As Thais keep vigil, rumors of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death spread online
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As Thais keep vigil, rumors of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death spread online

HUNDREDS of teary Thai citizens, many dressed in the auspicious pink, have gathered outside the Bangkok hospital awaiting news from the government on the health condition of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch.

But even as the palace has yet to make an official announcement on the matter, social media is already awash with rumors spreading like wildfire, claiming of the king’s passing. Several media outlets have also picked up on the news, which has yet been verified.

A UK-based journalist and lecturer Andrew MacGregor Marshall, quoting sources, wrote in a series of Twitter posts at about 5pm that the king had died.

“Breaking – King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand has died, several senior royal and palace sources have confirmed to me,” he wrote.

He later added that the king had died “a few hours ago”, again quoting sources.

Hong Kong Free Press posted a story on its site shortly after at about 5.30pm, quoting Chinese state media outlet Xinhua as claiming that the Thai Bureau of the Royal Household had confirmed the death.

Xinhua and the South China Morning Post reportedly pulled their breaking news report on the matter, however, Hongkong Free Press said.

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FILE – In this Oct. 6, 2014 file photo, Thai officers offer their respect to a portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. Pic: AP

SEE ALSO: Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej ‘still unstable’, palace says

Asian Correspondent is not able to immediately verify the news. Other major international and local Thai news outlets have yet to report the king’s alleged death.

BBC’s Southeast Asia Correspondent Johnathan Head meanwhile wrote that an “unscheduled” Thai Cabinet meeting was expected at 5pm and a palace announcement at 5.30pm.

“Public told to wait for announcement from the palace,” he wrote on the microblogging site.

A Khaosad English report said later, however, that this was not true.

It quoted government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd as denying that the interim Cabinet planned to hold the special meeting.

When asked if the palace planned to issue any statement on the monarch’s condition later Thursday, he reportedly declined to comment, only saying, “I should not be answering this question.”

On Twitter again, however, MacGregor later claimed that there would be an announcement on the matter by 6pm. He added: “Yes I know I am the only journalist in the world reporting that King Bhumibol is dead. I can assure you the news is correct.”

King Bhumibol has long been seen as a unifying symbol of Thailand, a country deeply polarized and wracked by years of political uncertainty.

Earlier Wednesday, Thailand’s Royal Household Bureau said the king’s condition had not improved since Sunday.

The 88-year-old was on Sunday placed on a ventilator after his blood pressure dropped. Doctors were at the time preparing him for hemodialysis treatment and changing a tube to drain fluid from his spine.

SEE ALSO: Prayers, well wishes pour in for ailing Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej

The palace said the king’s blood pressure dropped occasionally during the dialysis, a treatment to cleanse the blood of toxins, excess salt, and fluids.

Since Monday, members of the public have been arriving in droves to the Siriraj Hospital, where their beloved monarch is being treated for a number of illnesses, including lung infection and acute kidney failure.

Thailand’s stock market and currency have tumbled and the prime minister has canceled an overseas trip amid concerns about the long-ailing king’s health.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand’s benchmark fell nearly 7 percent Wednesday afternoon before recovering somewhat for a 4.1 percent loss for the day. Thai stocks have slid daily since Sunday, when the royal palace announced that Bhumibol’s condition was unstable, the first time it has used that phrase regarding the king’s health.

Also Wednesday, the Thai baht fell 1.1 percent to end at 35.76 to a dollar.

Bhumibol, 88, is the world’s longest reigning monarch. He has spent most of the last decade in a hospital.