Friday marked the king of Thailand's 87th birthday, but the popular monarch missed the party. Bhumibol Adulyadej canceled his yearly birthday appearance at the last minute Friday when doctors recommended he not make a public speech. The change in plans added to Thais' anxiety over the health of their ailing king, who had his gallbladder removed in October and has spent years in Bangkok hospitals over the years for many other conditions, the New York Times reported.
“A team of royal physicians examined the king on Thursday evening and agreed that he is not ready to grant a royal audience,” according to a statement from the palace. “Therefore, they have recommended that he cancel royal activities.”
Bhumibol is in the hospital, but his condition was not serious, Reuters reporte. Still, this is the second time in seven years that he was not able to make the birthday address. The king, widely revered for his role in unifying Thailand after recent conflict, made his last public appearance in November. Since his coronation 68 years ago, Bhumibol has experienced two heart procedures, a spinal operation, a stroke, a throat ailment, bleeding in the brain, depression, diverticulitis of the large intestine and a lung infection. He may also have Parkinson's disease.
“We are all in denial,” Nurek Dechsopha, a Bhumibol supporter at the hospital, told the New York Times. “We keep thinking he will get better, though in fact we know he is getting worse.”
The Queen of England, U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi were among the world leaders who released messages wishing Bhumibol a happy birthday and quick recovery.
Bhumibol's birthday is a national holiday and is seen as Thailand's Father's Day. As part of the celebrations, he was due to give a speech at the Amarin Winitchai Throne Hall, Bloomberg reported. When it was canceled, plans for a live broadcast were also killed.
Instead, thousands of people crowded outside Siriraj Hospital to show their support for the king. Clad in yellow, they held portraits of Bhumibol. "It doesn't matter whether he appears in public or not," Thepwitoon Chim-ngog told Reuters. "I'm just happy that I'm here to show my loyalty."