King Bhumibol Adulyadej head of an institution central to Thai identity and as a father-figure to the nation, died in hospital on Thursday, the palace announced. He was 88. His son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to become Thailand’s new king.
Most Thais have known no other monarch and his picture is hung in almost every house, school and office across the kingdom. Until his later years, he was featured on television almost every day, shown visiting poor areas and working on development projects.
King Bhumibol reigned for seven decades after ascending the throne in 1946. His loss will be deeply mourned in Thailand, where he was regarded as a pillar of stability during decades of political upheaval and rapid development.
The palace did not give a cause of death but he has been sick in hospital with various ailments for much of the past year.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped Thailand would honor the king’s legacy of commitment to universal values and respect for human rights, his spokesman said in a statement.
U.S. President Barack Obama offered condolences to the Thai people and the king’s family.
“His Majesty was a tireless champion of his country’s development and demonstrated unflagging devotion to improving the standard of living of the Thai people,” Obama said in a White House statement.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand’s benchmark index .SETI fell as much as 6.9 percent on Wednesday, as rumours of the king’s deteriorating health spread, to its lowest since March 1, but recovered to close down 2.5 percent.
It closed 0.47 percent up on Thursday before the announcement of the king’s death.
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