Ailing Thai king calls on nation to unite

BANGKOK: Thailand’s revered king called on the politically divided nation to unite today during a brief public excursion from hospital to mark his 82nd birthday.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, who is regarded as a

demi-god by many Thais, made a rare address at Bangkok’s royal palace where dignitaries were gathered for his annual birthday ceremony.

“My well-being can be achieved with our nation’s stability, prosperity and peace,” he said.

“To achieve these things everyone must determine to perform their duties to their best ability, conscious of their own wisdom and honesty, for the common good above all other interests.” The king thanked his well-wishers and urged those in

positions of power to

be mindful of their duty to the nation.

“I am deeply thankful to all of you who have offered birthday wishes to me, with such beautiful

and sincere words to bring me joy.”I ask all of you holding important positions in the key institutions of our country to consider thoroughly your duty and make a determination to do your duty to your best ability for success,” he said.

The ceremony was attended by members of the royal family, the privy council, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and cabinet ministers, other members of parliament and senior members of the judiciary and military.

The king has been a stabilising force during his six politically turbulent decades on the throne but Thailand has been rocked by years of rival political protests that have sometimes turned violent.

The king returned to a Bangkok hospital today after leaving for about one hour, pushed in a wheelchair and wearing the full white royal uniform covered with a gold embroidered gown.

Thousands of Thai people wearing pink for good luck lined the streets to watch the royal motorcade as it passed over Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river from Siriraj Hospital to the Grand Palace.

Many waved Thai national flags and royal yellow flags and shouted: “Long live the king.” King Bhumibol was admitted to Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital on September 19 with a lung infection and fever. He has appeared twice in public since then.