After 70 years as King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej dies aged 88

King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Thailand's monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej has died in the Asian nation's capital Bangkok aged 88 years.

King Bhumibol who took the throne of the kingdom once known as Siam shortly after World War II and held it for more than 70 years, establishing himself as a revered personification of Thai nationhood, died on Thursday in Bangkok. 

The royal palace said that he died at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, but it did not give a cause or further details, the New York Times reported.

King Bhumibol, politically influential and highly revered, was a unifying figure in a deeply polarised country, and his death casts a pall of uncertainty across Thailand.

The military junta, which seized power in a coup two years ago, derives its authority from the king. The king’s heir apparent, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, is seen by many as a jet-setting playboy and not held in the same regard as his father. And the king’s death raises questions about the future of the monarchy itself.

King Bhumibol spent most of his final years in a hospital, ensconced in a special suite. His portrait hung in almost every shop, and as his health declined, billboards proclaimed “Long Live the King,” signaling widespread anxiety about a future without him. In response, he openly fretted that the people should feel so insecure.

Thais came to see this Buddhist king as a father figure wholly dedicated to their welfare, and as the embodiment of stability in a country where political leadership rose and fell through decades of military coups.

His death ends a reign of 70 years and 126 days — one that few monarchs have matched for longevity. Queen Elizabeth II, by comparison, has ruled Britain for more than 64 years, having surpassed Queen Victoria’s mark in 2015. With King Bhumibol’s death, she becomes the world’s longest-reigning monarch.