Thai king death: Thousands throng streets for procession

Thousands of Thai people have packed the streets of Bangkok to see a convoy carrying the body of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

His body was taken through the capital to the royal palace as mourners wept and held up portraits of the late king.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has been named as successor, but has asked for a delay in the process.

The death of the world’s longest-reigning monarch sparked an outpouring of grief in Thailand.

Official mourning will last a year. The cabinet 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.

Thai mourners await the king's funeral processionImage copyrightEPA
Image captionThousands lined the streets awaiting the king’s funeral procession
A woman weeps next to a picture of Thai King BhumibolImage copyrightEPA
Image captionHe served as a unifying figure and his loss is being mourned across Thailand
Thailand's Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn travels with a convoy carrying her late fatherImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThailand’s Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn travelled with the body

The crown prince travelled in the convoy carrying the king’s body, which will lie at a temple in the royal palace while people pay their respects.

It could be months before the late king’s cremation.

“This is the worst loss in my life,” said one of those lining the streets.

Later on Friday, the Crown Prince conducted the bathing ceremony of the king’s body, a traditional Thai Buddhist funeral rite.

Revered figure

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.

Media captionMourners explain the impact of the death of King Bhumibol
Thai women read newspapers covering the death of King Bhumibol AdulyadejImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionNewspapers have turned their pages black and whiteThe 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.

Heir’s challenge

The crown prince, who is 64, is much less well known to Thais and has not attained his father’s widespread popularity. He spends much of his time overseas, especially in Germany.

While the Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said the crown prince will ascend the throne next, there is uncertainty over when that will happen after the prince asked for a delay in succession.

Profile: Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn

This file photo taken on 11 May 2009 shows Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn observing the annual ploughing ceremony at Sanam Luang in Bangkok.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMost ordinary Thais know only a few details about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn

Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, a 96-year-old former prime minister, has been named regent in line with the constitution.King Bhumibol's family tree

He remains as regent until the Thai assembly invites the heir to succeed to the throne, the Bangkok Post reported.

Strict lese-majeste laws protect the most senior members of Thailand’s royal family from insult or threat. Public discussion of the succession can be punishable by lengthy jail terms.

Given the pivotal role the king has played in maintaining the balance of power in Thailand’s volatile political environment, the succession will be a formidable challenge for the government, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok.


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