Thailand’s King Bhumibol is Dead: Palace

BenarNews Staff
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
161013-TH-king-1000 Supporters of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej react as they pray for him at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, Oct. 13, 2016.


Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET on 2016-10-13

Thailand on Thursday announced the death of its beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej after a 70-year-reign, and the legislature said it would invite Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to take his throne.

Moments after official news of the monarch’s death broke, Prime Minister and junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha told the nation that the crown prince was expected to become Thailand’s new king. Flags would fly at half-staff for 30 days and the country would observe a year-long period of mourning, he said.

“The government will inform the National Legislative Assembly that the King appointed the heir in accordance with the royal succession by-law on Dec. 28, 1972. The legislature will proceed accordingly,” Prayuth told the nation in a televised broadcast late Thursday, referring to the day when Maha Vajiralongkorn, now 64, officially became crown prince.

The National Assembly convened for a special session at 9 p.m., during which members observed nine minutes of silence in memory of Bhumibol, 88, the world’s longest-reigning monarch.

“The National Legislative Assembly, performing its duty in accordance with the interim Thai constitution, has acknowledged the death of the King with sadness, and the president of the legislative assembly in his capacity as house speaker will invite Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn to the throne,” Assembly President Pornpet Wichitcholchai said in a statement issued by the Thai legislature after the extraordinary meeting, attended by 216 members of the 250-seat body.

After the lawmakers met, Prayuth told reporters at Government House that the royal succession might not take place immediately.

“The Crown Prince said he acknowledges that he is heir to the throne, but he wants to have a solemn moment to share his grief with all Thais. … [T]he accession can be pushed off until an appropriate time,” the prime minister said.

News of the king’s death caused an outpouring of grief in Thailand. TV channels in the country, including international satellite networks – were ordered by the government to replace their regular programming with black-and-white monochrome footage featuring scenes from the king’s life, Agence France-Presse reported.

Messages of sympathy poured in from abroad, with leaders from many countries paying tribute to the late Bhumibol. The United Nations General Assembly held a moment of silence in his memory.

“[H]is Majesty was a tireless champion of his country’s development and demonstrated unflagging devotion to improving the standard of living of the Thai people,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in leading the tributes, adding, Bhumibol “leaves a legacy of care for the Thai people that will be cherished by future generations.”

Peaceful death

The king died of health-related complications at a hospital in Bangkok on Thursday afternoon, according to a statement from palace officials that was aired on national television at around 7 p.m.

“King Bhumibol has been admitted at Siriraj Hospital since Oct. 3, 2014, as the Royal Household Bureau has updated periodically,” Thai TV Channel 5 announced in reading out a statement from the bureau that manages palace affairs, referring to a series of hospitalizations of the elderly king during the past two years.

“Regardless of the medical team’s efforts, the sickness did not recede until at 15:52 hours on Oct. 13, 2016. The King has died peacefully at Siriraj Hospital,” the statement said.

The king, who would have turned 89 on Dec. 5, had been in frail health and had not been seen in public for nearly a year. But his health deteriorated sharply in recent days. He was listed in “unstable” condition due to complications from a medical procedure undertaken on Saturday, the palace announced Sunday.

The king’s medical team had initiated hemodialysis and changed a tube that drains excess cerebrospinal fluid, according to a statement the following day from the Royal Household Bureau. Hemodialysis is a treatment for kidney failure.

During the past few days Thais had been bracing for the worst following news of the latest bad turn in Bhumibol’s health.

In June, Thais marked the 70th anniversary of Bhumibol’s accession to the throne.

On Wednesday, the end appeared to be near. The crown prince flew home from Germany and met with Prayuth. The prince and the king’s other three children – princesses Sirindhorn, Chulabhorn and Ubolratana – also visited their father at the hospital, staff at Siriraj Hospital told BenarNews.

After palace officials announced the news on Thursday night that the king had died, thousands of his supporters joined a large crowd outside the hospital that had been praying throughout the day for his recovery. Prayers and messages of support had also inundated social media channels in Thailand, according to news reports.

Outside the hospital many clutched portraits of the king. People burst out into sobs when the news they dreaded was finally announced.

“I came here to Siriraj to pray for his recovery but, as soon as I heard the announcement that he passed away, I felt as if I was struck. I don’t know what to say,” Saowanee Wetyungkul, a 41-year-old resident of Bangkok, told BenarNews.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.