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Thai king's health 'still unstable,' as crowds pray for his recovery

Thailand’s royal palace says the health of the country’s ailing 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej is 'still unstable.' Well-wishers have gathered to pray outside the Bangkok hospital where he is being treated.

A statement from the palace released on Wednesday night said King Bhumibol Adulyadej's blood pressure had dropped, his liver and kidneys were not working properly and he remained on a ventilator.

"His majesty's overall condition is still unstable," it said.

Members of the royal family, including Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, paid a visit to the 88-year-old at Bangkok's Siriraj hospital on Wednesday.

Thais dressed in pink pray for their king's recovery outside the Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok

Thais dressed in pink pray for their king's recovery outside the Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok

Hundreds of people also flocked to the building, chanting prayers and holding incense and images of the king. Many of them also dressed in yellow, the king's color, and pink, representing good health.

There is growing concern over the health of Bhumibol, who has been on the throne since 1946 and is the world's longest reigning monarch. He is beloved by many in Thailand, where he is seen as a rare unifying figure. 

Long-ailing monarch

Bhumibol has spent much of the past decade in hospital struggling with a range of ailments, including lung and kidney problems. His last public appearance was almost a year ago.

Wednesday's health update - the third such report this month - has raised anxieties over the royal succession in military-ruled Thailand. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who lives mainly in Germany, has not earned the same respect among Thais as his father.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha canceled an official engagement in Chonburi province on Wednesday, and instead met with the crown prince. Thai stocks, meanwhile, have plunged in recent days, with trading in the red throughout Wednesday and closing with a 2.5 percent drop. 

Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Getty Images/AFP/C. Archambault)

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been on the throne for more than seven decades

Bhumibol's health is a sensitive subject in Thailand, and a draconian lese majeste law makes public discussion of the succession all but impossible.

Analysts say unease over Bhumibol's health has exacerbated the past decade of political conflict in Thailand, as competing elites wrestle for influence.

Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia, described the king - who was born in the US and visited twice in the 1960s - as "a true friend of the United States."     

"He's a revered figure in Thailand and he's an admired figure in the United States and we hope his situation will stabilise," Russel told reporters in Washington.

nm/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP)

 

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