Thais Mourn Loss of King Bhumibol

Thais Mourn Loss of King BhumibolThais Mourn Loss of King Bhumibol

The people of Thailand are mourning the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, who died on Thursday at the age of 88.

Thousands clad in black are lining the streets of Bangkok for the king’s funeral procession, as his body is moved to a temple in the Grand Palace.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is expected to be the new monarch, but has asked for a delay in succession, BBC reported.

The government has declared a yearlong official mourning period. The Cabinet has declared on Friday a government holiday and flags are to fly at half-mast for the next 30 days.

People have been asked to wear black, and avoid “joyful events” during this period. Cinema screenings, concerts and sports events have been cancelled or postponed.

News websites have turned their pages black and white, and all television channels in Thailand are airing programs about the king’s life.

One person in Bangkok told AP: “There is no word to explain my feeling right now.”

“I lost one of the most important people in my life. I feel like I haven’t done enough for him. I should have done more,” said Gaewkarn Fuangtong.

The king’s body will be moved from Siriraj Hospital to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace.

Later in the evening on Friday, the crown prince was due to conduct the bathing ceremony of the king’s body, a traditional Thai Buddhist funeral rite.

The king had been ill for a long time. When news of his death was announced on Thursday evening, many in the large crowds outside the hospital where he died broke down.

King Bhumibol was widely respected across Thailand and thought of by many as semi-divine. He earned the devotion of Thais for his efforts to help the rural poor, such as agricultural development projects and works of charity. The monarch was also seen as a stabilizing figure in a country often wracked by political turmoil.

Thailand remains under military rule following a coup in 2014.

The country has suffered from political violence and upheaval over the past decade, as well as a long-running separatist insurgency in the southern provinces which sees regular small-scale bomb attacks.

Though a constitutional monarch with limited official powers, many Thais looked to King Bhumibol to intervene in times of high tension. He was seen as a unifying and calming influence through numerous coups and 20 constitutions.

However, his critics argued he had endorsed military takeovers and at times failed to speak out against human rights abuses.

Our correspondents say a more uncertain era for Thailand has begun. While the succession process initially appeared straightforward, it is now likely to take longer to be clarified, with the prince saying he will not formally take the crown immediately as he needs time to mourn.

The crown prince, who is 64, is much less well known to Thais and has not attained his father’s widespread popularity. He spends much of his time overseas, especially in Germany.

Strict lese-majeste laws protect the most senior members of Thailand’s royal family from insult or threat. Public discussion of the succession can be punishable by lengthy jail terms.

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