Thai People Mourn Loss of Their King

The death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej was not unexpected, as the 88-year-old monarch had been in poor health for some time, but it was nonetheless a shock to his people and you can see the grief and anguish on their faces. I had lived in Thailand many years ago, and was personally saddened to hear of his passing and know how highly revered he was there. While his political power was limited, Bhumibol was not only seen as a stabilizing force but was, in fact, a very important influence on the military, bureaucracy and all other segments of the society, helping to ensure stability over his 70-year reign, which spanned many changes—and at times turmoil—not only in Thailand but throughout the world.

When concerns about Bhumibol’s health began to intensify, the Thai equity market and its currency, the baht, also began to suffer. As the world’s longest-reigning monarch and given the overwhelming emotional ties the Thai people have with him, the ramifications of a royal succession have been a source of uncertainty in Thailand for a number of years, although it is expected that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will succeed his father in due course. I think it will take time for people to get used to the change, and while the price doesn’t have the same stature his father had, hopefully the prince will be able to step in and help Thailand move forward in a positive direction. One thing we do know is that there is a very dynamic and changing situation in Thailand right now. The country has been prone to coups, and has been under military rule since the one that occurred in 2014. Thailand’s general election is coming up in 2017, so we could see some significant changes ahead, and investors need to be prepared for that—and also for market volatility.