THAILAND’S King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has died after 70 years as head of state.
The 88-year-old king was widely revered but had been in poor health in recent years, making few public appearances, BBC reported.
He was seen as a stabilising figure in a country hit by cycles of political turmoil and multiple coups.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will be the new monarch, the prime minister has said.
After two days of speculation and rumours surrounding the king’s deteriorating health, the palace announcement confirming his death finally came early on Thursday evening.
“His majesty has passed away at Siriraj Hospital peacefully,” a statement said, adding he had died at 15:52 (08:52 GMT).
In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said Thailand would hold a one-year mourning period, that flags would fly half-mast and all entertainment functions must be “toned down” for a month.
In a later statement he urged vigilance, saying national security was a top priority.
“Everyone will need to be alert in every region and throughout the country to ensure safety”, he said.
The king’s death comes as Thailand remains under military rule following a coup in 2014.
A palace official, speaking to crowds outside the hospital, said the body of the king would be moved to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok on Friday.
King Bhumibol was widely respected across Thailand, and thought of by many as semi-divine.
Hundreds of mourners gathered outside the Bangkok hospital where he died, stricken with grief at the news.
Many held pictures of the king and wore yellow or pink clothing in his honour.
“How will Thailand live without you father?” cried one distressed man.
“I lost one of the most important people in my life. I feel like I haven’t done enough for him,” said another.