Thai King Makes Rare Visit Outside Bangkok – NYTimes.com

BANGKOK — Amid widespread anxiety in Thailand about his health, King Bhumibol Adulyadej made a rare visit outside his hospital suite on Friday in what senior Thai officials described as a demonstration of his improved fitness.

Thai King Makes Rare Visit Outside Bangkok - NYTimes.comIt was the first time in two years that the king, who is 84, had traveled outside greater Bangkok, Thai television said. The king has suffered from a number of illnesses not completely explained by the palace.

The palace did not offer an official explanation for the trip, which was broadcast live on national television, but the head of the Thai Army, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, said the trip was an opportunity for all Thais “to see that the king is healthy and can proceed to visit the people once again.”

The king arrived at dusk in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, an hour’s drive from Bangkok, and emerged from his van in a specially outfitted wheelchair as thousands of onlookers cheered, “Long live the king!”

For reasons that were not explained, he wore a military uniform signifying his rank as supreme commander of the army.

In the deeply reverential tone used in Thailand when publicly discussing royalty, the narrator of the live telecast said the visit was an opportunity for his subjects to show their “loyalty, respect and care for their beloved king.”

The king, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has made very few public appearances over the past two years, and one member of the royal family has expressed concern that young Thais are not aware of his work for the country.

Political turbulence in recent years has included countless accusations that some Thais are not respectful to the king, who has been on the throne for more than six decades. The political consensus cultivated by the king has frayed in the twilight of his reign, and there is widespread anxiety about succession.

Thai television commentators on Friday spoke as if delivering a eulogy, heaping praise on the king’s philanthropy, especially his flood-alleviation projects. The area that the king visited is royal land now partly used as a reservoir, one element in a royally inspired plan to lessen flooding in Bangkok.

“More than ever, His Majesty the king is concerned with flood-prevention measures,” the announcer said. “He is widely recognized as one of the hardest-working monarchs in the world.”

Thailand suffered widespread flooding last year, from which the economy is still recovering.

The king continued to look relatively frail during his appearance Friday, but Palakorn Suwanarat, a member of the king’s privy council, said on Thursday that the king would be leaving the hospital soon. The king will stay in his palace, Mr. Palakorn said, because he is “back to good health.”

After sunset, the king watched a show featuring jousting elephants, a poetry reading and a documentary about an ancient Thai queen.

It was not the only spectacle in the country. At a Bangkok stadium, tens of thousands of fans watched a less traditional performance by Lady Gaga, the first time the provocative American pop star has appeared in Thailand.

Thai King Makes Rare Visit Outside Bangkok – NYTimes.com.

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