BANGKOK Oct 14 Thailand's people woke up on
Friday to the first day in 70 years without King Bhumibol
Adulyadej, a king worshipped as a father-figure who guided the
nation through decades of change and turmoil.
The king, the world's longest-reigning monarch, died in a
Bangkok hospital on Thursday. He was 88.
He had been in poor health for several years but his death
has shocked the Southeast Asian nation of 67 million people and
plunged it into mourning.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is expected to be the new
king but he does not command the same adoration that his father
earned over a lifetime on the throne.
Thailand has endured bomb attacks and economic worries
recently while rivalry simmers between the military-led
establishment and populist political forces after a decade of
turmoil including two coups and deadly protests.
The king stepped in to calm crises on several occasions
during his reign and many Thais worry about a future without
him. The military has for decades invoked its duty to defend the
monarchy to justify its intervention in politics.
Military government leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha
said the country was in "immeasurable grief ... profound sorrow
He said security was his top priority and called for
businesses to stay active and stock investors not to dump
shares. Banks and financial markets are to stay open on Friday,
industry officials said.
"FATHER HAS GONE"
Security was stepped up in Bangkok's old quarter of palaces,
temples and ministries with soldiers at checkpoints, government
offices and intersections.
In the early hour of Friday, black-and-white footage of the
king playing jazz on the saxophone was being shown on all local
Prayuth said Prince Vajiralongkorn wanted to grieve with the
people and leave the formal succession until later, when the
president of parliament will invite him to ascend the throne.
"Long live His Majesty the new king," Prayuth said.
Thailand's strict lese-majeste laws have left little room
for public discussion about the succession.
The junta has promised an election next year and pushed
through a constitution to ensure its oversight of civilian
governments. It looks firmly in control for a royal transition.
Anguish rippled through the crowd of hundreds praying
outside the king's hospital when his death was announced.
"We came here hoping for a miracle. We hoped the news wasn't
true," said lawyer Pimook Linpaisarn, 32.
He came to the hospital with his girlfriend Aunchisa
Saekuay, who said the restaurant she runs was closed until
"It's like our father has gone," she wept.
In the backpacker enclave of Khao San Road, across the river
from the hospital, shops and restaurants were as busy as usual.
Some bars shut and many turned down the music but police
said there had been no order to close down any establishments.
Prayuth told people to avoid festivities for 30 days of
mourning. The state sector will observe a year of mourning.
Most Thais have known no other monarch and King Bhumibol's
picture is hung in almost every house, school and office.
Until his later years, he was featured on television almost
every evening, often trudging through rain, map in hand and
camera around his neck, visiting a rural development project.
Queen Sirikit, 84, has also been in poor health over recent
The government has set up a telephone hotline to help people
cope with grief, a spokesman said.
Prayuth warned against anyone taking advantage of the
situation to cause trouble. Politicians from all sides will be
Thai stocks and the baht currency are likely to be volatile
in the short term and consumers could cut spending, but assuming
a smooth transition, major economic disruption was not expected,
the Eurasia Group of risk analysts said in a report before the
(Additional reporting by Andrew R.C. Marshall, Amy Sawitta
Lefevre, Panarat Thepgumpanat, Pracha Hariraksapitak, Patpicha
Tanakasempipat and Pairat Temphairojana; Editing by Raju