Despite grief Thai workers - and a princess - head back to work
BANGKOK, Thailand – Bangkok was a sea of black and white as workers, civil servants, and even a princess returned to work on Monday, October 17, in a somber but determined display that life must go on without their beloved king.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 on Thursday, October 13, after years of ill health, ending a 7-decade reign and leaving the politically divided nation without its key pillar of unity.
Across the sprawling metropolis workers crammed into buses, river boats, trains and subways dressed in the black and white clothes that have come to symbolize and express their sorrow.
"Personally I will wear this for one year because I am a civil servant and because I am a Thai," explained Usawadee Wutthisak, a 36-year-old employee of Bangkok's electricity authority.
Ongon Riabpradit, a 30-year-old HR manager for a supermarket chain, said she would wear exclusively black for a month and then shift to somber tones for 100 days.
"We are sad and we are in the mood of wanting to remind ourselves of how we have lost our beloved father," she said. "We will remember him forever".
Even Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the most popular of Bhumibol's children, was back to work on Monday.
Hours after presiding over dawn prayers for her father inside the Grand Palace, the 61-year-old was attending a ceremony at the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization which has made her a Special Ambassador for Zero Hunger.
"Climate change is a real and undeniable threat to the ecosystems and natural resources that underpin the region's agricultural sector," she said as she handed out awards to farmers from as far afield as Mongolia and Vietnam.
Her appearance so soon after Bhumibol's passing surprised some of those present. But farming methods are a subject that was dear both to her heart and her late father's.
Thailand's junta has displayed a pragmatic streak since Bhumibol's death.
The stock market was kept open the day after he died, and the main index rose after buckling during his final days – defying warnings that the country would economically shut down in the event of Bhumibol's passing.
The authorities have also been wary of hitting the tourist sector too hard given peak season kicks off in December.
While public displays of celebrations – such as festivals and concerts – have been curbed, there is no widespread ban on alcohol and only a request for the country's famously raucous entertainment scene to "tone down" for the next month.
Nonetheless a layer of uncertainty remains.
Bhumibol's heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, made the surprise decision to delay being officially proclaimed the new king, according to junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha.
The prince wants time to mourn his father and prepare for kingship, Prayut said.
Once he becomes king he inherits a country riven by a decade of political strife between two bitterly opposed camps.
And love for King Bhumibol was perhaps the only topic all sides on Thailand's divide agreed on. – Rappler.com