King Bhumibol Adulyadej 1927-2016

A grieving Thailand dials down the entertainment

No football matches, no concerts, no television dramas as Thais mourn death of revered King

Mourners praying as they light candles during a vigil for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej outside the walls of the Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is located within the grounds of the Grand Palace, yesterday.
Mourners praying as they light candles during a vigil for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej outside the walls of the Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is located within the grounds of the Grand Palace, yesterday. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

No television dramas. No concerts. No football matches.

As Thailand mourns for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the lights have gone out in the football stadiums and many other entertainment outlets. The Football Association of Thailand has cancelled all its competitions for the year, in a mark of respect for the revered 88-year-old monarch who died on Thursday.

Some bar owners in the football-mad country said they also plan to stop screening overseas matches, like those in the English Premier League, as the nation dials down public entertainment to grieve.

"If somebody laughs or makes a joke, I cannot say 'it's not allowed'," said Ms Srisuda Srongnarong, the owner of a Bangkok guest house and bar which is tuning out football matches for the time being. "But Thai people are not in the mood for it."

Officially, the government has declared a one-year mourning period and asked the public to refrain from entertainment for 30 days.

On the day that King Bhumibol's death was announced, all television channels, even foreign ones like the BBC, were made to simultaneously screen the same video clips about the late King's life and work.

This government control over broadcast content was relaxed on Friday - after the live coverage of King Bhumibol's body being moved to the Grand Palace for religious rites - though media outlets were asked to avoid screening entertainment items.

Now, selective sports and cartoon channels are available. Cinemas chains are still operating, though their large screens in the ticket foyers bear eulogies for King Bhumibol instead of advertisements for the latest blockbusters. But soap operas, the daily staple of many Thai households, remain off the air.

Major concerts have been cancelled. The Bangkok's 18th International Festival of Dance and Music, which had already been running for five weeks and involved groups like the New York-based Paul Taylor Dance Company, was scrapped and buyers promised refunds.

The Full Moon Party, a fixture on the backpacker party circuit on the shores of Koh Phangan in southern Thailand, was suspended.

While alcohol is not banned, many bars have stopped playing music, or simply shuttered. Soi Cowboy, usually a giddy mixture of dance music and neon lights on a weekend, was dark and silent last night.

To cushion the financial loss of daily-rated entertainers, a small restaurant in Nakhon Ratchasima province has offered free meals to musicians who have lost their jobs.

Businessmen contacted by The Sunday Times shrugged off the financial impact of this period.

"We don't have to consider the money right now," said Mr Pornchai Jitnavasathien, who owns two hotels in Chiang Mai province.

"It's like our own father has died. Who wants to have fun when your father has died?"

Shops selling black clothing, however, are seeing booming sales.

The government yesterday warned of a national shortage of black clothing and asked traders not to take advantage of increased demand by raising prices.

Teams of inspectors were sent out to check markets for price gougers - who could face stiff punishment - while the Commerce Ministry said it would work with manufacturers to ensure a stable supply of mourning wear, AFP reported.

As thousands of mourners queued up yesterday in the blazing sun to sign King Bhumibol's condolence book in the Grand Palace, religious rites continued for him.

Many tourists in Bangkok tuned into the local sentiment, dressing in black, grey or dark blue as they thronged the city's malls.

Others, like Mr David Carpenter, kept conversation hushed as scenes from King Bhumibol's life played on TV in the cafe where he was having his breakfast. "I feel sorry," the 39-year-old American told The Sunday Times. "So I try to keep my distance, and remain calm and respectful to their feelings."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline A grieving Thailand dials down the entertainment. Subscribe