Thailand began its first day in 70 years without a king on Friday in an intense state of mourning, with people across the shaken nation dressed in black following the death of the world’s longest-reigning monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej, aged 88. Some of the generally bustling streets of Bangkok were quiet as stone-faced Thais set out on their morning commutes.
Considered a source of strength in a country that has seen countless coups since he ascended to the throne at the age of 18 in 1946, Bhumibol’s death has thrown uncertainty over the southeast Asian nation. It was declared a public holiday on Friday morning and people in the streets wore black, white or grey, avoiding bright colours to signify the country’s loss. Many newspapers were published without colour. The Friday edition of the English-language Nation
paper was entirely devoted to the life of the king.
The front page simple read: “Kingdom Grieves.”
News websites have turned their pages black and white and all television channels in Thailand are airing programmes about the king’s life.
Image: The Straits Times
Thousands clad in all 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. The government declared it a year-long official mourning period. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is expected to be the new monarch, but has asked for a delay in succession.
People have been asked to wear black, and avoid “joyful events” during this period. Cinema screenings, concerts and sports events have been cancelled and postponed due to this loss.
The king had been ill for a long time and when news of his death was announced on Thursday evening, many in the large crowds outside the hospital where he died broke down in tears. King Bhumibol was widely treasured across Thailand, and thought of by many as semi-divine. He earned the devotion of the Thai people for his efforts to help the rural poor through initiatives such as agricultural development projects and charitable works.