As Thailand is plunged into mourning by the death of their much-loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, here’s what tourists visiting the popular holiday destination need to know.
Our correspondents say that while Thailand is unlikely to face any immediate disruption or political upheaval, along with the sun cream and guidebooks it is more important than ever to pack a little cultural sensitivity.
The government in Bangkok has announced a one year period of mourning. Flags are to fly at half-mast for 30 days and people are asked to avoid “joyful events”.
What to wear?
Tourists are advised to behave respectfully to Thai customs and abide by local laws.
The Thai government has asked its people to wear black as an expression of national mourning – almost everyone in Bangkok was doing so on Friday.
The UK advises its citizens to “if possible, wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public; check local media regularly and follow the advice of the local authorities”.
The BBC’s John Sudworth who is in Thailand, says that swimsuits should still be OK in the big resort beaches but tourists are advised to take local advice and to dress and behave appropriately in other public places.
This is particularly important when visiting temples or royal palaces, he adds.
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Can you still go out?
“Access to entertainment, including restaurants, bars, and shopping areas may be restricted and you should behave respectfully when in public areas,” says the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The death of a senior member of the royal family has in the past meant that bars and entertainment venues were closed and convenience stores stopped selling alcohol.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has already said that “all entertainment functions must tone it down for 30 days.” Bangkok’s notorious red light districts had already begun shutting up shop on Thursday evening.
“Refrain from any behaviour that may be interpreted as festive, disrespectful or disorderly,” Australia’s foreign ministry says, warning that there may be some disruption of commercial and public services, especially during the next 30 days.
While most Thais will welcome questions about their king and their feelings at this time, those questions should be respectful, warns our correspondent.
He notes that the strict lese majeste laws are rigorously enforced. Perceived insults or ridicule of the monarchy could land you in serious trouble.
The Dutch foreign ministry also reminds travellers to Thailand to avoid any “declarations or discussions critical of the royal family”. Tourists are advised to always carry their identity papers with them.
Thailand’s lese majeste laws are among the strictest in the world, designed to protect the most senior members of the royal family from insult or threat.
You can read more about those laws here.
In effect, they mean that anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” can be punished with up to 15 years in prison.
Lese majeste complaints can be filed by anyone, against anyone – including foreigners – and they must always be formally investigated by the police.