The Tragedy of King Bhumibol

Rama IX’s reign was haunted from the start. When he was 18 years old, his world was transformed by one shattering event, and the consequences and emotional cost and unanswered questions have pursued him through the decades, despite his repeated attempts to shake himself free.

On June 9, 1946, King Ananda Mahidol, Bhumibol’s elder brother, was shot through the head in his bedroom in the Barompiman Hall, a European-style mansion inside the Grand Palace complex.





Many Thais found the theory that Ananda shot himself by accident a little too convenient to be credible, and also considered suicide unlikely. They suspected foul play. Meanwhile, the doctors who had embalmed Ananda’s body said they had found a wound at the back of his head that was smaller than the wound in his forehead. Assuming that exit wounds are always bigger than entry wounds, they concluded Rama VIII had been shot in the back of the head: murdered. This was widely reported in newspapers and caused a sensation. It turned out that they were wrong: forensic examinations later showed the bullet had entered through Ananda’s forehead and exited out the back of his skull. But speculation had already been set ablaze...



In 1979, Bhumibol and Sirikit granted unprecedented access to the BBC for a special two-hour documentary, Soul of a Nation, broadcast in 1980. During an extensive interview, journalist David Lomax asked Bhumibol about his brother’s death. The king replied:

The investigation provided the fact that he died with a bullet wound in his forehead. It was proved that it was not an accident and not a suicide. One doesn’t know… But what happened is very mysterious, because immediately much of the evidence was just shifted. And because it was political, so everyone was political, even the police were political, [it was] not very clear. I only know [that] when I arrived he was dead. Many people wanted to advance not theories but facts to clear up the affair. They were suppressed. And they were suppressed by influential people in this country and in international politics...



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The Tragedy of King Bhumibol | ZENJOURNALIST

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