Thai king leaves hospital to open river projects

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has been hospitalized for more than a year, has made a rare public appearance to open a new sluice gate and two bridges on Bangkok's outskirts.

The 82-year-old constitutional monarch was hospitalized on Sept. 19, 2009, with a lung inflammation. There has been no detailed explanation of his extended stay.

His journey by boat to Samut Prakarn was the farthest he has traveled since being hospitalized.

The king's near-disappearance from public life has coincided with a period of political instability after a 2006 coup ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and polarized the country. The king has not played his traditional mediating role to heal the conflict, which has at times turned violent.