King makes rare appearance as Thailand enters crucial period

King makes rare appearance as Thailand enters crucial period
Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej makes a rare appearance
Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej waves to a crowd of well-wishers as he travels in a motorcade to the Royal Palace to mark the 64th anniversary of his coronation in the seaside city of Hua Hin, some 200km south of Bangkok, on May 5, 2014.

HUA HIN, Thailand - Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej made a rare public appearance on Monday to mark the 64th anniversary of his coronation, as the political turmoil gripping his kingdom enters a critical phase.

The king's appearance comes as embattled prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces two key legal challenges which could see her removed from office over the coming days, while opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva refused at the weekend to commit to elections mooted for July to end the political crisis.

King Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch and a father figure for Thais, was crowned on May 5 1950, although he came to the throne in June 1946 following the death of his elder brother.

The 86-year-old monarch is seen as a moral authority in Thailand, which has been deeply divided along political lines since 2006 when billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra - Yingluck's older brother - was ousted in a military coup.

King Bhumibol's public speeches are closely scrutinised especially in times of political crisis, but on this occasion he did not speak.

The streets near his coastal palace were a sea of yellow as thousands of people, wearing the king's signature colour, waved flags and shouted "long live the king" as the monarch's vehicle passed through the central coastal town of Hua Hin, where he has lived since leaving a Bangkok hospital last August.

A short service was held in a room in the royal palace packed with Thailand's political and military establishment - many clad in white official uniforms - and senior members of the royal family including the heir Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

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