as concerns grow that the death of its revered monarch could derail the economy. (AFP)
  • 14OCT: The King’s death saw a recovery in stocks that buckled during his final days, but analysts warned uncertainty over the nation’s future without its uniting figure posed fresh risks for an economy already battered by a decade of political turmoil. (AFP)
  • 15OCT: The head of the royal advisory council, Prem Tinsulanonda, will stand in as regent while the country grieves over the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and awaits for his son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, to formally succeed him, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said. (Reuters)
  • 15OCT: Authorities warned traders not to take advantage of shoppers flocking to buy black shirts to mourn King Bhumibol Adulyadej and have sent out teams of inspectors to scour markets for price gougers. (Reuters)
  • 16OCT: The Tourism Authority posted on its official website a list of closed tourist attractions and cancelled events during the mourning period for late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. (Xinhua)
  • 17OCT: The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej will not affect plans to hold a general election in 2017, the media reported, scotching speculation that the military government would delay the poll as the country enters a year of mourning. (Reuters)
  • 17OCT: The military government urged people not to take the law into their own hands after three videos surfaced on social media of angry mobs accusing people of insulting the monarchy following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. (Reuters)

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

  • @MimiSawittaAmy Sawitta Lefevre, Chief Thailand Correspondent, Reuters
  • @pakheadJonathan Head,  South East Asia Correspondent, BBC
  • @PanuCNAPanu Wongcha-um, IndoChina Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia
  • @PravitRPravit Rojanaphruk, Journalist and Activist
  • @SuthareeWSutharee Wannasiri, Thailand Human Rights Specialist, Fortify Rights

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Paul Chambers, Research Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at Chiang Mai University

“The instability brought by his death will definitely diminish tourism.”

  • “Thai King’s Death Casts New Shadow Over Struggling Economy,” WSJ,  14OCT16

Bill Hayton, Associate Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House

“In 70 years, everything else in the country changed, but he was a symbol of stability.”

  • “In Thailand, longtime king’s death opens country to political turmoil, instability,” LAT, 13OCT16

Masato Horie, Analyst, Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co.

“There are very few students educated in science and technology. Japanese companies would move out of Thailand if they judged that it doesn’t pay to do business there anymore.”

  • “Thai King’s Death Casts New Shadow Over Struggling Economy,” WSJ,  14OCT16

Tom Pepinsky, Associate Professor, Cornell University

“His death means that the Thai political system must find an alternative focal point around which to unite the country’s factionalized population. It’s simply impossible to imagine that will transfer immediately to the crown prince. The monarchy’s narrative is going to have to change from deference for an individual to deference for an institution.”

  • “In Thailand, a divided country confronts loss of a royal unifying force,” CSM, 14OCT16

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Political-Science Professor, Chulalongkorn University

“He has left behind a great nation, a grieving and grateful nation. There are detractors and critics who might argue that the monarchy has impeded democratic development over the past decade, but in the broader, overarching perspective, Thailand would not be where it is today without this monarchy and this monarch.”

  • “‘The Greatest Loss and Despair’: Thais Mourn Their King,” NYT, 13OCT16

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

  1. Thai king’s death adds to uncertainty about Obama’s faltering Asia pivot

Media: Reuters

Byline: David Brunnstrom

Date: 13 October 2016

The death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday adds a new layer of uncertainty to U.S. President Barack Obama’s faltering “pivot” to Asia less than a month before the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential elections.

The king was important in cementing the long-standing alliance between the United States and Thailand after World War Two, in a reign that spanned the Vietnam War and development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Washington still considers vital to maintaining its influence in the region.

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  1. Gripped by grief, Thais mourn death of beloved monarch

Media: Associated Press

Byline: N/A

Date: 13 October 2016

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand began its first day in 70 years without a king on Friday in a profound state of mourning, with people across the shaken nation dressed in black following the death of the world’s longest-reigning monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The 88-year-old king had spent much of the last decade hospitalized and the momentous news, announced in a palace statement Thursday, had long been both anticipated and feared. But the nation remained stable and life continued largely as usual with most shops, banks and tourist sites open.

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  1. Thailand’s mourning for king may soften economy temporarily

Media: Reuters

Byline: Khettiya Jittapong and Pairat Temphairojana

Date: 14 October 2016

As Thais begin a year of mourning for their king, parties and celebrations will be toned down, particularly over the next month, temporarily crimping consumer and tourist spending in an economy that has been struggling for traction in recent years.

With the government asking for people to “refrain from festivities” for 30 days, and embassies advising tourists to show restraint after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, even Bangkok’s bustling bars and the country’s famous holiday resorts could go unusually quiet.

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  1. Thais Unite to Mourn King’s Death as Ceremonies Begin in Capital

Media: Bloomberg

Byline: N/A

Date: 14 October 2016

The streets of the Thai capital turned into rivers of black with tens of thousands of loyal subjects weeping and bowing as they paid respect to their king as his body was transported from the hospital where his reign ended to the palace where it began seven decades earlier.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, passed away Thursday at Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital, marking the end of a reign that saw Thailand transition from an agrarian backwater to Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy. His only son and heir apparent Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, led the procession from the hospital, across the Chaophraya, or River of Kings, and into the golden-spired Grand Palace.

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  1. Tokyo pledges support for Japanese firms in Thailand

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 14 October 2016

Tokyo, Oct 14, 2016 (AFP) – Thailand’s biggest foreign investor, Japan, said Friday it would offer support to its firms in the kingdom as concerns grow that the death of its revered monarch could derail the economy.

Japan has more than 4,000 companies operating in Thailand, dubbed the “Detroit of Southeast Asia” due to the huge number of auto manufacturing plants.

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