Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej celebrated the 70th anniversary of his reign on Thursday (Jun. 9) in hospital. The 88-year-old monarch, who has not been seen in public since September, is confined to a wheelchair and marked the special occasion from his hospital bed.
The king is recovering after undergoing heart surgery earlier this week. This is not the first hospitalization for the royal, as he has spent the past decade battling serious illnesses.
In honour of his anniversary, 770 monks gathered in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok to participate in a special alms giving ceremony.
The king's loyal supporters were pictured clutching photographs of the royal, who is Thailand's longest-reigning monarch and the longest-serving current head of state in the world.
They wore yellow in a nod to King Bhumibol, who was born on a Monday which means that his birth colour is yellow.
Flowers were also laid out next to a large portrait of the monarch in front of the Ministry of Defence.
Many locals regard the king as a father-figure and an image of stability. He holds a semi-divine status and for the majority of the population, the king is the only monarch that they will have ever known in their life.
"The relationship between Thais and the king is deep, more than one can actually begin to explain," Colonel Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for the royalist junta, told Reuters. "He is a father to the land."
King Bhumibol, who is also known as Rama IX, acceded to the throne in June 1946 at the age of 18 after his brother died in a shooting accident at the palace, under circumstances that remain unclear.
He returned to Switzerland, where he was studying, before the end of the 100-day mourning period.
While in Lausanne in 1948, he suffered a car accident and was hospitalised. The daughter of the Thai ambassador to France, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, who he had met before in Paris, visited him in hospital frequently. She continued her studies in Switzerland so that she could be near the royal.
Romance blossomed and in July 1949 the couple were engaged. They married in April 1950 just a week before the king's coronation. The couple have four children.