His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away at 15.52 this afternoon. The death of the King of Thailand was confirmed in an official statement broadcast on Thai television at 18.50 this evening. Following a long illness, the 88-year-old King of Thailand lost his fight for life at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. I’d like to extend my condolences to all Thai people, not just in Thailand, but wherever they may be in the world.
Father of the Nation
The majority of Thai people have known no other Thai monarch in their lifetime and he is fondly regarded as the Father of the Nation. His birthday on December 5 is celebrated as Father’s Day. The King’s image adorns calendars in homes and businesses throughout Thailand and portraits of him can be seen in every province of the country. If you listen to Thai people talking about him the personal connection is clear when they refer to him proudly as ‘my king’. This is a man who is genuinely loved by many people in Thailand and the emotional impact his death will have on the nation is difficult to put into words.
What happens next?
A number of announcements have been made this evening and more will follow in the coming days and weeks. It is expected that the King’s body will be moved on Friday afternoon from Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital to the Grand Palace. However, there is likely to be a lengthy delay before any Royal cremation ceremony takes place. This is actually a show of love and respect for the deceased. Thai Buddhists believe that all of the religious rites and merit-making ceremonies carried out between death and cremation ease the path for the deceased and enables the departed to benefit in the next life. When the King’s sister, Princess Galyani Vadhana, died in January 2008 there was a wait of ten months before she was cremated.
This is what to expect in Thailand in the coming days and weeks:
- Flags to be flown at half mast for 30 days
- Government officials to wear black (for one year)
- Members of the general public are asked to pay their respects by wearing black or black arm-bands for 30 days or more (some will do so for a year)
- Entertainment venues may close for at least a few days
- Local events are subject to cancellation
- Airports and transport all running as normal
Thai television stations are expected to suspend their normal broadcasting schedule for 30 days. Replacement programmes will be in honour of the late King.
The Thai PM made an announcement to say that after midnight on October 14 television stations could transmit their usual schedule, but some light-entertainment shows won’t be screened.
The King’s son, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is the heir to the Thai throne. According to a statement from Prime Minister Prayuth, the 64-year-old Crown Prince has asked for time to mourn his father before formally accepting the crown.
Update: Friday, October 14
- Airports all open and all transport running normally
- Some immigration offices and government buildings closing early today and re-opening as normal on Monday
- Some road closures in Bangkok and restrictions around the Grand Palace on Friday, October 14. Traffic congestion expected as King’s body is moved in the afternoon from Siriraj Hospital to the Grand Palace
- Banks and financial institutions all open
- Stock Exchange of Thailand open
- Shopping malls open
- Post offices open
- Alcohol can be sold in shops and restaurants during the usual hours of 11am-2pm and from 5pm-midnight. Up to the discretion of individual owners whether they sell alcohol or not, but no ban in place
- October 16 is an important Buddhist Day for Awk Phansa and there will be no alcohol sales
- Bars are allowed to open (with restrictions on music), but some bars and clubs may opt to close completely this weekend and re-open on Monday or at a later date. Bars must close before 1am and no parties will be allowed
- October Full Moon Party is cancelled
- Some music concerts and theatre performances scheduled between now and November 13/14 will be cancelled
- No formal announcement yet about Loy Krathong (and the Yi Peng Lantern Festival). This year, Loy Krathong and Yi Peng night is November 14 so falls at the end of the 30-day period. Expect the festivals to go ahead although there could possibly be restrictions on fireworks. More details as and when they become available.
- The privately arranged mass sky lantern release at Mae Jo, Chiang Mai (not the Yi Peng Festival itself) may be cancelled
Update: Saturday, October 15
- The above information still stands
- There has been lots of stuff posted on social media yesterday and today about various events and festivals (e.g Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai) being cancelled. Not all of the information being posted is verified and may or may not prove to be correct. All I can say is, my Thai contacts in Chiang Mai say there is no definite decision yet about Loy Krathong and the Yi Peng Festival despite what was reported on social media yesterday and this morning.
- These are exceptional circumstances and it’s a very emotional time for Thai people. I’ll add updates here when I have more news. Thank you to everybody for your understanding at this difficult time.
Update: Monday, October 17
Please read the information in this link:
News and updates on the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festival, 2016 »
- Tourist attractions all open with the exception of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) in Bangkok
- Grand Palace expected to be closed to tourists until October 20
- A pavilion at the Grand Palace complex is open for visitors to sign a book of condolence, but the rest of the complex is closed to the public. Wear black if visiting
- From October 28, the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall at the Grand Palace complex will be open for visitors to pay their respects. Long lines may form outside the Grand Palace, especially at weekends
- If you visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok (even if it’s outside) please dress and act respectfully. Wear a black top for your visit there
Read more advice on what to wear in Thailand during the mourning period »
Update: Friday, October 21
- Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha won’t be open to tourists until November 1
- Advice for visitors: what to wear in Thailand during the mourning period for the King »
What does this mean for tourists visiting Thailand?
If you’ve been to Thailand before you will know already how big an impact the King’s passing will have. At the same time, the country hasn’t come to a standstill. If you have plans to visit there is no need to cancel or change your arrangements. I went for a walk late this evening in Chiang Mai city and people were eating noodles, shopping in 7-Eleven and going about their business. One small neighbourhood bar was open and serving alcohol although not playing music. People still have to eat, work and make a living and so life will go on. But it won’t go on as normal. It will be with immense sadness that Thai people will wake up in the morning in the knowledge that one of the constants in their life has passed.
This is an extremely sensitive issue for Thai people many of whom will feel like they have lost a member of their own family. As a visitor to Thailand you won’t be expected to mourn in the same way, but it would be polite to show respect. If you are visiting within the next 30 days try to wear black or white tops especially when visiting temples. There are likely to be plenty of places where you can buy black ribbons and that would be a sensible compromise if you are visiting on holiday/vacation.
Please be careful about using social media to discuss the situation in Thailand. There are strict lese majeste laws in place and the passing of the King and what happens next are highly sensitive issues in Thailand.
The Thai Prime Minister has requested that entertainment venues ‘tone down’ activities during the next 30 days, but there is no ban on alcohol sales. The request is open to interpretation by individual business owners, but could mean bars and entertainment venues temporarily closing down, switching off all music or restricting their hours. In theory, it could mean a total closure for entertainment venues for 30 days. However, the Thai government is also aware that tourism is vital to the Thai economy and people still have to make a living. Bangkok is likely to be the area where entertainment venues are monitored most closely so it could be the case that on the islands small beach bars remain open (with no music), but nightclubs in the Thai capital temporarily close. It’s likely that any organised parties, such as the Full Moon Party, will be postponed.
Up until January 31, 2017, there will be free admission to national museums and historical parks throughout Thailand. This applies to everybody, Thais and non-Thais. Details here.