Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej attends a concert at Siriraj hospital in September 2010. He has been seen little since. Source: Wikimedia
Thailand’s royal palace has released an ambiguous health report on the country’s ailing 88-year-old king, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, describing what appears to be a new bout of lung infection and occasional fever with rapid breathing.
It raised concerns about King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has spent most of the past six years living in a Bangkok hospital.
The Royal Household Bureau said the king had suffered from a fever for two weeks and tests found “an infection in the lower part of the lungs” and an infection in his blood as well as inflammation in his right knee.
“His majesty will go to the Chitralada Palace [in Bangkok] for a change of atmosphere,” said a palace official.
He had received oxygen, intravenous antibiotics and other medication, it announced, adding that “currently, the king’s fever has eased but his breathing is occasionally faster than normal, while his pulse and blood pressure are normal”.
Bhumibol, who took the throne in 1946, disappeared from public life in recent years due to ill health.
The deeply revered king is a constitutional monarch with few formal political duties but has been regarded as a stabilising and unifying figure for Thailand, which has experienced a decade of political turmoil.
Many regard him as a divine, father figure. His December 5 birthday is celebrated as Father’s Day in Thailand and the country is currently covered in posters trying to persuade the king’s subjects to “bike for Dad”.
Concern about his health grew when Bhumibol missed an annual audience to mark his birthday but he made a rare public appearance on December 14.
Hundreds of people lined the streets as the king left Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital on Monday, Reuters reported.
Thailand’s political instability has partly been fuelled by the king’s poor health. The heir apparent, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, does not command the same affection as his father, despite a national campaign to boost his support.
The May 2014 coup was seen largely as a move by the military to ensure it held the levers of power when Bhumibol dies.
Last month. the head of the veterinary school at Kasetsart University said Bhumibol’s dog, Tongdaeng, died after having several illnesses.
The dog, whom the king reportedly rescued from an alley, is at the centre of insult and sedition charges against a Thai factory worker.
A Thai military court last month charged Thanakorn Siripaiboon with making a “sarcastic” social-media remark about the dog. The court did not reveal what the post said but and also charged Thanakorn with sedition and insulting the king.
Thailand’s strict lese-majeste laws make it illegal to insult the monarch or his direct family, although it does not mention his pets.