BANGKOK - The body of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej was taken from Siriraj Hospital in a procession to the nearby Grand Palace on Friday (Oct 14) as thousands of Thais clad in black and white and holding portraits of the late monarch gathered along the procession route in Bangkok to pay their respects.
Large crowds watched sombrely as a motorcade transported the king's body from the hospital to the Grand Palace, a complex of temples and pavilions in the heart of the capital city. The route was manned by hundreds of Thai military personnel, many of them saluting as the vehicle carrying the king's body passed.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will preside over the bathing of the king's body, a traditional Buddhist funeral rite. His remains are expected to lie in state for months for palace rituals, including chanting by monks.
Thousands of people had gathered ahead of the procession, many of them seated along pavements hours in advance. People were also shopping for pictures of the king at stalls and shops in many parts of the city.
Authorities near the Grand Palace had told crowds that when the King's body passes, they are only allowed to make the traditional Thai "wai" greeting, with palms placed together. They are not allowed to say anything or wave. They were also told to close their umbrellas as the procession was expected to arrive soon.
Choosak Boomekbut, 58, a food vendor,who was waiting under the hot sun since 10am at the entrance to Siriraj Hospital, said: "Nothing is too difficult if we are doing it for our father... He has never stopped teaching us to love each and to be united."
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o- cha on Thursday declared a year of mourning and said the people should refrain from entertainment for 30 days. Flags will fly at half mast at government buildings and schools for 30 days.
Government offices and state-run enterprises were shut on Friday, which was declared a government holiday for mourning. Businesses and financial markets, however, opened as normal.
All television channels - including international satellite networks - were replaced with black and white palace broadcasts. TV networks were told to replace their regular programmes with a rolling state media programme for the next month, junta spokesman Lieutenant-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd told the media.
King Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, died on Thursday after a long spate of illnesses, plunging the country into mourning and uncertainty.
The National Legislative Assembly observed nine minutes of silence on Thursday night in a specially convened session to mourn the King's passing. But it did not invite the Crown Prince to ascend the throne. General Prayut said the Crown Prince had asked for time to mourn with the Thai people.
Analysts do not expect the transition to trigger unrest, although current military rule is unlikely to ease long-term tensions in the politically polarised society. Thailand is slated to hold elections at the end of next year, some three years after a military coup toppled the civilian government at the time.