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Thais say farewell to their beloved king and ponder his presumed heir

Thais say farewell to their beloved king and ponder his presumed heir. Crowds line the streets during the procession for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's body in Bangkok on Oct. 14. (Manan Vatsyayana/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images). BANGKOK — Mourners dressed in black lined the streets Friday for a last glimpse of Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej as the country began a long farewell that also marks an ­important moment of image-building for his presumed heir.

Thais say farewell to their beloved king and ponder his presumed heir

The king’s body was received by Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn at a Bangkok hospital, which the ailing monarch had made his virtual home for years before his death at age 88, which was announced Thursday. The motorcade then headed to the ornate Grand Palace for a ritual bathing of the body in accordance with Buddhist tradition. Bhumibol, the world’s ­longest-serving monarch, had been on the throne since 1946 and was the only king most Thais had ever known.

Along the route of the motorcade in central Bangkok, mourners sat quietly clutching photos of the monarch in his military uniform or posing with his two dogs, as municipal workers passed out juice in the blazing heat. Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, has died. He was 88. Dec. 2, 2005 Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his wife, Queen Sirikit, are seen during the king’s birthday parade in Bangkok. Narong Sangnak/European Pressphoto Agency.

Feb. 28, 1955 The Royal family of Thailand poses for a photograph on the steps of Bangkok’s Chitralda Palace. Seen are King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 27, and Queen Sirikit, 23, are their children, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, 2, left, and Princess Ubol Ratana, 3. AP

“I feel a deep sense of loss,” said Supalag Sangmart, 37, a teacher who wept as the king’s coffin passed by in a van with military escorts. “He is the father of the land.” Bhumibol’s body will lie inside the Grand Palace complex for mourners to pay their respects while monks perform ritual chants. A pall hung over the Southeast Asian nation of nearly 70 million. Television stations played on repeat somber biographies of Bhumibol, who was a beloved figure to the Thai people for his tireless work ethic, paternal aura and willingness to aid the rural hinterlands.

"Truly the King of Hearts," said a headline in the English-language daily the Nation. The solemn task of memorial and succession began with the removal of the king’s body from Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, where he had spent much time in recent years while treated for a lung infection, kidney disease and other ailments. He had not made a public appearance for months.

As the country launched into a period of mourning that will last a year, fears remained that the king’s death could further fracture Thailand’s political system and disrupt a plan for elections to be held in 2017. The country has been riven by conflict for more than a decade and has been run by a military junta since 2014. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the world's longest-reigning monarch, died in hospital Oct. 13, according to an announcement from the palace. (Reuters)

The country’s parliament was supposed to have officially named a successor within 24 hours, but the crown prince told the country’s prime minister Thursday that he wanted to fully grieve his father’s death before taking over as king. The prince, 64, who has spent much time abroad and is thrice-divorced, does not carry the popularity and respect of his father. But many Thais expressed hope he would live up to his father’s legacy.

“Maybe he has a different style, but hopefully everything will get better and not worse,” said Chana Karn, 43, an event planner from Bangkok. Bhumibol was born in Cambridge, Mass., on Dec. 5, 1927, making him the only king from any country born in the United States. His father, Prince Mahidol, was studying at Harvard Medical School at the time. His mother was a Thai commoner.

During his 70-year reign, the king took an interest in rural and industrial development and was often praised as a peacemaker during key moments of crisis in the country’s turbulent political history. Suprajit Rattanwong, 39, who waited in the heat outside the palace for hours to pay her respects Friday, said that she was inspired to become a teacher after hearing the king give an encouraging speech to a group of schoolchildren in the country’s remote north years earlier. “I keep it as a principal of my life,” she said. “My heart is breaking.”

Annie Gowen
Source : Washingtonpost

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