Thailand’s King Rama VIII, Ananda Mahidol, was shot through the head in his bedroom in Bangkok’s Grand Palace on June 9, 1946. An official communique released the same day said the king had shot himself accidentally with his own Colt .45 pistol. But this explanation was widely considered to be bogus. Twenty doctors — 16 Thai, two British, one Indian and one American — were asked to carry out belated forensic work on Ananda’s corpse and give their verdict on whether his death was suicide, accident, or regicide.
The “accident” scenario referred specifically to a self-inflicted injury, while the “regicide” scenario implied that somebody had murdered Ananda. This meant the three options available to the doctors were inadequate because they excluded a fourth possibility — somebody could have shot Ananda by accident. Specifically, he could have been shot by mistake by his younger brother Bhumibol. The two boys often played with loaded guns, and Bhumibol’s account of his exact whereabouts at the time of Ananda’s death conflicted with testimony given by the royal nanny. However, because of the explosive implications of suggesting Thailand’s new king had killed the previous king accidentally, doctors were never asked to determine whether the evidence fit this scenario.
The medical committee’s report should be understood in this context. The “regicide” conclusion basically means Ananda’s death was not self-inflicted. It could include the possibility that somebody shot him accidentally as well as the possibility of murder.
However, some doctors who believed the evidence suggested Ananda had been shot by Bhumibol by mistake may have felt it was more appropriate to publicly reach a conclusion of accident rather than regicide.
The findings of the panel are below.