Thailand Embarks on Year of Mourning for King Bhumibol

BenarNews Staff
Bangkok and Pattani, Thailand
161014-TH-motorcade-1000 Mourners watch as a van in a motorcade transports the body of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej to his palace in Bangkok, Oct. 14, 2016.

Tens of thousands of people clad in black lined Bangkok streets on Friday to glimpse a van carrying the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, as Thailand officially began a year of mourning for the monarch who reigned for 70 years.

Queen Sirikit and Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn accompanied the king’s body in a royal motorcade from the hospital where he had died the day before to the Grand Palace, where Bhumibol will lie before his cremation and state funeral at a yet to be determined date, palace officials said.

After reaching the palace the king’s only son – his successor – presided over the bathing of the Bhumibol’s body, a Buddhist funereal ritual, as monks chanted prayers, according to a statement from the Bureau of the Royal Household. Similar ceremonies are to be held at the palace and across predominantly Buddhist Thailand for 100 days.

People also voiced grief in Thailand’s Muslim dominated Deep South for the king’s death on Thursday from health-related complications at age 88.

“Muslim Thais are very sad. It is such a great loss. Muslim Thais wholeheartedly respected the king,” JaeIsma-ae Jehkumudu, an Islamic teacher from the southern border region where a separatist insurgency against Bangkok has raged for decades, told BenarNews.

“When Muslims go to the funeral of friends of different religious faiths, they will show respect in a plain and humble way of dressing but will not dress in black,” he said.

The Thai government the night before had announced that the country would observe a year-long period of mourning for the king, and had asked Thais to wear black clothing during that time.

And for a second straight day on Friday, Thai authorities interrupted regular television programming on channels including BBC and CNN, using their signals to air non-stop programming about the king’s life, Agence-France Presse reported.

Facebook turned off its advertising in Thailand following the announcement of the king’s death, saying that removing online ads was a “cultural custom” during the mourning period, according to a report by CNN.

On Friday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Thailand to lift a blanket order censoring TV news broadcasts in the wake of the king’s death. Local media outlets have also been barred from using social media live during an indefinite period, CPJ noted in a statement.

“While CPJ sympathizes with the Thai people over the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, we lament that the government has resorted to crude censorship at this sensitive time,” said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. “We urge military authorities to follow through on their promise to lift the ban and allow all journalists to report on this important story without threat or harassment.”

‘He was the love of all Thais’

Meanwhile at Friday prayers, Thai Muslims were instructed by the Office of the Sheikhul Islam – which represents Thailand’s Islamic community – to read out messages of condolence and express their gratitude to the king, an official with the organization told BenarNews.

On Friday night in Narathiwat, one of the provinces in the Deep South, children and others lit candles and prayed for the soul of the late King.

Government offices were closed on Friday, out of respect to the king, but businesses stayed open, according to reports.

People in the crowd that thronged the streets of the capital burst into tears as the van in the motorcade passed by on its way to the palace.

“I wanted to send off his majesty,” Nateimon Chitrakon, 39, told the Associated Press. “He was the love of all Thais.”

Prince Vajiralongkorn, 64, has been named as the king’s successor but, following the official announcement of Bhumibol’s death on Thursday night, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, told reporters in Bangkok that the royal succession might not happen immediately, because the crown prince wanted “to have a solemn moment to share his grief with all Thais.”

Prayuth traveled to the Grand Palace on Friday to pay his respects to the king.

In a televised speech to the nation the night before, Prayuth announced that the country would mourn the loss of their king over the next year.

“Now, the 70-year reign of His Majesty King Bhumibol the Great has ended. As the benevolence of His Majesty the King for the Thai people has been immeasurable, our profound sorrow and bereavement on this loss shall also be immeasurable,” Prayuth said, according to an official transcript of his statement released by the prime minister’s office on Friday.


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