Thailand’s Royal Palace says King Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has died at age 88.
Thailand’s powerful and often oppressive monarch is said to have died peacefully at Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital. He had been hospitalized for several months, according to the BBC.
“Even though the board of doctors has closely monitored and treated him to the best of its abilities, the king’s condition never improved,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said in a statement.
King Bhumibol was beloved by many across Thailand, and thought to be semi-divine by some. “How will Thailand live without you father?” one distressed man told the BBC. “I lost one of the most important people in my life. I feel like I haven’t done enough for him,” said another.
Thailand has long operated under severe lese-majeste laws that protect the most senior members of Thailand’s royal family from insult or threat. Any public discussion of the succession is punishable by lengthy jail terms.
Last year, a Thai man was faced with up to 37 years in prison for mocking the king’s dog over social media, according to Time.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will become the country’s new monarch. [BBC]