Israel sends condolences to Thailand over king’s death
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Israel sends condolences to Thailand over king’s death

Foreign Ministry asks visiting Israelis to show ‘understanding, restraint and patience’ during time of sensitivity in Asian nation

A woman holds an image of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as she waits in a queue to pay her respects at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)
A woman holds an image of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as she waits in a queue to pay her respects at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry sent its condolences to Thailand Friday following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, saying it “share’s in the Thai people’s sorrow.”

The Jewish state’s embassy in Bangkok said the king had been “highly respected by the people of Israel throughout the years.​”

“His Majesty’s passing leaves us with a sad void, but his formidable legacy will be long remembered,” the embassy said, conveying Israel’s “deepest condolences to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Royal Family and the people of the Kingdom of Thailand for their loss.”

The ministry advised Israeli tourists in Thailand of a particular need to show “understanding, restraint and patience during this time of sensitivity to many Thais.”

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (R) meets with the late Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan in an undated photo (Courtesy Israeli Embassy in Thailand)
King Bhumibol Adulyadej (R) meets with the late Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan in an undated photo (Courtesy Israeli Embassy in Thailand)

The ministry noted that the situation in the country was currently “entirely calm,” though businesses were likely to close and events could be cancelled in light of the king’s funeral.

Thailand’s crown prince arrived at a Bangkok hospital Friday to receive his father’s body for a procession that will carry the remains to a temple in a palace complex at the start of what is expected to be an elaborate funeral ceremony.

Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn arrived in a convoy to Siriraj Hospital, which had become the king’s virtual home over the past decade while he was treated for various illnesses afflicting his lungs, brain, kidneys and blood. He died on Thursday at age 88, plunging an adoring nation into mourning.

Thousands of people have lined the streets since Thursday night along the procession route that will go across the majestic Chao Phraya River to the ornate Grand Palace complex, which is also a major tourist attraction. The body will lie at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, for people to pay respects. No date has been set for the cremation.

Friday marked the first day in 70 years that Thailand has been without a king as Vajiralongkorn asked for more time to mourn with the rest of the nation before ascending the throne. It is not clear who the regent is in the absence of a king and what are the constitutional implications.

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej is pushed on a wheelchair while leaving Siriraj hospital for the Grand Palace for a ceremony celebrating his birthday in Bangkok, December 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej is pushed on a wheelchair while leaving Siriraj hospital for the Grand Palace for a ceremony celebrating his birthday in Bangkok, December 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)

The government declared a public holiday and people across the shaken nation donned black, their eyes swollen and red with hours of weeping. Many were still breaking down and sobbing — in building halls, elevators, shops — in spontaneous outburst of emotion that reflected the deep love and respect Bhumibol commanded in Thailand.

The momentous news of his death, announced in a palace statement, had long been both anticipated and feared. But the nation remained stable and life continued largely as usual with most shops, banks and tourist sites open.

A one-year mourning period for the government has been declared together with a 30-day moratorium on state and official events. But as previously speculated, no demands have been made of the private sector. The government has only urged people to refrain from organizing entertainment events for a month, apparently mindful of the need to ensure that the sputtering economy does not suffer. Tourism is one of Thailand’s biggest revenue earners, and entertainment remains an integral part of it.

Television channels were running non-stop footage devoted to the life of the king, who was deeply revered and held up as a unifying figure in the politically fractious country despite two coups in the last decade alone.

Most Thais have seen no other king in their lifetime and thought of Bhumibol, who reigned for 70 years, as their father and the embodiment of goodness and godliness.

Although a constitutional monarch, he wielded enormous political power and served as a unifying figure during Thailand’s numerous political crises. But in recent years, he suffered from a variety of illnesses that affected his kidneys, brain, lungs, heart and blood. He remained publicly detached from recent political upheavals, including the 2014 coup that brought Prayuth, an army general, to power.

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