International desk – Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-serving monarch, died on Thursday, the palace announced Thursday. He was 88.
“Although the team of doctors treated him to the best of their ability, his condition deteriorated,” the Royal Household Bureau said in a statement.
“At 15:52 (0852 GMT) he died at Siriraj Hospital peacefully,” it said as large crowds kept vigil outside the hospital where the monarch spent most of the last two years.
All Thai television stations switched to a special announcement that began with black and white photographs of the king, before a formally dressed presenter read out the palace statement.
Bhumipol’s death, which will lead to a one-year mourning period, ends a remarkable seven-decade reign and plunges Thailand into a deeply uncertain future.
Most Thais have known no other monarch and Bhumibol has been portrayed as a guiding light through decades of political turmoil, coups and violent unrest.
His 64-year-old son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is his named successor.
Bhumibol’s death is a major test for the country’s generals, who seized power in 2014 vowing to restore stability after a decade of political chaos, a turbulent period exacerbated by the king’s declining health as jostling elites competed for power.
The military has deep links with the palace and many inside the kingdom saw the putsch as a move to ensure generals could stamp down on any instability during a succession.
It is difficult to overestimate how important Bhumibol has been to most of his subjects. Many of those gathered outside his hospital were dressed in pink in the belief that it would bring the king good luck, while others flooded social media with digital prayers.