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Thailand names a temporary regent while nation mourns

Guards outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok in preparation for the arrival of the body of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Photo: Kate Geraghty A woman faints outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok waiting for the body of the king. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Nanjing Night Net

Women dressed in black weep outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Palace guards outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok waiting for the body of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Friday. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Bangkok: A 96-year-old retired military officer and former prime minister has been named Thailand’s temporary Regent as the nation mourns the death of the world’s longest-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol​ Adulyadej​.

Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of a king-appointed advisory committee called the Privy Council, will act as Regent pro tempore until the king’s only son Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is invited to ascend to the throne.

The 63-year-old Crown Prince has asked for time to grieve the loss of his father before becoming the next king of the Chakri​ Dynasty.

Thailand’s military-appointed National Legislative Assembly is set to convene to acknowledge the Crown Prince as heir to throne where his father ruled for 70 years. The assembly will proclaim the heir king.

No date has been set for a coronation.

The king’s death on Thursday after a long illness has shaken the nation where most Thais are wearing black and entertainment events, including concerts and the country’s famous Full Moon party on the south-eastern island of Ko Pha Nagan, due to be held on Monday, have been cancelled.

Bangkok’s notorious red-light district Soi Cowboy has closed indefinitely but bars and restaurants were trading normally, including selling alcohol, in other parts of the capital.

The government has announced a one-year mourning period and a 30-day moratorium on state events.

But businesses, tourist attractions and public transport agencies have been told to remain open so as not to hurt the country’s tourist industry, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of Thailand’s spluttering economy.

Rujiras Chatchalermit, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Sydney office, said the mourning and transition period was a “very sensitive” time for Thais.

She said foreigners in Thailand were not expected to wear black and white like Thais “but the locals will deeply appreciate if they are shown respect by [foreigners] dressing and behaving modestly in public places.”

“To dress modestly in this context would be to wear what you would wear in the Buddhist temples of Thailand,” she said.

On Friday, the Australian government told people to behave and dress appropriately while in Thailand.

Eighty-eight-year-old King Bhumibol was seen as a unifying figure in Thailand which has experienced a decade of political upheaval amid a divide between affluent urban centres and poorer rural areas.

According to tradition the king’s body will lay in a coffin near a symbolic royal urn in Bangkok’s Grand Palace.

Chanting for the king will take place every day at 7pm local time, the palace said.

Most analysts expect the country to remain calm while Thais mourns the loss of their king.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a coup that toppled a democratically-elected government in 2014, said on Thursday security was his top priority and he ordered extra troops deployed around the country.

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