Thai King Leaves Hospital After Seven Months, Returns to Seaside Palace

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre 11 May 2015

BANGKOK — Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, left hospital on Sunday after seven months spent convalescing following surgery last year, to the joy of many in Thailand where Bhumibol is widely revered.

Tearful crowds shouted “Long live the king!” as King Bhumibol, wearing a red shirt, and Queen Sirikit passed by in a convoy en route to their Klai Kangwon palace in the seaside town of Hua Hin, televised coverage of the departure showed.

The monarch made a rare public appearance last week when he attended a ceremony marking his official coronation in 1950 at the glittering Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok’s historic quarter.

Bhumibol is revered by many as the arbiter of Thailand’s decades-long, sometimes violent, political divisions.

Most Thais have only known King Bhumibol on the throne, and many are nervous about what a royal succession might bring.

His son and presumed heir, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, has yet to command his father’s level of popular support.

Bhumibol, 87, was admitted to Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital in October where he underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder.

The king has in the past intervened during Thailand’s often messy political showdowns. In 2006, he called on judges to resolve a pending constitutional crisis.

Months later, populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a September coup by the army.

Thailand has been broadly split along north-south political lines since Thaksin’s ouster. A bastion of the conservative, pro-establishment Democrat Party, southern Thailand historically hosts much of the country’s wealth and tourism.

The poorer, agrarian north and northeast, where Thaksin’s populist policies won him legions of supporters, remain Shinawatra strongholds.

Thaksin is loathed by the royalist elite who accuse him of undermining the monarchy and of graft, accusations he denies.

Thaksin’s younger sister, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, was removed from office last May, days before the army staged the coup aimed at restoring order after months of street protests.