Source: AFP via Yahoo News
October 10, 2016
Thailand's stock exchange plunged Monday after the palace said hospital-bound King Bhumibol Adulyadej's health was "not stable" in an update that has raised fears for the 88-year-old.
Bhumibol is the world's longest-reigning monarch and beloved by many in Thailand.
But he has not been seen in public for nearly a year as he battles a series of ailments in a Bangkok hospital.
His health is a taboo subject with palace officials maintaining tight control on news while a draconian lese majeste law makes public discussion of, or planning for, his succession all but impossible inside the kingdom.
Privately many business leaders -- both domestic and foreign -- fret that his demise could lead to economic instability, especially as there is no official discussion on how the country will handle his passing.
By the Monday's close on Thailand's primary bourse stocks had dived 3.15 percent, the sharpest fall in nearly a month.
The baht also declined to a two-month low of 35.08 against the dollar mid morning, a sixth consecutive day of losses, according to Bloomberg data. In afternoon trading it was at 34.99.
In recent months the palace has begun issuing more regular updates on Bhumibol's hospital treatment that point to a string of major health issues including renal failure.
The stock market often dips after such announcements.
Over the last two years he has been treated for bacterial infections, breathing difficulties, heart problems and hydrocephalus -- a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid often referred to as "water on the brain".
The latest statement issued by the Royal Household Bureau on Sunday evening said a ventilator was deployed after the monarch's blood pressure dipped following procedures to prepare him for dialysis and to change a tube that helps drain fluid from his spine.
"The medical team are watching his symptoms and giving treatments carefully because the overall symptoms of his sickness are still not stable," the statement said.
-- 'Negative effect' --
Bhumibol's reign has spanned seven tumultuous decades and his frail health is a cause of great public concern for Thais, most of whom have never known life under another king.
Analysts say anxiety over the end of Bhumibol's reign has aggravated the past decade of political conflict in Thailand, with elites jostling for influence.
"News of his failing health brings another layer of uncertainty to the political situation and is weighing on investor sentiment," one regional analyst told AFP, asking not to be named because of the sensitivities of the topic.
Christopher Wong, a foreign-exchange strategist at Malayan Banking Bhd. in Singapore, told AFP that Bhumibol "is typically seen to play an important role in maintaining the stability of the country".
"So this is having a negative effect on Thai stocks and the currency," he added.
Open discussion of his legacy and the future of the institution carries enormous risk because of the lese majeste law.
Use of the law has also surged under the ultra-royalist generals that seized power in a 2014 coup with record breaking jail sentences handed down.
Bhumibol's named successor, 64-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, has yet to attain his father's widespread popularity.