Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, appeared in public on Friday for the first time since entering Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital more than a month ago.
Thai television showed emotional scenes among well-wishers as the frail King Bhumibol appeared on an electric wheelchair to place garlands in front of the portraits of King Chulalongkorn — a famous early 20th century predecessor — and the King’s late mother.
Friday was a Thai national holiday celebrating Chulalongkorn’s birthday. Thousands of people have signed get-well wishes at tables set up in the hospital, founded by King Bhumibol’s late father, Prince Mahidol, and millions more have signed books set up in government offices around the country.
King Bhumibol, who has reigned as Thailand’s monarch for the past 63 years, was admitted to Sririraj Hospirtal Sept. 19, suffering from fatigue and a fever, according to the Royal Household Bureau.
He has been was receiving nutrition and antibiotics via an intravenous drip, a statement said.
King Bhumibol, who will turn 82 on Dec. 5, has been hospitalised on several occasions over the past decade to receive treatment for heart ailments and fever.
The king’s latest illness comes at a time when the country is reeling from a deep political divide, with the established political elite trying to come to terms with new forces of populist politics and an empowered rural poor whose hero is ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Rumours that the king was dying sent the stock market into a tailspin earlier this month.
The likely heir to the throne, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, commands significantly less respect than King Bhumibol and most Thais think he will struggle to play a similarly subtle role in stabilising the kingdom’s political affairs.