Thailand Alert: Tourists advised to respect mourning period

2016-10-13 19:35 - Anje Rautenbach
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Cape Town - The world longest-reigning monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, from Thailand died at the age of 88, on 13 October 2016, after being in poor health for a number of years. In a national broadcast it was announced that he passed peacefully at the Chalermphrakiet Building at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok and that all the royal family members were by his side.

King Adulyadej was greatly loved and adored by the people of Thailand and was seen as a symbol of national unity, especially after the democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup in 2014, which caused division in the country. 

Twitter is abuzz with condolences and heartfelt messages for the king’s passing under the hashtag, #LongLiveTheKing. One of the messages read, “Thailand has lost not only a capable leader, but also their Father”, and it is evident that the impact of the loss of His Majesty has shaken not only a nation, but the world.

One month of toned down entertainment

Citizens have been ordered to tone down entertainment for the next month, out of respect for the King who has served for 70 years as head of state. According to the British Embassy travel advisory, following the official announcement of the death of  King Bhumibol Adulyadej there is now an official period of mourning of one year from 14 October 2016.

It states travellers should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time; access to entertainment, including restaurants, bars, and shopping areas may be restricted and you should behave respectfully when in public areas.

It also advised, if possible, wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public; check local media regularly and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Possible unrest

There were multiple explosions and incidents in tourist areas across Thailand on 11, 12 and 14 August 2016. There remains an increased security presence in some tourist areas. You should exercise caution, particularly in public places, and follow the advice of local authorities. Further incidents are possible in these and other areas of Thailand.

There is a high threat from terrorism. There have been recent incidents in a number of locations including Bangkok, where a bomb explosion on 17 August 2015 resulted in numerous casualties including the death of a British national. 

While the whole of Thailand is in mourning, economists believe that the death of King Bhumibol and his absence in the political realm over recent years due to his health, may add to the country’s turbulent politics. Especially after the military coup of 2014, the terrorist attack at the Bangkok Shrine which killed 20 people in 2015, as well as the bomb in 2016 at Hua Hin. 

Travellers are being advised to follow the advice of the local authorities, monitor local media reports and remain vigilant at all times.

The king is survived by Queen Sirikit and their four children. Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, whom King Bhumibol crowned as prince in 1976, will be his successor but there has been no official statement yet about the royal handover for the succession. 

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