- Title: FILE: Tonga's king dies at the age of 88
- Date: 12th September 2006
- Summary: (BN03) NUKU'ALOFA, TONGA (FILE) (REUTERS) TWO STILL IMAGES OF KING OF TONGA
- Embargoed: 27th September 2006 13:00
- Topics: Royalty,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA577G2XP0VZJDPUKF4YQVZM7A6
- Story Text: The King of Tonga in the South Pacific, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, has died in a New Zealand hospital at the age of 88, local media said on Monday (September 11).
Radio New Zealand reported Tonga's Lord Chamberlain, Fielakepa, had confirmed the monarch died late on Sunday night, and the Matangi Tonga newspaper also reported the death, quoting Tongans living in New Zealand.
King Tupou IV had been in New Zealand for medical treatment since April, briefly returning to Tonga for his 88th birthday on July 4, before returning to an Auckland hospital.
King Tupou IV has ruled the group of 170 coral islands, sprinkled over the South Pacific about 2,000 km (1,250 miles) north of New Zealand, since 1965.
The king made international headlines in 1976 when he became the world's heaviest monarch, tipping the Tonga airport scales, the only scales in the country that could hold him, at 462 pounds (209 kgs). Obesity is a major problem in the island kingdom.
The Guinness World Records (www.guinessworldrecords.com) says the king was reported to have slimmed down to 308 pounds (139 kgs) by 1985. By 1998 he had lost further weight.
Tonga, dubbed the friendly islands by British explorer James Cook, was the scene of unprecedented demonstrations in May 2005, when an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets to demand democracy and public ownership of key assets.
Last August, public servants staged a six-week strike over pay that halted services at hospitals and schools.
Tonga is the South Pacific's last monarchy, where the royal family controls a semi-feudal political system.
The king will be succeeded by his 57-year-old son, Crown Prince Tupouto'a.
The economy depends on subsistence farming, tourism and fishing.
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
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