Despite grief, Thais head back to work
BANGKOK was a sea of black and white as commuters, civil servants, even a princess returned to work yesterday, in a sombre but determined display that life must go on without their beloved king.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, ending a seven-decade reign and leaving the politically divided nation without its key pillar of unity.
Across the sprawling metropolis workers crammed into buses, river boats, trains and subways dressed in the black and white clothes that have come to symbolise and express their sorrow.
Even Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the most popular of King Bhumibol’s children, was back to work yesterday.
Hours after presiding over dawn prayers for her father inside the Grand Palace, the 61-year-old was attending a ceremony at the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation which has made her a Special Ambassador for Zero Hunger.
“Climate change is a real and undeniable threat to the ecosystems and natural resources that underpin the region’s agricultural sector,” she said as she handed out awards to farmers from as far afield as Mongolia and Vietnam.
Thailand’s junta has displayed a pragmatic streak since King Bhumibol’s death.
The stock market was kept open the day after he died, and the main index rose after buckling during his final days – defying warnings that the country would economically shut down in the event of the monarch’s passing.
The authorities have also been wary of hitting the tourist sector too hard given peak season kicks off in December.
While public displays of celebrations – such as festivals and concerts – have been curbed, there is no widespread ban on alcohol and only a request for the famously raucous entertainment scene to “tone down” for the next month.
Nonetheless a layer of uncertainty remains.
King Bhumibol’s heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, made the surprise decision to delay being officially proclaimed the new king, according to junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The prince wants time to mourn his father and prepare for kingship, Mr Prayut said. –