Accessibility links

Breaking News

Thai King Makes Rare Public Appearance

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej sits in a vehicle as he leaves Siriraj Hospital for the Grand Palace to join a ceremony marking Coronation Day in Bangkok, Thailand, May 5, 2015.

Thailand's ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, has made a rare public appearance to celebrate the 65th anniversary of his coronation.

Television stations in Thailand broadcast live Tuesday as the widely revered 87-year-old king left the Bangkok hospital where he has spent the last several months.

Hundreds of people lining the streets cheered "Long Live the King" as the monarch's motorcade passed on its way to the Grand Palace for a Buddhist ceremony attended by top Thai officials.

The festivities are to mark Coronation Day, a public holiday in Thailand in remembrance of the king's official ascension to the throne on May 5, 1950, three years after his reign began following the death of his brother.

The king, who is now wheelchair-bound, has rarely left the hospital after having his gall bladder removed in October. Concerns about his health were heightened in December when he failed to appear publicly for his birthday.

Though his position carries no official political role, King Bhumibol is one of the few unifying public figures in Thailand, which has suffered through political conflict for much of the past decade.

Last year, Thailand's royalist military seized power in a coup after the country's ex-prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted by a court order following months of sometimes violent protests. It was the military's 12th coup in the last 80 years.

Junta leaders have said the coup was necessary to restore order, though the move also was widely seen as an attempt to reduce the influence of Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for the monarchy. He remains highly popular in rural areas, and parties controlled by him have won every national election since 2001.

There are fears of renewed political instability once King Bhumibol dies. His apparent successor, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, is not thought to be as widely respected across the full spectrum of Thai society.