The people of Thailand are mourning the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, who died on Thursday aged 88.
Thousands clad in black are lining the streets of Bangkok for the king’s funeral procession, as his body is moved to a temple in the Grand Palace.
The government has declared a year-long official mourning period.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is expected be the new monarch, but has asked for a delay in succession.
The cabinet has declared Friday a government holiday, and flags are to fly at half-mast for the next 30 days.
People have been asked to wear black, and avoid “joyful events” during this period. Cinema screenings, concerts and sports events have been cancelled or postponed.
News websites have turned their pages black and white, and all television channels in Thailand are airing programmes about the king’s life.
One person in Bangkok told the Associated Press: “There is no word to explain my feeling right now.”
“I lost one of the most important people in my life. I feel like I haven’t done enough for him. I should have done more,” said Gaewkarn Fuangtong.
From early in the morning there were long queues leading to Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
Dressed in black, tens of thousands of Thais have been standing in the baking sun to participate in the first rituals of the mourning period.
Banners are being put up along the route that the king’s cortege will follow.
Soldiers dressed in ceremonial outfits have been gathering outside the palace, where the grass appears to have been freshly laid overnight.
The king’s body will be moved from Siriraj Hospital to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace.
Later in the evening on Friday, the Crown Prince will conduct the bathing ceremony of the king’s body, a traditional Thai Buddhist funeral rite.
The king had been ill for a long time. When news of his death was announced on Thursday evening, many in the large crowds outside the hospital where he died broke down.
King Bhumibol was widely respected across Thailand, and thought of by many as semi-divine.
He earned the devotion of Thais for his efforts to help the rural poor, such as agricultural development projects, and works of charity.
The monarch was also seen as a stabilising figure in a country often wracked by political turmoil.
Thailand remains under military rule following a coup in 2014.
The country has suffered from political violence and upheaval over the past decade, as well as a long-running Muslim separatist insurgency in the southern provinces which sees regular small-scale bomb attacks.
Though a constitutional monarch with limited official powers, many Thais looked to King Bhumibol to intervene in times of high tension. He was seen as a unifying and calming influence through numerous coups and 20 constitutions.
However, his critics argued he had endorsed military takeovers and at times had failed to speak out against human rights abuses.
Our correspondents say a more uncertain era for Thailand has begun, and while the succession process initially appeared straightforward, it is now likely to take longer to be clarified, with the prince saying he will not formally take the crown immediately as he needs time to mourn.
Source : BBC
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