The people of Thailand turned out June 9 to mark the 70th anniversary of the ascension to the throne of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), the world’s longest-reigning living monarch.
To commemorate the milestone in the life of Bhumibol who is seen as a unifying figure, Thai officials and citizens held religious rites to bless and pay tribute to the 88-year-old monarch, the ninth king of Thailand’s Chakri Dynasty. But he did not appear in public because he was ailing in Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital.
Tragedy brought Bhumibol, who was officially coronated in May 1950, to the throne at age 18. He succeeded his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, on the same day that his older sibling died of a gunshot wound. Seventy years later, the circumstances of Ananda’s death remain a mystery.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha kicked off the national celebration of Bhumibol’s platinum jubilee by offering alms to Buddhist monks and presiding over a prayer ceremony by 770 Buddhist monks at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), inside the Grand Palace compound.
At the nearby Royal Grounds, thousands of people clad in yellow shirts joined the alms to offer prayers for their frail king. On June 5, he had suffered an irregular heartbeat and a lack of blood to the cardiac muscles, and a team of doctors at the hospital unclogged his vessels through an angiography, officials at the royal palace said.
On June 7, U.S. President Barrack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry extended well wishes to the king, who was born in Massachusetts.
“As the only reigning monarch born in the United States, His Majesty shares a special connection with the American people. King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his birthplace, serves as a testament to the close ties between our two countries,” the American president said.