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TRAVEL ADVISORY – The Implications of the Death of King Bhumibol

Key Points:

  • The world’s longest reigning monarch, King Bhumibol of Thailand, died on 13 October
  • Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will succeed his father
  • A year of mourning has been declared by the Thai government

Situation Summary:
Political: Thailand enters into a period of uncertainty with the passing of King Bhumibol. The government has announced an initial year of mourning to mark his passing. They have also decreed that flags are to be flown at half-mast and all entertainment activities must be ‘toned-down’ for a month. The government have shown haste in announcing Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn as his father’s successor in order to settle the markets and bring stability to the political sphere.

Intrinsic Comment:
Thailand has experienced a number of years of political instability, fluctuating between civilian and military governments. The ruling monarch was seen as a unifying figure above the political circus who could bring the people together, and for them to rally around. His deteriorating health had a detrimental effect on the country’s political and economic life; the Thai stock market was down nine per cent between 10 and 13 October. His son and successor is not revered to the same level. It is likely that security will be increased across the country to ensure no groups try to take advantage of the king’s death in order to make a political statement. While the mourning will have a short-term effect on tourists (such as the cancelling of the full moon party in Koh Phangan), the government seems reluctant to enact a nationwide shutdown.

On 14 October, the body of the king was taken by motorcade from Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital to the Grand Palace (as shown in the image above). Many mourners have been camped out at the palace since midnight and this trend is expected to continue for the coming days (and probably after that too).

Intrinsic Security Advice:
Risk Ratings: Thailand: Moderate Political: Moderate
Mourners, parades, and crowds are to be expected across the country especially in royally or religiously important areas. Although violence is not expected, travellers should try to avoid such areas if possible as they may be used to make a political statement against the military government. Travellers are also advised to avoid photography in royally or religiously significant areas in order to avoid coming across as disrespectful. It is also advisable to wear ‘respectful’ clothing, especially away from tourist resorts. This includes covering the knees and shoulders; it may also be important to wear dark clothing (depending on when and where travel occurs).It remains illegal to criticise, defame, or insult members of the royal family. It is also illegal to discuss the royal succession.

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