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Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej marks 70 years on the throne from hospital bed

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On Thursday King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand marked 70 years on the throne. The royal, who is confined to a wheelchair and has not been seen in public since September, spent the day in hospital.

He underwent an operation to widen arteries in his heart earlier this week and is now recovering, although the king, 88, has spent the past decade battling serious illnesses and has been hospitalised several times.

A special alms giving ceremony was held in the morning and attended by 770 monks in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

king1© Photo: Getty Images

King Bhumibol Adulyadej is Thailand's longest-reigning monarch

The king's loyal supporters were pictured clutching photographs of the royal, who is Thailand's longest-reigning monarch and the longest-serving current head of state in the world.

They wore yellow in a nod to King Bhumibol, who was born on a Monday which means that his birth colour is yellow.

Flowers were also laid out next to a large portrait of the monarch in front of the Ministry of Defence.

king2© Photo: Getty Images

A special alms giving ceremony was held and attended by 770 monks

Many locals regard the king as a father-figure and an image of stability. He holds a semi-divine status and for the majority of the population, the king is the only monarch that they will have ever known in their life.

"The relationship between Thais and the king is deep, more than one can actually begin to explain," Colonel Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for the royalist junta, told Reuters. "He is a father to the land."

King Bhumibol, who is also known as Rama IX, acceded to the throne in June 1946 at the age of 18 after his brother died in a shooting accident at the palace, under circumstances that remain unclear.

king3© Photo: Rex

The king holds a semi-divine status in his country

He returned to Switzerland, where he was studying, before the end of the 100-day mourning period.

While in Lausanne in 1948, he suffered a car accident and was hospitalised. The daughter of the Thai ambassador to France, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, who he had met before in Paris, visited him in hospital frequently. She continued her studies in Switzerland so that she could be near the royal.

Romance blossomed and in July 1949 the couple were engaged. They married in April 1950 just a week before the king's coronation. The couple have four children.