The above photo was sourced from abc.net
I haven’t lived in Thailand for long, (October is our 8-month mark,) but if there is one thing that I have learned, it’s the love that Thai people have for their King. During our first impressions of our new home, we quickly noticed pictures of the King posted on every street corner and pictures of either the King or the Royal Family in every restaurant and every place of business. No matter where you were, there would be a picture of the King nearby.
This wasn’t something that the Thai people were forced to do, they posted these pictures as a symbol for their love and level of respect that they have for this man. Most people say that sometimes it can come across as worship of someone that is semi-divine. It’s no doubt the Thai people loved their king, but why? It was during the Cold War that King Bhumibol helped Thailand combat the growing pressures of communism. King Bhumibol helped create state institutions and organization for a country that was in the middle of chaos and disorder. He would travel around Thailand helping to promote education, health care, and other public welfare programs. His talks with rural tribes to convince them to grow fruits and vegetables instead of opium is what he became to be known for. He helped set up the infrastructure to modernize Thai farming and while he could have just ordered others to go around to the different districts and rural farming villages, he took it upon himself to personally talk to the people of Thailand face-to-face. Up until King Bhumibol, no other monarch had ever done that before and by doing this, he helped create the thriving nation that Thailand is today.
He was born in the United States in Cambridge, Massachusetts, making him the only monarch to ever have been born on US soil.
Last Thursday, October 13th at the age of 88, King Bhumibol passed away and sent the entire country into a state of mourning and sadness. He was viewed as the father figure of Thailand and King Bhumibol’s death is being compared to that of John F. Kennedy’s, in that it will truly mark the end of an era for the Thai people and the beginning of great change, much like what happened in America. Many people are asking us what it’s been like here in Thailand. It is humbling to see so many people care for their King, and I can’t help to think that in America, no one has ever shown that much love or level of respect for any one leader before. Since the announcement of the King’s passing, all Thais are wearing all black clothes and it’s said that they are going to wear all black for at least 30 days. Thai officials, government employees, and civil servants are instructed to wear all black for an entire year of mourning. Even all department store mannequins have been clad in all black indefinitely.
“Both Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and The UK Foreign Office has issued statements to tourists in Thailand to please behave accordingly and to be respectful of the Thai people.”
In addition to wearing all black for this period of mourning, all forms of entertainment have been canceled for the next 30 days. This includes concerts, the Color Run, full moon parties and more. There is to be no live music in bars and most bars are either closed or operating low key. The red light districts have also all been closed during this period. On Friday the 14th there was a ban on all alcohol sales at grocery stores and convenience stores until Monday, October 17th, with many more choosing to stop selling alcohol indefinitely. More closings and cancellations are being announced as the days go on. Both Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and The UK Foreign Office has issued statements to tourists in Thailand to please behave accordingly and to be respectful of the Thai people. If you planned on going to Thailand to party, you may want to reconsider visiting at this time. Several airlines have waived flight change fees for people wishing to come Thailand at a later time when there is less heaviness in the air.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Thai people as they search for solace in this time of mourning.