Image: King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Apichart Weerawong  /  AP file
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 79, seen in September, is a unifying figure in Thailand.
updated 10/13/2007 4:27:09 PM ET 2007-10-13T20:27:09

Thailand’s beloved and influential king was hospitalized Saturday after feeling weakness on the right side of his body, the royal palace said.

The 79-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej was admitted to Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital, where tests found a slightly inadequate blood flow to the brain, a palace statement said.

His condition improved after doctors administered medicine for eight hours, the statement said. He was kept in the hospital for monitoring.

Bhumibol, the world’s longest-serving living monarch, is a unifying figure in Thailand. People usually turn to him in times of crisis, even though — strictly speaking — his powers are limited as a constitutional monarch.

Because of the almost universal respect he commands, politicians and civil servants also follow closely any hints of the palace’s desires when it comes to policy decisions.

But former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in an army-led coup last year, was widely believed to be at odds with him, and it is generally thought that the king’s inner circle provided encouragement to those who deposed the elected leader.

60 years on the throne
Concern over Bhumibol’s health and a potential successor has intensified in recent years as the king has suffered a number of medical ailments, including heart problems.

He underwent spinal surgery in July after suffering years of back pain from lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that can result from aging. He also sustained injuries including a fractured rib in June when he fell during a walk outside the palace.

Bhumibol celebrated his 60th year on the throne with lavish festivities last year. More celebrations are planned for this December, when he turns 80.

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