Thai Royal Palace Says King Underwent Surgery on Gall Bladder

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej underwent a successful operation to remove his gall bladder, days after he was admitted to the hospital with a fever, palace officials said.

“His symptoms are better this morning,” the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary said in a statement. “His blood pressure is normal. The medical team gave him antibiotics and also a saline drip.”

King Bhumibol, who took the throne in 1946 and is the world’s longest-reigning monarch, was admitted to a Bangkok hospital late on Oct. 3 with a fever and blood infection, the Royal Household Bureau said in a statement. Tests conducted on the 86-year-old king late yesterday found an infection and swelling of the gall bladder, according to today’s statement.

The health of the king is watched closely in Thailand, where he is revered by many for what they say has been his unifying presence during a seven-decade reign marked by 16 successful or attempted coups, 17 constitutions and 29 changes of prime minister. Under Thailand’s constitutional monarchy, the king is head of state and the prime minister and parliament govern, though legislation must still be approved by the king.

Junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who toppled the elected government in a May 22 coup, joined the crowds of well-wishers gathered at Bangkok’s Siriraj hospital today. Prayuth, who is now the appointed prime minister, was joined by members of his cabinet and other junta officials. Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose administration was overthrown by the putsch, also visited the hospital today to pay her respects.

Above Politics

Many of Thailand’s 66 million people are grateful for the palace’s charity projects and public works initiatives and display their reverence for King Bhumibol, whose name means “Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power,” by displaying his picture in their homes, businesses and public spaces. His birthday, Dec. 5, is also Father’s Day in Thailand.

Though he is officially above politics, protesters on both sides of the political divide that has beset Thailand for the past decade have frequently displayed the king’s image or those of other members of the royal family at street demonstrations, and accused opponents of disrespect for the monarchy.

Criticism of King Bhumibol is curbed under Thailand’s code of lese majeste, laws that can be used against anyone accused of defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir apparent or regent. The use of the law has been criticized in recent years by activists, academics and rights groups as unjust and an impediment to public discussion. Prosecution of offenders, who face as long as 15 years in prison, has increased since the May coup.

Free Expression

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in August that it was “seriously concerned about the prosecution and harsh sentencing of individuals in Thailand under the country’s lese majeste law.” In September, it reiterated its call for the military government to “restore space for free expression and public dialogue.”

King Bhumibol moved into Siriraj hospital in 2009, suffering from various illnesses and back pain, according to the Royal Household Bureau. After almost four years, he moved in August last year to the Hua Hin district of Prachuap Khiri Khan province to stay at his seaside palace Klai Kangwon, which means “far from worries”. He was re-admitted to Siriraj for another stay of almost five weeks in August.

The designated successor is the king’s son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 62, a career soldier.

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