Thailand wakes to uncertainty, grief without King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Military government leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Thursday the country was in "immeasurable grief ... profound sorrow and bereavement".

Thailand wakes to uncertainty, grief without King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Bangkok: Thailand`s people woke up on Friday to the first day in 70 years without King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a king worshipped as a father-figure who guided the nation through decades of change and turmoil.

The king, the world`s longest-reigning monarch, died in a Bangkok hospital on Thursday. He was 88.

He had been in poor health for several years but his death has shocked the Southeast Asian nation of 67 million people and plunged it into grief.

The streets of Bangkok were busy as usual on Friday morning, 12 hours after news of the king`s death was announced. Most people in the capital and in towns across the country dressed in black but shops opened for business.

The cabinet declared a government holiday for mourning but the Stock Exchange of Thailand and other financial institutions opened as normal.

The stock market`s benchmark index rose at the open and was up 4 percent by late morning while the baht currency strengthened about 1.3 percent against the dollar, on hopes that there would be an orderly succession.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is expected to be the new king but he does not command the same adoration that his father earned over a lifetime on the throne.

At Bangkok`s Grand Palace, thousands of mourners, some sobbing, lined up to kneel before a portrait of the king, and make a ritual pouring of water as part of royal funeral rites.

"I still feel like I`m dreaming. I can`t believe it happened," said Supawan Wongsawas, 64, a retired civil servant.

Suthad Kongyeam, 53, a civil official, said it felt like losing a father.

"He was the heart of the whole country," said Suthad. "Everything is shaken. There is nothing to hold on to anymore."

Thailand has endured bomb attacks and economic worries recently while rivalry simmers between the military-led establishment and populist political forces after a decade of turmoil including two coups and deadly protests.

The king stepped in to calm crises on several occasions during his reign and many Thais worry about a future without him. The military has for decades invoked its duty to defend the monarchy to justify its intervention in politics.

Military government leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Thursday the country was in "immeasurable grief ... profound sorrow and bereavement".

He said security was his top priority and called for businesses to stay active and stock investors not to dump shares.  

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