King Bhumibol 'recovering well' after heart surgery

BANGKOK • Thailand's ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej is recovering well after a recent operation to improve blood flow to his heart, the palace said, the latest in a series of major medical procedures for the 88-year-old.

King Bhumibol is the object of an intense personality cult and his frail health is a matter of significant public concern. Last Tuesday, doctors performed a series of angioplasty procedures without anaesthetic, using balloons and stents to widen multiple arteries in his heart.

In the latest update on his health released by the palace late on Sunday, doctors said the King was making progress, with blood pressure and breathing back to normal. An electrocardiogram also showed improved blood flow to the heart, the statement added.

The King is confined to a wheelchair and rarely seen in public. He has spent most of the past two years hospitalised in Bangkok for a series of ailments, including bacterial infections, breathing difficulties and hydrocephalus (excessive fluid in the brain).

King Bhumibol is the world's longest-reigning monarch and most Thais have never known life under another king. He is largely seen as a unifying force in a nation bitterly divided along political lines.

Anxiety over what will happen after his reign ends is considered an aggravating factor in the country's past decade of tumultuous politics, as competing elites jostle for power and influence before the transition.

Information on the monarchy is tightly controlled by the palace. Throughout much of the last two years of the King's hospitalisation, updates have been rare.

But in recent weeks, the palace has issued a string of health announcements. Last month, doctors announced that he had been successfully treated for hydrocephalus as well as a lung and knee infection.

The King has not been seen by the public since September when the palace released a video of him being taken in his wheelchair to visit a shop inside Bangkok's Siriraj hospital. Shoppers and attendants knelt and bowed as he passed by.

Discussion of his reign and the role of the monarchy is all but impossible because of the world's strictest lese majeste laws.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2016, with the headline 'King Bhumibol 'recovering well' after heart surgery'. Print Edition | Subscribe