King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who was also known as King Rama IX, has died today at the age of 88, the according to senior palace sources. An official announcement of the monarch’s death is expected to be announced imminently. King Bhumibol was the longest reigning monarch in the world during his lifetime. His health had been poor for quite some time and he had not appeared in public in the last year of his life. For the last few years the monarch spent most of time in the hospital for various illnesses. Shortly before his death he had undergone an procedure to drain fluids from his spine. Afterwards he was placed on a ventilator and was said to be in an unstable condition. The following bulletin from the court concerning his unstable condition, prompted fears that the King might be nearing the end of life, which proved to be true.
“The medical team is watching his symptoms and giving treatments carefully because the overall symptoms of his sickness are still not stable,” the palace had said in a statement.
King Bhumibol was born on 5 December 1927 as the son of Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, the Prince of Songkla, and his wife Mom Sangwan (later HRH Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother) in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States. His father was an academic at Harvard University but he died when Bhumibol was two years old. His uncle was KingPrajadhipok (or King Rama VII) who abdicated in 1935 in favour of Bhumibol’s nine-year-old brother, who the became King Ananda (or King Rama VIII). The family remained in Switzerland, where they had been living, while Thailand was governed by regency council. Bhumibol received a diploma from the Gymnase Classique Cantonal of Lausanne and had begun studying sciences at the University of Lausanne, when World War II ended and the family was able to return to Thailand.
He became King on 9 June 1946 when his brother died from a gunshot wound under mysterious circumstances. Bhumibol returned to Switzerland to continue his education and prepare for his duties as head of state. His uncle acted as regent. It was during this time he met his future wife Queen Sirikit. An engagement followed on 19 July 1949 and they were married on 28 April 1950. They had a joint coronation on 5 May. Bhumibol and Sirikit have four children; Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn Walailak.
During the early years of his reign the government was led by military dictator Plaek Pibulsonggram and Bhumibol had no real power to exercise. In 1957 Pibulsonggram was accused lèse majesté by General Sarit Dhanarajata. Pibulsonggram was advised to resign to avoid a coup. He refused to do this and Sarit Dhanarajata seized power on 16 September. King Bhumibol then imposed martial law throughout the country and appointed Sarit Dhanarajata as “military defender of the capital”.
During Sarit Dhanarajata’s government King Bhumibol’s reign was revitalised. He attended more public ceremonies and t
oured the country. His birthday was declared the national day. Sarit Dhanarajata died on 8 December 1963, causing chaos. This chaos was used for next military coup. The Junta provided three names for the King for who should be the prime minister. His choice proved very right-wing and the prime minster was overthrown in 1977 by Kriangsak Chomanan, who was succeeded by Prem Tinsulanond in 1980. Bhumibol refused to endorse further military coups in 1981 and 1985. A crisis in 1992 led to Thailand’s transition into a democracy. It was one the few occasions where Bhumibol publicly intervened.
In 2006 the Thai military overthrew the government and seized control in a bloodless coup. The junta accused the deposed prime minister of lèse majesté and pledged loyalty to the King. Martial law was again declared and the constitution was repealed. There is an ongoing political crisis in Thailand.
King Bhumibol was succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.