BANGKOK - Thailand is celebrating the 70th anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne on Thursday, amid growing concerns about his health.
The celebrations began in the Grand Palace in Bangkok, where 770 monks received alms from members of the government, parliament and the armed forces, an action that Buddhists consider auspicious.
Similar events were organized in provincial offices, town halls and district offices throughout the country, attended by thousands of people sporting yellow t-shirts, the color associated with the monarchy.
Bhumibol, who is the world's longest serving head of state, ascended the throne in 1946 but was not crowned until May 5, 1950, a week after marrying his second cousin Queen Sirikit, according to an official biography.
Most Thais consider the 88-year-old monarch, also known as Rama IX, semi-divine, the symbol of unity and the guide of the nation.
The king is currently in Siriraj hospital in Bangkok where he has spent a good part of the last ten years, and from where he has emerged on rare occasions.
His last public appearance was on Jan. 11 when he briefly visited Chitralada Palace in Bangkok.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the royal palace said the monarch's health was improving satisfactorily after he was treated for heart complications, diagnosed last week, days after he was treated for hydrocephalus.
The king's health is a taboo topic due to the country's lese majeste law, which shields the monarchy from all kinds of accusations and comments and carries penalties of between 3 and 15 years in prison for those who criticize the king and his family in a way that is considered offensive.
After the military coup in May 2014, the number of lese majeste prosecutions has multiplied in the country.