Sixty years after his accession, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand remains a unique example of a constitutional monarch who is above politics but commands the authority to maintain order and stability when the nation's institutions fail in their duty to the people. The enduring image, shown on television during an uprising against the seizure of power by the military in the early 1990s, is that of a ruling general and a leading civilian opponent prostrate before the king as he admonished them to find a solution to the crisis. The military leaders resigned within hours. In the most recent example, he stepped into a political and constitutional crisis following an election boycotted by opposition parties, observing that a poll with only one party was hardly democratic. As a result, the nation has a caretaker government and new elections will be held before the end of the year. He has seen Thais through communist insurgency, Asian economic booms and busts, plunder of the nation's wealth by corrupt military, bureaucratic and business elites, 17 military coups and 23 prime ministers, with the independence and the dignity of their nation intact. Little wonder that today, from Bangkok to remote villages, Thailand is a sea of bright yellow, the colour of its royalty, as his people celebrate his reign. His portrait hangs in pride of place in virtually every home and office - as the formal king, the man of the people in the countryside or the energetic man of action. The only comparable, contemporary outpouring of affection for a monarch is to be found in the celebrations a few years ago of the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's reign over Britain. But there the comparison ends. When the queen's reign is over, Britain will continue to be run by the institutions and conventions of democracy according to the rule of law. The 78-year-old king and his people, on the other hand, should be asking whether a democratic, capitalist nation can continue to rely on one man to save it from disorder caused by quarrelling and corrupt politicians and generals, rather than institutions based on law and established procedure. He came to the throne with the monarchy at a low ebb after being stripped of its power in a democratic revolution. His skill and dedication to duty, and his long reign, have restored its prestige and given him authority unparalleled in other surviving royal houses. When he dies, his only son and heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will have to grow into very large shoes. He will start at a disadvantage, in the shadow of the wide popularity enjoyed by the king's second daughter, Crown Princess Sirindhorn. In the meantime, Thailand's future stability would be more assured if its people and their institutions began preparing for the day when the king may no longer be able to exercise moral authority.