AP WAS THERE: When Thailand’s Bhumibol became king in 1946
BANGKOK (AP) — EDITOR’S NOTE — Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch who died at age 88, ascended to the throne in 1946 after the mysterious death of his 20-year-old brother pitched the Southeast Asian country then known as Siam into shock and one year of mourning.
The brother, Ananda Mahidol, had become king in 1935 when he was 9, following the abdication of his uncle. Ananda had spent most of his life in Switzerland and was making only his second visit as monarch to his homeland. He was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in a palace bedroom under circumstances that remain mysterious.
Seventy years after their original publication, The Associated Press is making available two stories from June 10, 1946, written by AP newsman Alec MacDonald in Bangkok the day after Ananda died. MacDonald reported on the accession to the throne of the 18-year-old Prince Bhumibol and the swirling speculation over Ananda’s death. Bhumibol’s coronation took place four years later.
The stories are reproduced as originally published, using the spelling that was used at the time for Bhumibol’s name.
BANGKOK, Siam (AP) — The body of 20-year-old King Ananda Mahidol lay in state tonight in the magnificent Hall of Kings, as the Government decreed a full year of mourning for the young monarch who was found dead in the Royal Palace yesterday with a bullet wound between the eyes.
Prince Phumiphon Aduldet, 18-year-old brother of the dead ruler, bore up bravely under the shock, and replied in halting, sorrowful phrases when a council of regents informed him of his succession to the throne.
In the Hall of Kings, where the bodies of many of his royal ancestors had been taken for the final rites of death, the body of Ananda was bathed in a traditional Buddhist ceremony. For at least 100 days his remains will be kept in a golden urn, before the final rite of cremation.
All Siam mourned the death of the ruler. Theaters and all places of amusement were closed. Flags were at half-mast and will remain so for 30 days.
Early in the day the leaders of the National Parliament re-elected Pridi Phanomyong as Premier, and his formal reappointment was expected to be confirmed Tuesday. A new Government was expected to be formed within a few days.
Pridi accompanied the council of three regents who notified boyish Phumiphon that he had become the ruler of Siam’s 18 million people. His succession was accepted unanimously by the Legislature in extraordinary session last night, 12 hours after the death of his brother.
The present regency is made up of the three eldest members of Parliament, and is temporary. It probably will be replaced by three members of the new King’s own choosing, with the likelihood that two of the members will represent the nobility and one the commoners.
It was learned on high authority that the gun which killed Ananda in what was described officially as an accident was a .45 caliber Colt automatic.
Siamese in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Ananda went to school, described as utterly baseless any suggestion that Ananda had taken his own life deliberately. Questioned about the King’s friendship for 21-year-old Marilene Ferrari, pretty daughter of a Lausanne clergyman, a close friend of the girl said “it was not a serious affair. She knew it could not last.”
Ananda’s former tutor and secretary, Cleon Seraidaris, said he talked to the girl and that she told him she too excluded the possibility of suicide. Seraidaris, to whom the King wrote regularly each week, said he last heard from Ananda five days ago, and that the recent letters both to him and to other friends showed the King to have been in good health and spirits, eagerly anticipating his projected trip to the United States and his return to school in Switzerland.
BANGKOK, Siam (AP) — Prince Phumiphon Aduldet, 18 years old, was named King of Siam today while this shocked nation mourned the death of his brother, 20-year-old King Ananda Mahidol, who was found in the Royal Palace yesterday with a bullet wound between the eyes.
The new king, who will become the ruler of more than 200,000 square miles and 18 million subjects, was unanimously selected by an extraordinary session of the Legislature, meeting 12 hours after his brother’s death.
The Siamese Police Director-General told the Legislature that Ananda’s death was accidental.
Phumiphon Aduldet, the almost constant companion of his older brother, was born in Boston, Mass., while his father, the late Prince Mahidol of Songkhla, was studying at Harvard. Phumiphon Aduldet and Ananda attended school together in Switzerland.
A three-member Council of Regency was named by the Legislature to advise the new monarch. Pridi Phanomyong, reappointed Premier only three days ago, was expected to be retained in that post.
Only sketchy details were disclosed on the shooting of Ananda, a bespectacled, diffident youth often described as a reluctant monarch, who had become extremely popular since his return from Switzerland last December.
News of the death, which occurred on the eve of a projected trip to the United States, was broadcast at 7 p.m. yesterday, and was greeted by wails of grief from a crowd gathered in front of the Publicity Building in Bangkok.
Great crowds quickly gathered around the palace. The queen mother, Phraratananihsri Sangwan, an attractive woman in her forties who exerted a strong influence on the young king, was prostrate with grief.
Ananda was a fancier of firearms and often practiced firing in the palace grounds.
The queen mother and a royal suite of 20 had expected to accompany the youthful king on his trip to the United States. He planned to leave here by plane next Thursday and to spend about a week in Washington and New York before flying to Switzerland to resume studies interrupted last December.
Ananda was born in Germany Sept. 20, 1925, and first came to Siam at the age of 2. He went to Switzerland in 1933, receiving most of his education in Berne and Lausanne. He was proclaimed King March 2, 1935, upon the abdication of his uncle, King Prajadpipok, who died in 1941. Ananda spent little time in his own land, residing in Switzerland for most of the last twelve years, except for a brief visit here in 1938.
Ananda, more Western than Eastern in his tastes, enjoyed playing a saxophone and driving a United States jeep about the palace grounds.
The absolute monarchy of Siam, dating from 1350, was overthrown in a bloodless revolution three years before Ananda ascended the throne. Only a month ago, he approved a new constitution providing for a Senate and a House of Representatives, and on June 1 he opened the first Siamese Parliament entirely elected by the people.
Japanese troops invaded Siam Dec. 7, 1941, while Ananda was in Switzerland, and established a puppet government which declared war on the United States. The new Siamese Government, again ruled by Ananda, was recognized by Britain and the United States last January.
Ananda’s retinue had been worried about the possibility of his assassination while he was studying in Switzerland, Paul Rey, director of the new Swiss School, where the young king studied, said in Berne. Asked about reports that the King was depressed because he was unable to marry a girl fellow student, Rey said Ananda has gone with one or two girls but had not had a serious romance.
Cleon Seraidaris, Ananda’s former Greek teacher and secretary in Switzerland, said the King had a flirtation in Lausanne, but it was not a serious affair. Seraidaris said although the monarch told him he was aware of the impossibility of marrying the girl, he did not believe Ananda had committed suicide. Before leaving, the monarch made a testament leaving his present and future fortune to his mother, the teacher said.