Thailand’s King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has died in the hospital on Thursday, the palace said in an announcement, he was 88.
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 reason for his death but reports say he has been sick with various ailments for a while now.
In a statement, the palace said, “His Majesty has passed away at Siriraj Hospital peacefully,” adding that he died at 15:52 (0852 GMT).
His son, the 63-year-old Crown Prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to become Thailand’s new king.
Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha addressed the nation shortly after the announcement of the king’s death to say an heir to the throne had been designated since 1972 and that the government would inform parliament of the choice.
Prayuth did not identify the heir but King Bhumibol designated Prince Vajiralongkorn the heir apparent when he invested him as the crown prince in 1972.
“The government will inform the National Legislative Assembly that His Majesty the King has already designated his heir,” said Prayuth, who wore a black suit and tie.
The assembly is due to hold a special session later on Thursday.
Prayuth urged Thais to love one another and protect “the father’s land.”
Anxiety about the king’s health and the succession has formed the backdrop to over a decade of political upheaval in Thailand that has included two coups.
More than 1,000 people gathered at the hospital where the king had been staying. Many of them started to cry as the news of his death broke.
The king was seen as head of an institution central to Thai identity and as a father-figure to the nation.
Most Thais have known no other monarch.
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