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Thailand began its first day in 70 years without a king today in a profound state of mourning, as the crown prince asked for more time before ascending the throne following the death of his father and the world's longest-reigning monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The government declared a public holiday and people across the shaken nation dressed in black, their eyes swollen and red with hours of weeping. Many were still breaking down and sobbing in building halls, elevators, shops in spontaneous outburst of emotion that reflected the deep love and respect Bhumibol commanded in Thailand.
The 88-year-old king had spent much of the last decade hospitalised for a variety of ailments, and the momentous news, announced in a palace statement yesterday, had long been both anticipated and feared. But the nation remained stable and life continued largely as usual with most shops, banks and tourist sites open.
A one-year mourning period for the government has been declared together with a 30-day moratorium on state and official events. But as previously speculated, no demands have been made of the private sector.
The government has only urged people to refrain from organizing entertainment events for a month, apparently mindful of the need to ensure that the sputtering economy does not suffer. Tourism is one of Thailand's biggest revenue earners, and entertainment remains an integral part of it.
The public holiday was declared this morning after people had already come to work. The stock market and banks remained open, as did Thai embassies worldwide. After plunging for days, the Thai stock market opened up, rising more than 4 per cent in morning trading in a sign of renewed confidence in the economy.
"The stock market, investments, other businesses should not stop. Do not try to let the country lose its credibility, especially in the case of impact on the stock exchange," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said.
In Bangkok, residents began lining the streets where the king's body was expected to pass this afternoon in a royal procession from Siriraj Hospital to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, which is located on the grounds of the ornate Grand Palace.
"It is a great loss for Thai people," said Siwanart Phra-Anan, on office worker in the financial district. "His Majesty will be in Thai people's heart forever."
"I'm lost for words because since I was born, I had him as a father of the nation and he unified us," said another, Siwanee Varikornsakul. "I've never been in this situation before. I don't know what to say. My heart is numb."
Prayuth said late yesterday that Bhumibol's son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, will succeed the king under the constitution. But he said the prince had asked for more time to mourn with the nation before ascending the throne. No date has been set for his coronation.