BANGKOK — Concern for the health of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand on Wednesday prompted the country’s prime minister to return abruptly to Bangkok, caused Thai stocks to fall sharply, and sent well-wishers to the hospital where the 88-year-old king was being treated.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, chief of the junta that runs the country, canceled a trip outside Bangkok, the capital, a government spokesman said, and returned to meet with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, the heir to the throne, who lives most of the time in Germany.
The country, which has been under military rule since 2014, is deeply polarized, but Bhumibol has been a unifying figure, even in ill health. The military’s authority derives from the king, and there is a sense of national anxiety about his condition and what will happen when he dies.
All of the king’s children — the prince and his three sisters — were reported to have arrived on Wednesday at Siriraj Hospital, where Bhumibol, one of the world’s longest reigning monarchs, has been confined for most of the past few years. He last left the hospital in January.
The royal palace announced on Sunday that the king, a widely revered figure who suffers from kidney failure and receives hemodialysis to filter his blood, was in unstable condition and that he was breathing with the help of a ventilator.
In a health bulletin issued Wednesday evening, the palace said that he remained on the ventilator and was in unstable condition. His blood pressure was low, his liver function was abnormal and he appeared to have a blood infection, the announcement said.
Most Thais have known no monarch other than Bhumibol, who ascended the throne in 1946, and have never lived through a succession.