Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Thailand's revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has died Thursday, October 13, ending one of modern history's longest reigns ever. He was 88 years old, and has been King for the past 70 years.

"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 (4:54 pm Manila time) he died at Siriraj Hospital peacefully."

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the former army chief who leads Thailand's ruling junta, said that the king's 64-year-old son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is his named successor.

In a televised address to the nation, Prayut said Thailand would hold a one-year mourning period and that all entertainment functions must be "toned down" for a month.

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.

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.

Seven-decade rule

King Bhumibol Adulyadej has reigned since June 9, 1946, and has been a unifying force in a nation bitterly divided along political lines – one that has seen dozens of coups and deadly political violence in the past few decades.

His reign spanned a remarkable era in which Thailand transformed itself from an impoverished, rural nation into one of the region’s most successful economies, dodging the civil wars and communist takeovers of its neighbors.

He built a reputation for criss-crossing the nation to visit the rural poor and sometimes intervened to quell key moments of political violence – although other times he stayed silent and he approved most of the army's many coups during his reign.

Most Thais have known no other monarch.

He has just marked his 7th decade on the throne, but has been in and out of the hospital for the better part of the past two year due to various health problems.

His past health issues included regular infections, breathing difficulties, renal failure and hydrocephalus – a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid commonly referred to as "water on the brain".

He has been confined at the Siriraj Hospital since the weekend.

Formally known as King Rama IX, King Bhumibol would have celebrated his 89th birthday on December 5.

Bhumibol ascended to the throne after his brother was found dead from a gunshot wound at a Bangkok palace – a death the king would describe decades later in a BBC documentary as "very mysterious."

His anointed successor, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is yet to draw the same level of devotion as his father. He spends much of his time overseas, especially in Germany, and is a keen pilot who flies his own Boeing 737. – With reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com