Ailing Thai King unable to meet ministers

Above: Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej

BANGKOK - Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej missed a planned meeting with two government ministers, palace officials said, amid ongoing public concern over the state of the ailing 86-year-old's health.

The two ministers were supposed to accompany junta leader General Prayut Chan-O-Cha to meet the world's longest serving monarch on Friday evening to swear an oath in front of him before taking up office.

But the palace said his medical team had advised against the king going ahead with the ceremony.

"A team of royal physicians recommended that the king is not ready to grant an audience. Therefore the date of the royal audience is postponed," a statement from the Royal Household Bureau said late Friday.

The elderly king has suffered from a series of ailments in recent years and is treated as a near-deity in Thailand.

In early October he was rushed from his palace in the southern seaside resort of Hua Hin to a Bangkok hospital, where he underwent an operation to remove his gall bladder and has remained admitted since.

He has also recently suffered from repeated bouts of colon inflammation which have been treated with antibiotics.

Earlier this month he was briefly escorted into the hospital grounds to sit on the river bank and pay homage to a statue of his father in an event shown on public broadcaster Thai PBS.

Well-wishers bowed before the monarch and chanted "Long live the king" in what the broadcaster said was his first public appearance since he was hospitalised.

Thailand's military took over in a May coup after months of street protests.

The country's long-running political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and royalist elite, backed by parts of the military and judiciary, against rural and working-class voters loyal to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The military said their coup was needed to restore calm and order to the Kingdom after years of instability.

But the generals' reach into Thai politics is also being driven by anxiety over what happens once the six-decade reign of the Bhumibol ends, observers say.