BANGKOK » Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, died Thursday at age 88 after being hospitalized for much of a decade, the Royal Palace said.
Hundreds of tearful mourners gathered outside Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital, grasping photos of the king, chanting prayers and looking up at the building where he had been treated. Some continued to chant, “Long live the king!”
Bhumibol Adulyadej (pronounced poo-mee-pon ah-dun-yaa-det) became king in 1946 and was revered in Thailand as a demigod. He anchored the Southeast Asian country through violent upheavals at home and communist revolutions next door with a blend of majesty and a common touch.
The once-vigorous king had withdrawn from public life over the last decade due to his ill health. He lived at the hospital and had been notably silent about the political upheaval that has shaken Thailand in recent years.
He suffered from a variety of ailments related to old age, including kidney, liver and lung problems.
Many Thais have worn pink or yellow in his honor since the palace announced Sunday that his condition had become “unstable.”
“Even though the board of doctors has closely monitored and treated him to the best of its abilities, the king’s condition never improved,” the palace said in a statement. It said he passed away peacefully.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn would become the new monarch in accordance with the constitution. He said government officials will observe a one-year mourning period, and no government events would be held for one month.
“He is now in heaven and may be looking over Thai citizens from there,” Prayuth said. “He was a king that was loved and adored by all. The reign of the king has ended and his kindness cannot be found anywhere else.”
A special meeting of the National Legislative Assembly, Thailand’s parliament, was planned late Thursday.
“There is no word to explain my feeling right now,” Gaewkarn Fuangtong, a humanitarian worker, said in Bangkok’s financial district.
“I lost one of the most important people in my life. I feel like I haven’t done enough for him. I should have done more. I will do good, do better for his sake.”
Because Bhumibol has been king since 1946, there is great concern about the succession. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who returned home from Germany on Wednesday, has not earned the same respect as his father.