On Aug. 8, Emperor Akihito delivered a televised speech expressing his wish to abdicate in the near future to pave the way for his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, to assume the Chrysanthemum Throne. The Abe government has been kept busy in seeking ways to meet his desire. But the matter is politically sensitive. Conservative royalists are concerned abdication could bring instability to the Imperial system in the long run.

Taking the Japanese case as an example, the Thai palace is encountering an emerging debate on the possible abdication of the much-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The king will turn 89 this December. But he has been hospitalized since 2009 and news of his deteriorating health has recently badly affected the Thai stock market. His departure will have a huge impact on the political and economic stability of the country.

Like Japan, Thailand has no specific law allowing abdication. Being a king is a lifetime commitment. Through the current Chakri dynasty, established in 1782, there has been only one case, when King Prajadhipok decided in 1935 to step down. Three years earlier, in 1932, revolutionaries overthrew Siam's royal absolutism and introduced a constitutional monarchy. Prajadhipok, under extreme political pressure, chose to abdicate, ending centuries of political domination by Thai monarchs.