BANGKOK – Thailand rose to the country’s first day official day of mourning with prayers, ceremonies and black clothing amid a palpable wave of grief on Friday over the death of 88-year-old King Bhumibol, who passed away Thursday at Siriraj Hospital, ending his seven decades of reign.
Thousands of Thais spent the night in front of the hospital and took up positions along the path where the coffin procession carrying the remains of the monarch will pass on Friday afternoon to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Royal Palace.
Several hundred people also lined up to participate in a ritual bathing ceremony in front of a portrait of the monarch in the Royal Palace.
Though many people are carrying on with their normal life and going to work, nearly all are dressed in black.
All official buildings are flying the national flag at half-mast for the next 30 days, as ordered by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, who also instructed civil servants to wear black during the one-year mourning period.
Thai media is publishing paper and digital editions in only black and white, while television stations, including those that were reserved for international channels, will only broadcast documentaries on the king’s life and bulletins from the Royal Household, starting on Thursday night.
Festivals and entertainment activities are canceled for the next 30 days, including southeastern Thailand’s popular Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan island, where thousands of tourists flock each month.
After the coffin arrives at the Palace, funeral ceremonies reserved for the royal family in honor of King Bhumibol will begin on Friday afternoon.
These will be led by Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who on Thursday asked to spend a period of time in mourning before being proclaimed successor to his father and ascending the throne, said the prime minister.
King Bhumibol, the ninth monarch of Chakri Dynasty reigning under the name of Rama IX, was in a serious condition after undergoing hemodialysis last Saturday at Siriraj Hospital, where he had been admitted for over a year.
The late monarch, on the throne since 1946, is the only king that most Thais have known and he was revered as an almost divine being, as well as a symbol of unity and guide to the nation.