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thailand_king_birth_dayKing Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch who is regarded as a demi-god by many Thais, was pushed in a wheelchair through the hospital grounds, wearing the customary full white royal uniform.
Thailand’s revered king left a Bangkok hospital on Saturday, according to an AFP reporter at the scene, to attend a ceremony at the royal palace to mark his 82nd birthday. The king, followed by his family, raised his hand to wave at a crowd of thousands of people who had gathered, wearing pink for good luck, to greet the revered monarch. They shouted: “Long live the king.”

The birthday of King Bhumibol, who is considered a unifying force in a politically turbulent nation, is marked by a public holiday and celebrated by Thais across the kingdom with fireworks and Buddhist rituals.

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej speaks during a ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok December 5, 2009. Thailand’s aging monarch, King Bhumibol, appeared in public for the first time in more than a month on Saturday ahead of a royal ceremony to mark his 82nd birthday.

His son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is due to represent his father at Buddhist ceremonies on Saturday evening and Sunday, and will preside over a garden party for diplomats on December 8.

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King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been on the throne since 1946, quite a few more years than Britain’s Queen.

He is popular and respected. But there are concerns about what happens once he has gone. And with an Eton and Oxford-educated party leader who is battling against an older rival for political control of the country, it is a rather familiar scenario to readers in the UK.

It is not only King Bhumibol’s longevity and continuity that keeps Thais in awe but a widespread belief that this is the father of the country.

To the Western eye, Thailand is permeated with tangible and intangible levels of hierarchy based on age, status and wealth. Yet there is one very obvious and undisputed leader who has achieved almost quasi-deity status.

He is a constitutional king with no formal political role, but many regard the influental man as the only person who can unify the country, which has been divided by various political and other interest groups.

During his reign over the past six decades, he has introduced the self suffiency economy concept and initiated more than 3,000 royal projects to improve the livelihood of the mostly rural population.

He has also turned his residence at the Chitralada Palace into a R&D centre for agriculture, believed to be the only palace in the world that is surrounded by paddy fields, dairy farms, fruit and vegetable orchards as well as aquaculture ponds.

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Bangkok is the best place in the country to enjoy the celebrations. Do remember that streets around Sanam Luang and Ratchadamnoen are prohibited to traffic. One can reach the area, and just stroll on the streets, traffic-free but brimming with people, watching the glittering sky.
Millions of Thais wore pink today to symbolise their wish for his good health while hundreds of thousands thronged the roads to try to take a glimpse of the King when his motorcade travelled from the hospital to the Grand Palace.

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Meanwhile, thousands of well wishers turn up at Siriraj Hospital each day to pray for the king’s health. Doctors have insisted that the king has improved and he is not in anything approaching a serious condition. But his long stay at the hospital and continued absence from public view has fueled unease, speculation and rumors. Recently, the government arrested four people for allegedly spreading rumors about the king’s health on the internet, which, it claims, caused a stock market sell-off in October. Reporters Without Borders, an international media watchdog group, has said those arrested are scapegoats and the charges are baseless.

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Thais throughout the country start celebrating HM the King’s 82th anniversary

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