AUSTRALIANS in Thailand are facing disrupted travel plans — including the toning down of tourist areas — and are warned to behave as the country mourns King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on Thursday.
Thailand has entered a one-year mourning period to mark the death of the beloved king, the world’s longest reigning monarch, who died aged 88 following a seven-decade reign.
Minutes after the king’s death was announced, Thailand’s junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha ordered that “all entertainment functions must tone it down for 30 days” as a mark of respect.
Bangkok’s notorious red light districts have already started shutting up shop. Bangkok Stickboy, a blog focused on the capital’s night-life, posted a picture of the city’s infamous Nana Plaza bar complex entirely empty.
Koh Phangan’s next notorious full moon party is also likely to be cancelled and security is being tightened across Thailand as the kingdom prepares for the monarch’s funeral.
But many businesses, tourist attractions and public transport were expected to remain open on Friday to avoid stifling the economy.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned Australian travellers to show respect and “understand that this is a time of deep sorrow for Thai people”.
“You should abide by local laws and respect Thai customs at this time,” the department said following news of the king’s death.
“Dress and behave appropriately. Be aware that there may be some disruption of normal commercial and public services in the country during the mourning period. This will likely include entertainment and tourist venues.”
Australian diplomatic missions in Thailand may be closed during the mourning period, the department said.
The UK government has offered similar advice to its citizens in Thailand, adding restaurants, bars and shopping areas may be closed and “sombre” clothing should be worn in public.
Tourists globally are also being reminded not to talk in a way that may be considered critical of the Thai royal family, which is a serious offence in Thailand.
Advisory firm Bower Group Asia said the sombre mood in Thailand would hurt economic activity in the kingdom.
“Business and politics in Thailand will likely slow to a crawl. Employers will be faced with increased employee absenteeism and reduced productivity,” it told AFP.
“Businesses will also experience a temporary drop in sales as Thais limit consumption during the mourning period. There will almost certainly be a temporary ban in alcohol sales.”
The death of Bhumibol, which followed a long illness, has been met with tremendous sorrow in Thailand.
Thousands gathered outside Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital, where the king was hospitalised on October 3 and underwent surgery over the weekend, crying “long live the king!”.
Bhumibol was seen as a rare figure of unity in Thailand and revered as a demigod by many. His death plunges the country into an uncertain future.
Bhumibol’s son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to become Thailand’s new king but lacks the popularity of his late father.