Year-long mourning for Thai King
THAILAND'S King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the only real constant through all of Thailand's upheavals in the last 70 years, died yesterday at age 88, leaving the still politically sundered country without a clear figure of unity.
He died in Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital at 3.52pm yesterday, surrounded by all the royal family members, the Bangkok Post reported, quoting the Royal Household Bureau.
"Although the team of doctors treated him to the best of their ability, his condition deteriorated," the bureau said.
"It's a great loss to the Thai people," Prime Minister Pra-yut Chan-Ocha said in a broadcast across Thai TV stations.
General Prayut's government had earlier urged citizens not to panic over rumours circulating on social media, Bloomberg reported.
The king's only son, 64-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is his designated successor.
Gen Prayut said government officials and state enterprise employees would hold a one-year mourning period and invited all Thais to do the same.
Schools and businesses are likely to shut down for the coming days.
The ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty, officially known as Rama IX, ascended to the throne in 1946 and was the world's longest-reigning monarch.
Well-wishers in pink and yellow had been flocking to the hospital to pray for him since it was announced on Sunday night that his condition was "unstable".
Although the late king was greatly loved by his people, his reign saw some of Thailand's darkest political struggles.
Its initial years coincided with the semi-fascist rule of Plaek Phibunsongkhram, and it ended with the junta of Gen Prayut - who seized power through a coup in 2014 - still in control.
Also, three of his four children, including the Crown Prince, are not popular with the people, which might diminish the royal family's influence over state matters, observers pointed out.
It is widely believed that the Crown Prince is close to self-exiled former populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and he might have no qualms in hurting the interests of the anti-Thaksin elites in Bangkok.
But others see the junta, which supports the Crown Prince, as able to keep turbulence at bay, but at the price of perpetuating authoritarian rule.
Thailand's baht held gains yesterday despite the news of the king's death, as it had dropped more than 9 per cent in the first three days of the week, Bloomberg reported.