Ailing Thai king undergoes heart operation

Agence France-Presse
Ailing Thai king undergoes heart operation


Bhumibol Adulyadej is the object of an intense personality cult and his frail health is a matter of significant public concern

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s hospital-bound monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej underwent an operation to widen arteries in his heart on Tuesday, the palace said, the latest in a series of medical procedures for the 88-year-old.

Bhumibol is the object of an intense personality cult and his frail health is a matter of significant public concern.

The king is confined to a wheelchair and rarely seen in public. He has spent most of the past two years hospitalized for a series of ailments, including bacterial infections, breathing difficulties and hydrocephalus (water on the brain).

In a statement released on Tuesday the Royal Household Bureau said recent tests had discovered that multiple arteries on the right side of the king’s heart and one on the left had become narrowed.

On Tuesday morning doctors performed a series of angioplasty procedures without anaesthetic, widening the arteries using balloons and stents to bring back normal blood flow.

“The result was satisfactory and the medical team are closely monitoring him,” the statement said.

Tuesday’s announcement was unusual because it came on the day a medical procedure had taken place – usually they are released days afterwards.

Bhumibol is the world’s longest-reigning monarch and most Thais have never known life under another king.

Anxiety over what will happen after his reign ends is considered an aggravating factor in the country’s past decade of tumultuous politics, as competing elites jostle for power and influence before the transition.

Information on the monarchy is tightly controlled by the palace.

Throughout much of the last two years of Bhumibol’s hospitalization, updates have been rare.

But in recent weeks the palace has issued a string of health updates.

Last month doctors announced that he had been successfully treated for hydrocephalus as well as a lung and knee infection.

Bhumibol has not been seen by the public since September when the palace released a video of him being taken in his wheelchair to visit a shop inside Bangkok’s Siriraj hospital.

Shoppers and attendants knelt and bowed as he passed by.

An official photograph of him attending a ceremony was released by the palace in December, while officials said he left the hospital in January for an hour-long trip by car to visit his palace and other royal projects.

Discussion of his reign and the role of the monarchy is all but impossible because of the world’s strictest lese majeste laws. –

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