King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1927-2016)

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King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has died after 70 years as head of state. “His Majesty has passed away at Siriraj Hospital peacefully” the official statement informed, giving the time of death as 15:52 (08:52 GMT). His Majesty’s health had been poor for a number of years.

The eighty-eight year-old monarch was revered throughout Thai society and was long seen as a guarantor of political stability in a country riven by political divisions and military coups. In a televised address to the nation, head of the military led National Council for Peace and Order Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha announced a one-year mourning period, saying that all entertainment must be “toned down” for a month. A palace official told crowds outside the Bangkok hospital where King Bhumibol Adulyadej spent his last days that his body would be moved to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.

During King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s last days Thai people waited outside Siriraj Hospital offering prayers for the monarch. (Top) King Bhumibol Adulyadej with Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Sirkit.

During King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s last days Thai people waited outside Siriraj Hospital offering prayers for the monarch. (Top) King Bhumibol Adulyadej with Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Sirkit.

Amongst tributes from world leaders, US President Barack Obama described King Bhumibol Adulyadej as a “tireless champion of his country’s development . . . I had the honour of calling on His Majesty the king during my visit to Thailand in 2012, and recall his grace and warmth, as well as his deep affection and compassion for the Thai people.”

King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death  comes as Thailand remains under military rule following a coup in 2014.  He is succeeded by his son Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, aged 63. The Crown Prince is an untested figure politically and there those who doubt his ability to play the unifying role his father had.