Thai security tightened after King’s death
Nation in mourning for Bhumibol
BANGKOK: Buddhist monks chanted prayers over the body of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the riverside Grand Palace in Bangkok, ahead of a traditional royal cremation that will need months to prepare.
The world’s longest-reigning monarch, worshipped as a father figure during his 70-year reign, died on Thursday in a Bangkok hospital where he had been treated for years for illnesses affecting his lungs, kidneys, brain and blood. He was 88.
A royal convoy, which included heir-apparent Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, moved slowly through Bangkok’s ancient quarter to the Grand Palace, winding past thousands of sombre Thais dressed in black, many of them holding aloft portraits of the king.
According to tradition, the bodies of Thai royals are placed in a golden urn. But palace officials said that was no longer upheld and the king’s body would be placed in a coffin with a symbolic royal urn near it.
The king had been in poor health for a number of years but his death still upset the Southeast Asian nation of 67 million people and plunged it into grief.
The king stepped in to calm crises on several occasions during his reign and many Thais worry about a future without him. The military, which took power in a 2014 coup, has for decades invoked its duty to defend the monarchy to justify its intervention in politics.
Military government leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chanocha said on Thursday that security was his top priority and he ordered extra troops deployed around the country.
The stock market’s benchmark index closed on Friday 4.6 percent higher on hopes of an orderly succession.
King Bhumibol was sometimes called the world’s richest monarch with a net worth of about $40 billion (R570bn). But much of the wealth was held by the Crown Property Bureau, which under the late king leased out great swathes of real estate in and around Bangkok, often at below market rates.
The monarchy is one of Thailand’s most influential institutions. Part of that institution is the Privy Council, which advises the sovereign.
Most Thais have known no other monarch and King Bhumibol’s picture is hung in almost every house, school and office.
Black-and-white footage of the king’s life, including him playing jazz on the saxophone, replaced regular transmissions on television channels soon after his death was announced.
Until his later years, he was featured on television almost every evening, often trudging through rain, map in hand and camera around his neck, visiting a rural development project.
His wife, Queen Sirikit, 84, has also been in poor health in recent years.
Thailand has endured bomb attacks and economic worries recently while rivalry simmers between the military-led establishment and populist political forces after a decade of turmoil, including two coups and deadly protests.
Prayuth warned against anyone taking advantage of the situation to cause trouble. Politicians from all sides will be in mourning.
Prayuth said Prince Vajiralongkorn wanted to grieve with the people and leave the formal succession until later, when the parliament will invite him to ascend the throne.
“Long live His Majesty the new king,” Prayuth said. – Reuters
Mourners react as a motorcade carrying the body of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej arrives at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday.