Doctors advise Thai King Bhumibol against meeting public on 87th birthday

Well-wishers praying for the health of Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Siriraj hospital in Bangkok on October 8, 2014. Doctors have advised Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, against making a p
Well-wishers praying for the health of Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Siriraj hospital in Bangkok on October 8, 2014. Doctors have advised Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, against making a public appearance on Friday, his 87th birthday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Doctors have advised Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej against making a public appearance on Friday, his 87th birthday.

The ailing King, who had his gall bladder removed in October and has been recovering in Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital, was examined on Thursday evening and deemed not ready for the event, the Bureau of the Royal Household announced on early Friday morning.

"A team of royal physicians examined the King on Thursday evening... and agreed that he is not ready to grant a royal audience,'' said the statement. 

King Bhumibol was due to meet well-wishers at the Grand Palace on Friday.

Still, Thais decked out in the royal colour of yellow continued to wait at Siriraj Hospital. Many had travelled for hours from different parts of the kingdom to prostrate themselves before a giant portrait in a hospital hall. 

As in the past few weeks, the rest of the month will be devoted to allegorical plays, exhibitions and nostalgic songs, as Thais sing the praises of someone they regard as a demigod and father of the nation.

This is the time of the year when Internet home pages of Thai firms are overlaid with a picture of King Bhumibol. Television airtime is packed with snippets of the King playing the saxophone or trekking up hills for rural development work in his younger days.

King Bhumibol holds considerable moral authority in a nation racked by almost a decade of political conflict.

Last year, as anti-government protesters waged a street battle with security forces to enter government premises, the animosity ebbed just before his birthday. Barbed wire was rolled back and the two sides hugged each other.

Thailand remains under martial law after the military seized power from the Puea Thai party-led government on May 22. Key leaders have indicated that elections are unlikely to take place next year, while drafters draw up its 20th Constitution.

An International Crisis Group report released this week warns of greater conflict ahead, while a widening probe into alleged police corruption that implicates relatives of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s wife, Princess Srirasmi, has fuelled the uncertainty 

tanhy@sph.com.sg