THAIS PRAY FOR KING'S RECOVERY

Asia
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Two royal events were abruptly canceled Wednesday and the Thai junta chief has returned from a provincial trip amid deep worries about a sharp decline in the health of the country's 88-year-old king.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej -- the world's longest reigning living monarch -- underwent dialysis at the weekend, with a Sunday statement saying his condition has not yet stabilized and he would remain “under close medical supervision”.

There has been no further statement from the Royal Household Bureau since.

On Wednesday, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Princess Chulabhorn -- the eldest son and one of three daughters of the king -- canceled respective appearances at an Oct. 27 graduation ceremony and at a royal decoration ceremony, according to statements posted by event organizers.

Khaosod daily reported that online flight records showed that Vajiralongkorn had flown to Bangkok from the German city of Munich, where he resides for much of the year.

Meanwhile, Kom Chad Luk newspaper reported that junta chief-cum-prime minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha had cut short a ceremony to inaugurate a new military facility in Chonburi, east of Bangkok, to also return to the capital.

Since Monday, scores of Thais have been flocking to Siriraj hospital -- where the king has been treated since 2009 -- and Buddhist temples to pray for the ailing monarch.

Scores of well-wishers could be seen daily in the hospital compound reciting sacred Buddhist chants in front of a statue of Prince Mahidol, Bhumibol's father, to honor the king's health and longevity.

Several temples in Bangkok and upcountry, including Wat Bowonniwet Vihara -- a royal temple where the king was ordained as a monk for 15 days in 1959 -- and Wat Arun opposite the Grand Palace, have also organized mass chantings to wish good health to the king and other members of the royal family.

The ailing 84-year-old Queen Sirikit has also been treated for unstated health issues at Siriraj hospital for several years. She suffered a stroke in July 2012.

Since Sunday, many Thais have also been posting "Long live the King" on social networks to show concern for the monarch's health.

Facebook pages in honor of the royal family -- including “We Love Chakri Dynasty” and “The Royal Monarch Alert Protection Network” -- have shared Buddhist texts to pray for a betterment of the king's condition.

King Bhumibol is the ninth monarch of the Chakri dynasty which started in 1782 and has been suffering from a range of ailments from lung infections to spinal cord problems.

On Monday, the Thai stock market plunged 3.6 percent on the news -- the biggest decline since August 2015. The Thai currency also weakened against the dollar.

According to the 1924 succession law, Bhumibol's successor will be Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, his 63-year-old only son.

Vajiralongkorn, whose private life has been subject to debate -- albeit in closed circles due to Thailand's harsh lese-majeste law -- is much less popular than his father.

According to an academic well versed in military affairs, the decline in the king's health is one of the reasons why Thailand's military junta is trying to maintain their role at the helm of the country during the delicate period in which a new monarch will emerge.

The ruling military overthrew the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in a May 2014 coup.