A newspaper printer in Thailand declined to publish Tuesday the full edition of the daily International New York Times, fueling speculation over the health of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and overall fate of the monarchy. Tuesday's Times was sent to printers with a front-page story on the 87-year-old's various ailments and successors, titled "As Thai king ails, crown's future unclear," but the paper was not printed, the Associated Press reported. The story was "deemed too sensitive to print," according to a statement from the company.
Thailand has lèse majesté laws that make it illegal to insult, defame or threaten the monarchy -- more specifically, the king, the queen, the heir apparent or the regent. Convicts can be sentenced up to 15 years for each count of defamation, and such convictions have increased in frequency ever since a 2014 coup that saw the military take over the country. In August, the court ordered a man who had posted Facebook statuses criticizing the royals to spend a record 30 years in prison.
Tuesday's International New York Times story described the impending challenge of succession in the Thai monarchy. When Bhumibol dies, the heir apparent to the throne is Maha Vajiralongkorn, "the jet-setting crown prince" with "a reputation as a playboy" and who "faces an uphill battle to win the trust and adoration his father has achieved," the Times wrote. But the well-liked crown princess, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, is not eligible to take over. This has added to an ongoing discussion about "what kind of monarchy Thailand should have," the story read.
The issue was a timely one -- the condition of Bhumibol, the beloved king since 1946, has been declining for years. He's spent months in the hospital recently, being treated in August for having fluid on the brain and a lung infection, according to statements from the palace. Earlier this month, he experienced a blood infection and high fever, the Guardian reported.
The Times told readers Tuesday they could access the Asia edition of the newspaper online. "This decision was made solely by the printer and is not endorsed by the International New York Times," it added.