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Thai elite must bridge the political divide while it still can

A woman prays for Thailand's monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is in a fragile condition in Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. The building is decorated with his portrait. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

As the twilight deepens on the almost 70-year reign of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej amid reports of his deteriorating health, the contradictions inherent in this modern, middle-class country ruled by a traditionalist elite are becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile.

     King Bhumibol, who is 88 and has lived for most of the last seven years in a Bangkok hospital, was reported in mid-February to have an unidentified virus. The media were full of daily reports on his condition as the palace took the unprecedented step of inviting the public into its ceremonial hall to sign a book for well-wishers. One week later, palace statements said the monarch was recovering. But it is clear his health remains in decline.

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