Thais flock to palace af­ter king’s death; care­taker in place

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Nat­nicha Chuwiruch and Stephen Wright The As­so­ci­ated Press

Tens of thou­sands of Thai mourn­ers thronged Satur­day to the palace com­plex where King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej’s body is be­ing kept, as the gov­ern­ment said a re­gent would be the care­taker of the monar­chy un­til the crown prince takes over fol­low­ing his fa­ther’s death.

Dressed in somber black and white, peo­ple from all over the coun­try con­verged at the com­plex in Bangkok’s his­toric cen­ter, hop­ing to get a glimpse of their beloved monarch, who died Thurs­day af­ter pro­longed ill­nesses that had in­ca­pac­i­tated many of his or­gans. He was 88.

But con­fu­sion reigned out­side the com­plex as po­lice an­nounced that it was closed for seven days. A while later, the com­plex gates were opened for peo­ple to visit one of the halls to sign a con­do­lence book. The body, which is kept in an­other build­ing, will not be re­vealed to the pub­lic for an­other 15 days, au­thor­i­ties said.

The crowds lin­ing out­side since dawn were sub­dued and or­derly de­spite the swelling num­bers. Peo­ple shared food and handed each other wa­ter and wet tow­els to cope with the trop­i­cal heat.

While an­nounc­ing the king’s death, the prime min­is­ter had said that the heir ap­par­ent, Crown Prince Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn, would as­cend the throne. But hours later he said that the prince did not want to be im­me­di­ately named king be­cause he wanted more time to grieve along with the rest of the na­tion.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Wis­sanu Krea-ngam ap­peared on tele­vi­sion Fri­day evening to ex­plain that the head of the Privy Coun­cil, an ad­vi­sory body to the king, is au­to­mat­i­cally the re­gent un­til a new monarch is crowned.

There was no of­fi­cial state­ment that the coun­cil’s head, 96-year-old Prem Tin­su­lanonda, had been named re­gent, cre­at­ing uncer­tainty. But Wis­sanu said an an­nounce­ment wasn’t needed be­cause the process is man­dated by Thai­land’s con­sti­tu­tion. Prem, a for­mer prime min­is­ter, was one of Bhu­mi­bol’s prin­ci­pal con­fi­dants and has ties to Bhu­mi­bol’s pop­u­lar daugh­ter, Princess Maha Chakri Sirind­horn.

For or­di­nary Thais, the over­whelm­ing fo­cus was on griev­ing for Bhu­mi­bol, not the suc­ces­sion.

“I haven’t even started to think about that; I’m still in mourn­ing over the king,” said Rakchada­porn Un­nankad, a 24-year-old Bangkok of­fice worker. “I left home at 6 a.m. to come here. We were queu­ing for so long be­fore they told us that we can’t go in­side the palace. There were peo­ple who have been here since 4 or 5 a.m.”

WA­SON WANICHAKORN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A Bud­dhist monk stands next to a line of mourn­ers wait­ing to pay their re­spects to the late King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thai­land, Satur­day. Thais in their thou­sands, dressed in somber black and white, de­scended on the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Satur­day to pay re­spects to Bhu­mi­bol, who died on but were met with the un­ex­pected clo­sure of the com­plex.

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