Scores of people dressed in black, whites and grays swarmed the streets of Thailand to mourn the death of beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away at the age of 88 in a Bangkok hospital on Thursday, according to the Royal Palace.
The authorities declared Friday a public holiday, people avoided bright colors, newspapers were published in black and white, television channels ran non-stop footage devoted to the life of the king, and hundreds of grieving citizens were seen paying their respects to the world’s longest-reigning monarch.
The country has officially entered a one-year period of mourning.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said people are to avoid any sort of “festivities” for the next 30 days.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is set to become the new emperor and inherit the throne of one of the world's richest monarchies.
Adulyadej, who had been in poor health for several years, occupied a significant place in the daily life of Thais.
Almost every restaurant, school, office and house in Thailand has a portrait of the late king hanging on its wall. The government plays the national anthem twice a day, each morning and evening, and people stop and stand in respect — even if they are in the street.
Since 1932, Thailand has witnessed 19 coups, including 12 successful ones, and the late king served as a unifying figure during all the political crises. However, due to his deteriorating health he remained publicly detached from recent political upheavals, including the 2014 coup that installed the current military government led by former army general Prayuth Chan-ocha.
“The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is a landmark event in Thai politics, with stark implications for that country’s political stability. The vast majority of living Thais has no memory of any other king, and also only knows the monarchy as an almost sacred institution that pervades Thai politics and society,” Tom Pepinsky, a southeast Asia expert at Cornell University, told The Guardian. “The dominant narrative among many observers is that the king has been a stabilizing force, but this belies the decades of coups that have plagued modern Thai history. His death means that the Thai political system must find an alternative focal point around which to unite the country’s factionalized population.”
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Athit Perawongmetha