Bangkok: Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-serving monarch, has died at the age of 88, the palace announced Thursday, leaving a divided nation bereft of a rare figure of unity.
"Although the team of doctors treated him to the best of their ability, his condition deteriorated," the Royal Household Bureau said in a statement.
"At 15:52 (12.52 pm UAE time) he died at Siriraj Hospital peacefully," it said as large crowds kept vigil outside the hospital where the monarch spent most of the last two years.
All Thai television stations switched to a special announcement that began with black and white photographs of the king, before a formally dressed presenter read out the palace statement.
Bhumipol's death, which will lead to a one-year mourning period, ends a remarkable seven-decade reign.
Most Thais have known no other monarch and Bhumibol has been portrayed as a guiding light through decades of political turmoil, coups and violent unrest.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will succeed his father, Thailand's junta chief said Thursday.
"The government will proceed with the succession. The government will inform the National Legislative Assembly that His Majesty the King appointed his heir on Dec 28, 1972," Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said in a statement broadcast on all Thai television channels.
The prime minister was referring to the date that Vajiralongkorn, 64, was made Crown Prince.
In the same address, Prayut said Thailand would hold a one-year mourning period while all entertainment functions must be "toned down" for 30 days.
Bhumibol's death is a major test for the country's generals, who seized power in 2014 vowing to restore stability after a decade of political chaos, a turbulent period exacerbated by the king's declining health as jostling elites competed for power.
The military has deep links with the palace and many inside the kingdom saw the putsch as a move to ensure generals could stamp down on any instability during a succession.
UAE sends condolences
President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has sent cables of condolences to Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Crown Prince of Thailand, on the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
In the cables, Shaikh Khalifa expressed his deepest condolences and sympathies to the Crown Prince, the royal family and the people of Thailand.