I did not realize how far the idolatry for thailand’s king bhumipol extended. there are pictures of him everywhere in stores, in restaurants, on the street–it is common to see public shrines and billboards for the monarch. royal yellow flags are just as ubiquitous as thailand’s red, white & blue stripes. a noticeable percentage of thais wear the “royal yellow” polo shirts, which reaches a frenzy on mondays (I think it’s the weekly semi-official day to revere the king).
indeed, the king is well loved–but it is also an offence to publicly criticize the monarch (the crime of lèse majesté carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail). hence the whole reason for the youtube ban in thailand was a video clip with a parody of the king.
(this is the page that shows up: “Sorry! the web site you are accessing has been blocked by ministry of information and communication technology”)
king bhumipol adulyadej is the only thai monarch to have been born abroad (in the US), and is Swiss-educated. But more importantly:
He is the leading supporter of Buddhism in Thai society, and the stability that he provides through his very presence is what allows swings of political activity and military coups to take place without threatening the fabric of Thai society. — from Answers.com
perhaps this explains the most peaceful political protests I have ever seen (sanam luang has been packed every night this week for pro-democracy demonstrations). but perhaps I’ll understand more the longer I am here…