Māori in Thailand says king's death devastates locals

By Talisa Kupenga

Thailand will mourn for one year, flags will fly at half-mast, while alcohol sales and all entertainment functions will be restricted for one month following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The 88-year-old King, known by many as the father of Thailand, passed away peacefully at Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital yesterday afternoon at 3:52pm, a Royal Palace statement says.

Although the Palace did not disclose a cause of death, it was known the King had been suffering from illness and was in hospital for much of the past year.

His seven-decade reign made him the world's longest-serving monarch.

Viewed as a stable pillar and force of unity for his country, he lead the people through political upheaval and multiple coups, the most recent being in 2014.

Gisborne’s Tawhiri Maukau, on holiday in Phuket, says tourists and visitors have noticed the immediate effect the King’s passing has had on the country’s 64-million people.

“The people are really sad, it’s quite confronting. There are people crying in the streets and some are feeling it quite hard.

“I was talking to a pub owner and he said all the pubs might have to close down for a bit, a lot of them already have. There was one that was open, but that’s only because it is soundproof."

Mr Maukau says some tourists were unsure about safety.

“Things have got really intense here at the moment. The police and military have turned up and are patrolling the streets.

“Anyone who is disrespectful towards the King or the royal family can get up to 15-years prison. I’ve also been told any Thai person can make the charge on you.”

He says tourists were unsure where they could or could not go or if activities were still accessible.

“They are still having talks about whether or not to keep the tourist towns going within reason, but the level of entertainment and activities will be toned-down.”

Advice to visitors in Thailand is to respect the grief of the people and if possible wear black clothing.

The body of the king would be moved to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok today (local time GMT).

Sixty-three-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is expected to become Thailand's new king.

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