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King of Siam Shot Dead; Brother Named as Successor
By The Associated Press
Bangkok, June 10 -- King Ananda Mahidol, 20-year-old ruler of Siam was found dead of a bullet wound yesterday in Barompinan palace, and 12 hours later the Siamese legislature named his Boston-born brother, Prince Phumiphon Aduldet, 18, as the new King.
The Siamese police director general told an emergency session of the legislature last night that the King's death was accidental and that the bullet went through the center of his forehead.
The young King, whose death occurred on the eve of a projected trip to the United States, had been indisposed for the last two days. He arose at 4 a.m. yesterday and took some medicine. Nothing was known of his actions from that time until his body was found by a servant in the bedroom about 9 a.m.
(In Bern, Paul Rey, director of the new Swiss school where the young King studied, said the monarch's retinue had been worried before Ananda's departure from Switzerland over the possibility of assassination. The director said he knew no particulars about the matter.
(Asked about reports that the King was depressed because he was unable to marry a girl fellow student, Rey said Ananda had gone with one or two girls but had not had a serious romance. The director said he could not remember the girls' names.)
The entire nation was stunned by his death. The King had gained great popularity since his return from Switzerland last December.
The legislature unanimously selected Phumiphon Aduldet as the new king, rising together to signal his election with a chanted, "cha yo cha yo cha yo"--the Siamese hurrah.
Phumiphon Aduldet was born in Boston, while his father was attending at Harvard. He was the constant companion of his older brother and attended school with him in Switzerland.
The legislature also appointed a three-man council of regency to guide the new king in matters of state. Pridi Phanomyong, who was reappointed premier only three days ago, told the legislature he would recommend a premier to the new regency, but legislative sources said there was little doubt that Pridi Phanomyong himself would receive the post.
Ananda, a great fancier of firearms, always kept a weapon near him and often practiced firing in the palace grounds. Several weeks ago a thief stole his favorite Luger automatic, and the King was greatly disturbed.
The King's young, attractive mother, Queen Mother Sri Sangwan, was prostrate with grief.
Around the palace great crowds gathered in silent sorrow as the news spread.
The youthful King, who ascended the throne eleven years ago as a boy, had been making plans to leave Bangkok this week for the United States and Europe. He had expected to fly to United States and remain there about a week before flying to Switzerland, where he planned to resume the studies he interrupted when he returned to his native land last December 5.
The queen mother and a royal party of 18 had been expected to accompany him on the trip.
Diffident, bespectacled and boyish, Ananda was often described as a reluctant monarch who found his greatest pleasure in playing his saxophone and driving his American jeep about the palace grounds.
Only a month ago King Ananda signed a new constitution for his country which provided for a Senate and a House of Representatives both elected by the people. On June 1, he opened the first wholly elected Siamese parliament.
Ananda was proclaimed King March 2, 1933 under a regency upon the abdication of his uncle King Prajadhipok, but he spent little time in his own land. Born in Germany September 20, 1925, the son of the late Prince Mahidol, he had been in the United States when he was one year old and his father was studying at Harvard. He was taken to Siam at the age of two. He studied there as a child and went to Switzerland in 1933. He was educated in Switzerland, and most of his last 12 years were spent there, except for a brief visit home in 1932. Prajadhipok died in 1941. During his minority a council of the regency ruled Siam.
Ananda's personal life in Siam was confined largely within the Palace Walls.
Ananda's attractive mother was said to have exerted a strong influence upon the young ruler of 18 million subjects. She once studied at Simmons College in Massachusetts.
The ancient absolute monarchy of Siam, which endured from 1350 to 1932, was overthrown in a bloodless revolution three years before Ananda ascended the throne, but the Siamese revered him with the same extreme veneration they always had accorded their rulers.
Recently Ananda expressed a strong desire to return to Switzerland to resume his education. At the time, the elder members of the royal family and the powerful politicians opposed him in this.
Ananda won out, however. Last Friday the government announced the King and his royal party would leave on Thursday, June 13, by plane for the United States in an Air Transport Command C-54 plane. They had planned to stop overnight in Honolulu on Friday and to arrive in San Francisco next Saturday. The schedule called for arrival in Washington June 19, when he was to see President Truman.
The King had planned to spend 13 days in Washington and New York and then to proceed to London and Switzerland. United States' diplomatic attaches in Bangkok were to have accompanied him.
Since his return to Siam from Switzerland last December the young King obediently follows the dictates of pomp and ceremony and it appeared to have increased his popularity. Where speeches were necessary he delivered them from prepared texts, in a subdued voice.
The King died at a time which may be critical in his country's history. The country has applied for membership in the United Nation, and recently has charged French incursions from Indo-China into Laos and Cambodia in areas ceded by the Vichy French government under Japanese pressure to Siam during the war. Siamese hoped to present this to the United Nations Security Council.
Siam was invaded by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, when the young King was in Switzerland.