BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s revered 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej has had his gall bladder removed, the palace said Monday, two days after he was rushed to hospital sparking fears for his health in the politically turbulent nation.
The world’s longest-serving monarch was driven from his coastal palace to Bangkok’s Siriraj hospital with a fever on Friday evening.
Tests over the weekend found he had a swollen gall bladder, prompting the operation to remove the organ late Sunday, the Royal Household Bureau said in a statement.
Doctors were “satisfied” with the outcome of the surgery and the king’s condition was “improving” early Monday, the statement added.
“His majesty’s heartbeat has slowed down… his blood pressure is in the normal range and his temperature is lower,” it said.
Bhumibol, who has suffered from numerous ailments in recent years, is treated as a near-deity in Thailand and his health is a subject of great public concern.
Surgery to remove the gall bladder is common and patients tend to recover quickly from the operation.
Bhumibol, who is officially King Rama IX, left the Siriraj last month after a stay of almost six weeks for a check-up.
He lived in the same hospital for nearly four years after being admitted with respiratory problems in 2009 – but there was no explanation from the palace over his prolonged stay.
Born on December 5, 1927 in the United States, Bhumibol came to the throne aged 18 in 1946.
After finishing his studies in Switzerland he was crowned in 1950.
The king has no official political role, but Thais see him as a unifying figure and a moral force during a reign that has been marked in recent years by political turmoil.
In August he formally endorsed the kingdom’s new prime minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha – who seized power from the elected administration on May 22, shortly after Yingluck Shinawatra was booted out off office by a controversial court ruling.
Prayut visited the hospital early Monday to sign a book of support for the monarch.
Yingluck’s billionaire brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled as premier in a 2006 coup, sits at the epicentre of the rupture in Thai politics and society.
He is adored by many among the rural poor in the northern part of the country, but loathed by the Bangkok-based establishment and its allies in the south.
Parties led by or aligned to Thaksin have won every election since 2001, and a desire among the royalist elite to erase his influence as the succession looms is seen by analysts as pivotal to understanding the crisis.
Thailand’s king is protected by one of the world’s toughest royal defamation laws – anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.