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September 21, 2009

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Thailand's 81-year-old king sent to hospital

THAILAND'S 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-serving monarch, has been hospitalized after suffering from a fever and fatigue, the palace announced yesterday.

A statement from the Royal Household Bureau said the king was taken to Siriraj Hospital on Saturday night on the advice of his doctors.

It said the monarch, who was also suffering from a loss of appetite, was being treated with antibiotics while doctors diagnosed his illness.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters earlier that doctors said the king's health gave no cause for concern. Abhisit was one of the prominent people who visited the hospital yesterday.

The king's health is an extremely sensitive topic in Thailand because of concerns the succession may not go smoothly. The heir apparent, his son Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, does not yet have the stature of his father.

In October 2007, the king suffered the symptoms of a minor stroke. Last year, he was unable to make his traditional birthday speech because of bronchitis.

The king is revered by most Thais, but in recent years the palace has come in for unprecedented, though usually discreet, criticism because of allegations that the king's advisers interfered in politics, including playing a part in inspiring a 2006 military coup that ousted an elected government. Criticism of the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.


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