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Thai king's body arrives at Grand Palace for people to pay respects

Published 14/10/2016

Thais remember King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok (AP)
Thais remember King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok (AP)

A van carrying the remains of King Bhumibol Adulyadej has arrived at the Grand Palace in Bangkok - where the body will remain to allow people pay respects to the monarch who many Thais revered as their father and a demigod.

King Bhumibol died on Thursday aged 88 at the Siriraj hospital, which had been his virtual home for years as doctors treated him for various illnesses afflicting his lungs, liver, kidneys, brain and blood.

Thousands of people lined both sides of the road, sobbing openly in a display of their devotion and love for the monarch and bowing deeply as the convoy passed from the hospital to the palace.

Most of them held up portraits of the king in regal yellow robes. Those without portraits simply pulled out currency notes from their wallets - all banknotes carry the king's face. Many had camped for 24 hours since his death on Thursday.

Most Thais had known no other leader as King Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, had been on the throne for 70 years.

His son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is to take over the throne, followed the king's body in a yellow Mercedes van. Accompanying Prince Vajiralongkorn was his consort, Lt Gen Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhaya.

The body will lie at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, inside the ornate Grand Palace complex.

No date has been set for the cremation.

"It is a great loss for Thai people," said Siwanart Phra-Anan, on office worker. "His Majesty will be in Thai people's heart forever."

"I'm lost for words because since I was born, I had him as a father of the nation and he unified us," said another, Siwanee Varikornsakul.

"I've never been in this situation before. I don't know what to say. My heart is numb."

Friday marked the first day in 70 years that Thailand has been without a king as Prince Vajiralongkorn asked for more time to mourn with the rest of the nation before ascending the throne.

The constitution says that in the absence of a king, the regent will head the Privy Council, but it is vague about the situation where the heir apparent has not taken over.

The government declared a public holiday and people across the shaken nation wore black, their eyes swollen and red with hours of weeping.

A one-year mourning period for the government has been declared together with a 30-day moratorium on state and official events.

But as previously speculated, no demands have been made of the private sector.

The government has only urged people to refrain from organising entertainment events for a month, apparently mindful of the need to ensure that the sputtering economy does not suffer.

Tourism is one of Thailand's biggest revenue earners, and entertainment remains an integral part of it.

The stock market and banks remained open, as did Thai embassies worldwide. After plunging for days, the Thai stock market opened up, rising more than 4% in morning trading in a sign of renewed confidence in the economy.

Television channels were running non-stop footage devoted to the life of the king, who was deeply revered and held up as a unifying figure in the politically fractious country despite two coups in the last decade alone.

Although a constitutional monarch, he wielded enormous political power and served as a unifying figure during Thailand's numerous political crises.

But in recent years, he suffered from a variety of illnesses that affected his kidneys, brain, lungs, heart and blood. He remained publicly detached from recent political upheavals, including the 2014 coup that brought Prayuth, an army general, to power.

Besides Prince Vajiralongkorn, the king is survived by his 84-year-old wife Sirikit who herself has been in poor health and rarely seen in public in years.

The couple have three daughters - Princess Sirindhorn, the most beloved royal after her father, Princess Ubolratana and Princess Chulabhorn Walailak.


Press Association

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