BANGKOK, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- In the future annals of the history of Thailand, 2016 will be an extremely important year to be remembered as the country has witnessed several unforgettable and nationally-impactful events occur in the kingdom.
For Many Thai people, 2016 turned into a year of sadness and mourning as revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the longest-reigning monarch in the world, passed away on Oct. 13 at the age of 88. His passing put an end to his seven-decade reign during which Thailand enjoyed the many fruitful years of long-standing stability and dramatic economic growth.
Not only regarded as the "father of the nation," the late king is remembered for his devotion to Thailand's development and environmental conservation, and, also, for his role as the final arbitrator in settling political conflicts, especially in crucial times.
Most Thais knew no other king in their lifetime and some wondered what Thailand would be like without the revered late king.
On Dec. 1, Thailand welcomed a new king as the then Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn formally accepted an invitation from parliament head Pornpetch Wichitcholchai for him to ascend the throne and thus became King Rama X of the Chakri dynasty, founded in 1782.
King Vajiralongkorn's ascension and his first royal decree to appoint Prem Tinsulanonda as head of the Privy Council reassured those who worried that there may be uncertainty in the succession process and how the new king would hold royal office.
The 96-year old Prem is one of the most experienced, canny and influential political figures in modern Thai history. He was also the closest confidant of the late king during the last four decades of his reign and has acted as head of the Privy Council since 1998.
Before the screening of every movie in Thailand, audiences stand when the royal anthem, known locally as Sansoen Phra Barami, is played. The screens previously used to show pictures of the late king's life and work have now changed to show King Vajiralongkorn's pictures, but mostly pictures with his father, the late king.
The succession, the first in 70 years, is sure to be noted down as a significant change in Thailand's history, though King Vajiralongkorn's formal coronation will only take place after his father's royal cremation later next year.
It is still unclear how actively King Vajiralongkorn intends to reign, while Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University told Xinhua that "the monarchy will not be the same" as late king's role as monarch is unique.
In 2016, another big event for Thailand was the passing of the ruling junta's draft constitution, which authorized the junta to prolong its grip on power for at least 5 years after a general election in 2017 or later.
In terms of the new draft constitution 61.35 percent and 58.07 percent of voters said yes to the charter and an additional question in a referendum held on August 7, according to Thailand's Election Commission.
The passing of the additional question means that 250 senators picked by the junta will be empowered to vote for a new prime minister along with 500 elected members of the House of Representatives.
However, although the legislature cannot elect a prime minister, there is a way for a person who is not a member of parliament to be the new prime minister, according to the constitution.
"The military is applying a mechanism for it to be empowered for some time, certainly, there will be military supervision over Thai politics," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University.
Thitinan added that Thai people know that the military has to stay for the transitional period as they voted yes to the new constitution, which bestowed power upon the military, but "if they intend to stay forever, there will be some tension."
The draft constitution is yet to be signed by King Vajiralongkorn to be promulgated.
The current Thai government promised a general election in late 2017 before the king's death but it is still unclear whether the date will be postponed until 2018.
Also of note in 2016, Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, are still haunted by blasts and insurgency and the series of bomb blasts even rocked other southern provinces, including tourists attractions in mid-August, while the current government tried to promote local economic growth to alleviate the crisis.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha made a quick trip to the deep South in July, declaring his plan for an "economic triangle", which meant Thailand will promote agriculture, sustainable energy and cross-border trade with Malaysia respectively in three districts of the three southern-most provinces.
The Thai media said these developing plans meant that the Thai government already realized that military missions alone cannot bring an end to insurgency in the region.
In 2016, the Thai government also put forward a new concept called "Thailand 4.0", which seeks to direct the country towards becoming a value-based economy that is founded on innovation and sustainable technological advancements.
The government even invited Jack Ma, founder and chairman of China's e-commerce giant Alibaba, to work with them to help small businesses to develop and also to boost e-commerce and e-payment systems in Thailand.
In 2016, the tourism industry is still growing, but at a slower rate when compared with 2015.
Some 32.57 million foreign tourists visited Thailand throughout 2016, generating 1.64 trillion baht (45.62 billion U.S. dollars) for the kingdom, with Chinese visitors remaining at the top spot.
From China's mainland 8.77 million tourists, or some 27 percent of total foreign travelers, visited the kingdom this year, representing a 10.56 percent increase compared with last year.
In 2015, 29.88 million foreign tourists visited Thailand, a 20.44 percent increase compared with 2014, with 7.93 million tourists coming from the Chinese mainland, representing an increase of 71.14 percent.
In terms of transportation, 2016 is also a year to be marked in Thailand, as the country put new trains into service, for the first time in 20 years.
These trains, made by China, are now running on four lines, specifically, Bangkok-Chiang Mai, Bangkok-Nong Kai, Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani and Bangkok-Hat Yai.
These new trains are the pride of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), which had not bought any new passenger cars for more than 20 years, said SRT governor Wutichart Kallayanamit when one of the new trains made its debut in August.
Thai railway infrastructure may experience further development as the country is planning on high speed railways such as the China-Thailand railway running from Bangkok to Nong Kai.
Runphol, a writer for a Thai railway fan website, said he is looking forward to the China-Thailand railway which could greatly shorten the traveling time.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told Xinhua earlier in December that the construction of the China-Thailand railway will start in early 2017.
Runphol's wish may come true in the coming years, while other Thai people, interviewed by Xinhua, have quite simple wishes for 2017.
"I want Thai people to respect each other and I want my country to prosper without political turmoil," said Boss, a 39-year-old Thai man.