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Thailand: King Bhumibol Adulyadej makes rare public appearance to call for unity

Thais have turned out in their hundreds of thousands to witness a rare public appearance by their revered and ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Bangkok's Royal Plaza.

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Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej makes a rare public appearance on his 85th birthday on December 5, 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Paula Bronstein/AFP/Getty Images)

Thais have turned out in their hundreds of thousands to witness a rare public appearance by their revered and ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Bangkok's Royal Plaza.

Waving flags and carrying cameras, the wellwishers turned to Plaza into a sea of yellow as King Bhumibol, celebrating his 85th birthday, delivered a brief speech from his balcony throne on national unity, the Guardian reported.

The world's longest-sitting living king, who took the throne in 1946, appeared frail and sounded halting and shaky, the Guardian wrote.

He has spent the past three years living in hospital being treated for a respiratory illness.

According to the Straits Times, his appearance was only the sixth time in his 66 years on the throne that he has appeared on the balcony, the most recent appearance being on 2006.

His birthday is also celebrated as Father's Day and a national holiday, and according to the Bangkok Post crowds lined the streets chanting "long live the king!" as the royal motorcade made its way from the hospital.

Queen Sirikit, 80, was not with members of the royal family accompanying the king.

The Post cited a statement from the palace as saying she was too ill, after being diagnosed with a slight loss of blood flow to the brain in July.

He told his audience:

"If Thai citizens still hold this harmony in their hearts, there is hope that in whatever the situation, Thailand will surely get through it safely and with stability."

He added:

"May the power of the triple gems protect the nation'' he said in a reference to the Buddha, the Dhamma (the Buddha's teachings) and the Sangha (the community of monks)."

CBS.com published an entire photo gallery on the event.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meantime, sent a birthday message to the king on behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people that said:

"The breadth and strength of our friendship, which spans nearly 60 years of our treaty alliance and 50 years of the Peace Corps in Thailand, continues to grow. As we mark our longstanding and multifaceted relationship, the United States is committed to a bright future of partnership with Thailand."

Clinton accompanied Obama on a visit to Thailand in November at the start of a tour of Asia. 

More from GlobalPost: Obama lands in Thailand, kicking off historic Asia tour

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/thailand/121206/thailand-king-bhumibol-adulyadej-thai-royals-monarchy