As Thai monarchy's power wanes, king still revered

After deadly street violence 18 years ago, a military strongman and a pro-democracy activist faced down themselves at the feet of Thailand's king as he lectured the bitter enemies before television cameras like schoolboys after a playground brawl. No more blood was shed on Bangkok's lanes.

Today, as Thailand repairs its violence-scarred capital and tries to cure deepening social divisions, two crucial questions hang over the unnerved kingdom: Why didn't King Bhumibol Adulyadej intervene this time, and what is the future of an organization that did so much to hold the country together for more than half a century?During the two-month crisis,
which killed 88 people, injured more than 1,800 and reduced landmark buildings to ashes, the aging and sick monarch remained virtually silent despite widespread appeals for his intervention - a dramatic contrast to times when just a few words from the palace were enough to pull Thailand back from the brink.Both the anti-government Red Shirt activists who seized areas of downtown Bangkok and pro-monarchy groups issued the pleas, saying only Bhumibol could save the day.