The King of Thailand, King Bhumibol, is celebrating 70 years on the throne today, marking him as the world’s longest-reigning living monarch to ascend the throne.

770 Buddhist monks have led the celebrations that began in Bangkok. 770 is an auspicious number in Thailand.

Now 88 years old, King Bhumibol has been recognised as a figure of stability throughout Thailand’s decades of political instability.

The King has been in poor health recently and thus has not made a public appearance in months. The King underwent heart surgery on Tuesday to widen his arteries. Known as balloon surgery, the procedure allowed for more blood to reach his heart muscles as tests showed that the King had an insufficient amount of blood in the muscles. Fortunately, the procedure had “satisfactory results” according to the palace. The King was last seen in a video released by the palace that showed him being taken in his wheelchair to visit a shop inside a hospital in Bangkok

Reuters reports that Colonel Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for the royalist junta said, “the relationship between Thais and the king is deep, more than one can actually begin to explain… He is a father to the land.”

Yaovapha Thaitae, a noodle local vendor who works near the Bangkok hospital where the King is being treated spoke warmly of the King,

“He travelled up and down the country and met the people and he heard and fixed our problems and that is why we love him.”

Several hundred people were seen gathering outside the palace on Thursday morning to wish the King well. The King, as expected, did not make a public appearance.

The King has earned his popularity amongst the Thai people through his long reign and service as well as his role as an arbiter in politics. Currently, Thailand is governed by a military-led government, with strict ‘lese majeste’ laws that prohibits any criticism of the King or the Thai royal family.

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