Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej has died aged 88, ending seven decades on the throne during which he became a unifying father figure and rare source of stability in a country that has weathered more than a dozen coups since he came to power in 1946 aged just 18.
A statement from the royal household bureau said Bhumibol, who was the world’s longest-reigning monarch, “passed away peacefully” at 3.52pm (8.52am BST) on Thursday at Siriraj hospital in Bangkok.
Thailand’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, dressed in a black suit, appeared on domestic television channels minutes after the announcement to say that the nation would observe a year-long mourning period.
Prayuth confirmed that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn would ascend the throne, though in a later statement he said there would be a delay in appointing Vajiralongkorn as he had asked for time to mourn with the country. All TV
channels in Thailand, including foreign satellite stations such as the BBC and CNN
, have been replaced with black and white royal broadcasts.
Bhumibol had been absent from public life for years. His death throws an already politically turbulent Thailand into a haze of uncertainty that is unprecedented in its modern history.