The world joins Thailand to mourn King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the world’s longest-reigning monarch. He died in a hospital on Thursday 13th October 2016 at the age of 88.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej reigned for 70th years after ascending the throne in 1946. He was regarded as a pillar of stability during decades of political upheaval and rapid development in Thailand and will be greatly missed by his people.
According to the Palace announcement, the cause of his death was not stated, but his health had been in a deteriorating state and he has been in and out of several hospitals for the past one year.
His son and heir apparent, 63-year old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to become Thailand’s new king. However, the Parliament will be meeting later on Thursday after a meeting of the cabinet, a legislature official said.
Anxiety about the king’s health and the succession has formed the backdrop to over a decade of political upheaval in Thailand that has included two coups.
More than 1,000 people gathered at the hospital where the king had been staying. Many of them started to cry as the news of his death broke.
“I feel so saddened by this news. He has given so many things to the country,” said Apinut Jaroonpipatkul, a 25-year-old medical student.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was seen as a force for unity, and there have long been concerns that without him the country’s divisions could worsen.
That seems unlikely under the military government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has kept a tight grip on power since toppling an elected government in 2014. Prince Vajiralongkorn has yet to command the respect and adoration that his father drew after a lifetime on the throne.
He has kept a lower profile than King Bhumibol for most of his life but in the past two years took on more of the public duties the king was no longer able to perform. The prince divorced his third wife in 2014. Thailand’s strict lese-majeste laws has left little room for public discussion about the succession. It has been so long since Thailand has had a succession, there is no modern precedent.
When the king’s sister died in 2008, a 100-day mourning period was declared and she was cremated 10 months after her death. Therefore, Thailand is expected mourn the King for months, and the prince’s coronation will not take place until that mourning period is over.