Thai king death: Nation mourns loss of revered royal

October 14, 2016

The people of Thailand are mourning the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, who died on Thursday aged 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.

The government has declared a year-long official mourning period.

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

The cabinet has declared 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.

Mourners lining the streets of Bangkok awaiting the Thai King's funeral procession on 14 October 2016

Image captionThousands have lined the streets of Bangkok for the funeral procession

People pause during the daily playing of the national anthem in the street (14 Oct 2016)Image copyrightAP

Image captionThais who have known the king as a stable point amid years of upheaval have been left shocked by his death

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

One person in Bangkok told the Associated Press: "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.


Preparing to mourn - Jonah Fisher, BBC News, Bangkok

Soldiers dressed in ceremonial outfits gathering outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok on 14 October 2016Image copyrightJONAH FISHER

Image captionSoldiers in ceremonial outfits and hats have gathered outside the palace to receive the king's procession

From early in the morning there were long queues leading to Bangkok's Grand Palace.

Dressed in black, tens of thousands of Thais have been standing in the baking sun to participate in the first rituals of the mourning period.

Banners are being put up along the route that the king's cortege will follow.

Soldiers dressed in ceremonial outfits have been gathering outside the palace, where the grass appears to have been freshly laid overnight.


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 will conduct the bathing ceremony of the king's body, a traditional Thai Buddhist funeral rite.

Thai people along the funeral procession route in Bangkok (14 Oct 2016)Image copyrightREUTERS

Image captionThe king is highly beloved by Thais, many of whom regard him as semi-divine

Street vendors are selling black T-shirts during the mourning period on 14 October 2016

Image captionStreet vendors in Bangkok are selling black T-shirts to mourners

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 stabilising figure in a country often wracked by political turmoil.

Thai well-wishers mourn for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej after the announcement of his death at the Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, 13 October 2016.Image copyrightEPA

Image captionThere were scenes of intense grief outside the hospital as news broke that he had died

Thai people attend royal bathing ceremony at The Grand Palace on 14 October 2016 in Bangkok, ThailandImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionLarge crowds of mourners attended a funeral rite on Friday morning

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 Muslim 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 had failed to speak out against human rights abuses.

Our correspondents say a more uncertain era for Thailand has begun, and 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.

Heir's challenge

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.

Profile: Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn

This file photo taken on 11 May 2009 shows Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn observing the annual ploughing ceremony at Sanam Luang in Bangkok.Image copyrightAFP

Image captionMost ordinary Thais know only a few details about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn

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.

Given the pivotal role the king has played in maintaining the balance of power in Thailand's volatile political environment, the succession will be a formidable challenge for the government, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

King Bhumibol's family tree

Image captionThe royal family tree