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October 13, 2016

 
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Officials confirm Thai King Bhumibol's death



 
 
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Summary
The Thai palace confirmed the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej late Oct. 13. The long-reigning king had suffered from ill health for years, and officials had warned that his condition was worsening in recent days. Authorities will announce a formal national mourning period; the National Assembly is slated to meet at 2100 Oct. 13, likely to discuss memorial events. The formal mourning period could be protracted.

Mass mourning gatherings are likely across Thailand in the wake of the announcement. Gatherings will probably be largest in Bangkok, and could occur near the Grand Palace, Lumpini Park, and Siriraj Hospital, where the king was being treated, among other areas. Congregation sites are unlikely to be widely announced in advance. Such events will probably cause localized traffic congestion, but severe disruptions are not anticipated.

The majority of Thai-owned businesses have likely closed in the wake of the announcement, as the king was widely revered. The vast majority of businesses, government offices, schools, shopping and entertainment venues, and transport providers will almost certainly suspend operations during the official immediate mourning period surrounding the royal and religious funeral rites for the king. All public events not associated with mourning the king's passing will also likely be canceled. Medical facilities, police, national defense assets, and emergency services will continue to operate, though services may be reduced.

A procession to transfer the late King Adulyadej from the Siriraj Hospital to the Grand Palace is likely in the coming days. The event will cause severe traffic disruptions due to an expected large turnout; authorities will probably close roads or reroute traffic to allow for the procession. Details about the event will likely be announced in the coming days.

Background and Analysis
King Bhumibol was highly respected and seen as a symbol of unity by the Thai people. His death has raised questions about the future and its possible impact on stability. The uncertainties caused anxiety among the Thai public as well as the business sector. In the days following the first palace announcement of the king's deteriorating health Oct. 9, the Thai baht and stock market dropped to multimonth lows - a possible indication of what could happen in the coming days.

After Princess Galyani Vadhana died in 2008, a 100-day mourning period was observed and entertainment venues were expected to close for 15 days. However, because of the stature of the late king, observers expect the mourning period to last for as long as a year. While any public events or festivities could be canceled during the mourning period, it is unlikely that authorities expect businesses or entertainment venues to close or suspend operations for more than 15 days due to the impact it would have on the country's economy, particularly for the tourism sector, which has been a stable source of revenue for Thailand.

Advice
Prepare for severe business and transport disruptions in the wake of the announcement. Verify business appointments through at least late October, as cancellations are highly likely. Business owners who continue operations should anticipate widespread absenteeism among employees in the days following the king's passing and during future commemorative events.

Airports and government-run mass transit, such as buses and trains, will likely continue operations for the immediate future, but many taxi drivers may halt operations to engage in mourning. Confirm all onward travel reservations including flight, rail, bus, and private vehicles before checking-out of hotels. Expect major transport delays in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and other urban centers during periods and events commemorating the king's passing.

Stock up on extra groceries and bottled water in anticipation of possible supermarket and convenient store shortages. Purchase extra mobile phone recharge cards in case supplies become limited.


 
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