BANGKOK (AFP) – Bangkok’s streets have turned monochrome again as the military government urges the public to wear black-and-white and muted celebrations in the weeks leading up to the cremation of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The kingdom has been prepping for the elaborate royal funeral since the October 2016 death of Bhumibol, a charismatic monarch who commanded a cult-like following during his 70-year reign.
His passing plunged the nation into a year of official mourning that has been heavily orchestrated by the ultra-royalist junta, which grabbed power in 2014.
In his weekly address on Friday night junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha urged the public to adhere to mourning guidelines as the October 26 cremation approaches.
He also asked TV stations and entertainment venues not to schedule any overly-joyous material.
“We ask you to consider limiting or refraining from entertainment activities during the month of October, for appropriateness with the mood and sentiments of the Thai people during this time,” the junta chief said.
Last month broadcasting authorities issued detailed guidelines for all television channels, including instructions to “include special programmes to recall King Bhumibol’s royal grace”.
Networks must also reduce their colour saturation by 40 percent, according to the guidelines from Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission.
Similar curbs were put in place in the month directly after Bhumibol’s death, when all TV stations were initially replaced with black-and-white state media programmes praising the monarch.
Bhumibol, who was 88 when he died of health complications, was revered as a unifying, father-like figure in politically-turbulent Thailand.
A well-oiled palace propaganda machine helped burnish his god-like status, with Thai children taught to worship him from a young age, and a draconian royal defamation law also insulated him from any criticism.
For months after his death almost all of Bangkok turned their wardrobes black-and-white, a trend that has lurched back since the start of the month as tributes to the king crop up around the capital.
The four-day cremation event outside Bangkok’s Grand Palace from October 25-29 will be a lavish affair infused with Buddhist ceremonies, cultural performances and arcane palace rituals.
Officials expect at least a quarter of a million Thais to attend the ceremony.
Bhumibol’s successor, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to hold his coronation after the cremation but no date has been set.
The 65-year-old has yet to attain his father’s widespread popularity and has made moves to consolidate control over the palace bureaucracy and reduce government oversight.