Royal procession carries late Thai king to Grand Palace

A royal procession carrying the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej travelled from Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital to the Grand Palace on Friday, passing tens of thousands of people paying tribute to their beloved monarch for the last time.

Thailand's Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn led the convoy, which also included other members of the Thai royal family.

The mourners on the roadsides, mostly dressed in black, held up portraits of the late king, who died aged 88 Thursday, and waved yellow flags bearing the king's emblem. Many prostrated as the procession drove past, while military officers knelt and saluted.

Hospital staff and nurses from Siriraj, where Bhumibol spent much of the past decade receiving treatment for various ailments, were the first people the convoy passed.

Many had secured their positions on footpaths along the procession route on Thursday shortly after the king's death was announced and camped out there overnight.

The crowds earlier Friday sat underneath umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun, and the atmosphere on the streets was reportedly calm and orderly.

At the Grand Palace, the crown prince was set to pay tribute before the king's body and perform a religious bathing ritual. An orchestra planned to play the king's anthem before customary gun salutes were performed.

A heavy police presence could be seen at every street corner along the approximately 4-kilometre procession route.

Thai officials declared a public holiday earlier on Friday. The announcement came after many people had already arrived at work, but some employees were given the option of leaving early to participate in the mourning rituals.

Large crowds gathered in front of the hospital, and others arrived from outside the capital to pay their last respects.

"He was truly an angel on earth. There is no one else like him in this country. He is irreplaceable," said Patima Chayaphruk, a university student.

Woraporn Jukkhom travelled to Bangkok from Lampang province, 600 kilometres north, as soon as she heard the news Thursday night.

"I just had to be here," she said. "This is our last chance to say goodbye."

Thais went about their normal business Friday morning but with noticeable solemnity. Most were stony-faced and few were smiling.

"I did not sleep at all last night," said a woman named Lalana. "When the news broke out, people on the street near my place cried openly. No one appeared to be self-conscious."

Many websites in Thailand, including Google and others, were running in monochrome. Thais expressed their grief on social media, with many changing their profile photos to pitch-black squares.

All celebrations have been banned in Thailand for the next 30 days, but it was not immediately clear how this would relate to ordinary nightlife.

Shops and malls remained open, although cinemas and other entertainment venues were closed.

The Grand Palace will remain closed to tourists until October 20, the Tourism Authority of Thailand said.

The government asked all television channels, including foreign ones, to stop broadcasting their own programmes until midnight Friday. Local TV was awash in images from the king's life, often set to music Bhumibol himself composed.

Thailand plans to observe 100 days of official ceremonies and religious rites.

Last update: Fri, 14/10/2016 - 12:35

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