Thai king leaves hospital to attend coronation anniversary event

A well-wisher holds up a picture of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he and others gather to pray for his health and celebrate his birthday at Siriraj hospital where he is staying, in Bangkok December 5, 2014. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/Files

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest reigning monarch, left hospital on Tuesday to make a rare public appearance to commemorate the 65th anniversary of his coronation. It was the second time in as many months that the 87-year-old had ventured out of Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital, where he was admitted in October and underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder. The health of Bhumibol is watched closely in Thailand, where many see him as a moral arbiter and pillar of stability in a country that has experienced much upheaval during its eight decades of democracy. The king has in the past intervened during messy political showdowns. A coup last year and political divisions that have festered and flared for a decade have heightened concerns over his succession. Dressed in a white uniform and sitting in a wheelchair, Bhumibol arrived at Bangkok's Royal Palace and watched as Buddhist monks led prayers at a royal hall. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, top figures from the political and military establishment and royal family members also attended. Bhumibol left the palace after less than an hour and was greeted by crowds of well-wishers shouting "long live the king" during his short drive back to the hospital. (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty)