King Bhumibol Adulyadej

As a single shot shattered the stillness of Bangkok's Borompimarn Palace on a steamy June morning in 1946, the land some still called Siam changed forever. Twenty-year-old King Ananda was dead. The manner of his passing — by accident, suicide or murder — endures as Thailand's deepest mystery. The pistol smoke barely had time to clear before the mantle of kingship passed to Ananda's 18-year-old brother, Bhumibol Adulyadej. Some, including a new magazine in Asia named TIME, pondered whether the "gangling, spectacled" teenager could survive the deadly intrigues of a fabled and faraway Oriental land.

The odds were...

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