Thai kings birthday speech, parade put off

BANGKOK: Thailand’s royal palace announced today the postponement of a speech and military parade to mark the birthday of the nation’s revered king, who has been hospitalised for two-and-a-half months.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch who is regarded as a demi-god by many Thais, turns 82 on Saturday and was due to mark the occasion with his annual birthday-eve speech on Friday.

But the royal household said both the address and Wednesday’s parade would be postponed, without specifying why or announcing alternative dates.

The birthday of King Bhumibol, who is considered a unifying force

in a politically turbulent nation, is marked by a public holiday and celebrated by Thais across the kingdom with fireworks and Buddhist rituals.

Monday’s statement said the monarch would still preside over a Saturday morning ceremony at the palace attended by his family and members of parliament.

His son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, would preside over a garden party for diplomats on December 8, it added.

The king was admitted to Bangkok’s Siriraj hospital on September 19 with a lung infection and fever.

On November 2 he made his second public appearance since being admitted, lighting candles at a traditional water festival. He was pushed in a wheelchair to the ceremony by doctors.

The king missed his speech last year through illness.

Supporters of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra called off rallies due to start last weekend after the billionaire said the protests were too close to the monarch’s birthday.

The government will decide later today whether to lift a tough security law that it had invoked across Bangkok until mid-December to control the demonstrations.

In recent weeks Thai police have charged four people with spreading false rumours on the Internet about the king’s health, after concerns about his condition sent stocks plunging.

Thailand also has a strict lese majeste law, under which insulting or defaming any member of the royal family is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.