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