Tourists warned against 'disrespectful behaviour'

VIDEO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • Thailand has advised tourists to refrain from "disrespectful behaviour" as the nation grieves the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a man seen as a father figure in the country.

The government has declared one year of official mourning and asked Thais to wear black and avoid "festivities" for 30 days.

Although the dress code does not apply to tourists, they should, if possible, "wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public", said the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) yesterday.

"The Government has asked for cooperation from the entertainment venues; such as bars and nightclubs to consider the opening of their business operations during this time," TAT said in a statement.

"The decision will be made by the individual owners."

Tourist attractions will be open as usual, except Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace, where the royal funeral rites will take place, the tourism body added.

Embassies in Thailand have also advised tourists to respect the feelings of the Thai people, with Britain's Foreign Office issuing a travel advisory reminding Britons to "behave respectfully when in public areas".

Dutch tourists were also warned to avoid any "declarations or discussions critical of the royal family" in updated travel advice sent by the Foreign Ministry after the death of the Thai King.

Thailand's laws protecting the royal family from insult are among the strictest in the world, and foreigners have been jailed for breaking them.

In 2009, an Australian writer was sentenced to three years in prison for a passage in his 2005 novel deemed insulting to the monarchy. He was later released after a royal pardon.

In 2007, a Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for spray-painting graffiti over posters of King Bhumibol, apparently while drunk. He was also freed when the ruler pardoned him within two weeks of the sentencing.

"Stupid behaviour right now is totally out of the question,"said Mr Didier Arnault, a French national living in Bangkok's historic quarter near the royal palaces.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'Tourists warned against 'disrespectful behaviour''. Print Edition | Subscribe