King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand dies

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Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej has died aged 88, according to a statement from the Royal Palace read on state TV this morning (Thursday).

Crowds gathered at the hospital treating the king to pray for his recovery
Crowds gathered at the hospital treating the king to pray for his recovery

The announcement followed a days-long outpouring of support since the king was hospitalised. He underwent medical procedures over the weekend.

King Bhumibol ascended to the throne 70 years ago, making him the world’s longest-reigning living monarch, before his death.
Thais had flocked to the hospital in which he was being held, dressed predominantly in pink — an auspicious color believed to restore health — and yellow, which is the colour of the King.

Unifying monarch

King Bhumibol’s heir-apparent is 63-year-old Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who does not attract the same level of affection as his father.

Strict lese-majeste laws mean public discussion of the succession are punishable by lengthy jail terms.

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, pictured in 2010

King Bhumibol Adulyadej was widely revered in Thailand(AFP photo)

Given the pivotal role the king has played in maintaining the balance of power in Thailand’s volatile political environment, the succession will be a formidable challenge for the government, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

King Bhumibol, who was born in Cambridge in the US state of Massachusetts, acceded to the throne on 9 June 1946 after his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, died.

Though a constitutional monarch with limited powers, King Bhumibol was regarded by many Thais as semi-divine. They looked to him to intervene in times of high tension.

He was seen as a unifying and calming influence through numerous coups and 20 constitutions.

However, his critics argued he had endorsed military takeovers and at times had failed to speak out against human rights abuses. (Excerpts from CNN and BBC)

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