Thailand Begins Mourning the National Loss

Thailand begins mourning national loss
Thailand begins mourning national loss

As Thailand has now entered a one year official period of mourning, there has probably never been a more important time to be culturally sensitive and empathetic towards those around you

Perhaps as a foreigner, you may not personally feel sad or shocked, depending on the length of time you’ve spent here and on the connections you’ve made with Thai people. But Thai people feel very emotional right now, so please behave accordingly. Find simple words to show Thai people that you understand their grief and sorrow; be sensitive, informed, and compassionate.

Hua Hin has enjoyed a special relationship with the royal family over decades which means an even deeper sense of loss at our local level. Information and advice will continue to be offered by government agencies and others at a national and local level.

Take the time to listen and accept some of the disruptions and restrictions that may apply. All public transportation, banks, hospitals and other public services will be operating as usual. Thailand remains open for business, including for tourists, but a more subdued and perhaps sombre mood now prevails especially during the early weeks and months of the mourning period. If you know of any visitors that have just arrived or who are arriving soon, spread the word that respect matters!

Some recommendations to acknowledge the mourning period and what you may expect.

Clothing: The Thai government has suggested that black clothes be worn for a month although this cannot be mandatory (some people might wear white). In practice visitors should consider not wearing any vivid colours; dark clothes are OK, but avoid clothing that may be considered too revealing or provocative. This is may be no different from how you would dress at a
similar time of remembrance in your home country.

Social Events: Loud music or other signs that there’s a party happening will be frowned on, especially during this month. Keep your celebration low-key and quiet. Although there will be cancellations of various festivals, Thai people will still be gathering for weddings, birthdays and other important events but these usually raucous and noisy happenings will become noticeably restrained.

Entertainment Venues: There have been no changes officially made to the operating hours of restaurants, cinemas, shopping centres or bars or added restrictions to the sale of alcohol. Individually business owners may have chosen to make their own changes in recognition the mourning period and stop playing loud music, including live performances or your favourite football match may not be screened. Again the sombre mood of the nation prevails, especially during this month.

Buddhist Commemorative Events: Expect to come across gatherings of Thai people at both official and unofficial levels which will include Buddhist rites and ceremonies. These gatherings may even be disruptive to traffic and public transport. Show patience, be undemanding and accept this is an essential way for Thai people to show their condolences. Taking photos or videos is unlikely to be acceptable. Stay quiet, unobtrusive and don’t be disruptive in any way.

Lèse-majesté Laws: Please be aware that the government enforces Thailand’s strict laws which prohibit criticism of the royal family, including succession plans. Expect some increased sensitivity at both official and individual levels, including offensive
reactions to images of the royal family. Don’t join in discussions about the succession to the throne; let’s just see what happens. Although we may be affected as the situation evolves, it’s not really a foreigner’s business. Best not to comment, including on internet discussion groups or the social media on political issues but especially matters related to the royal family.

Apologise: If you ever feel that Thai people are offended or feel upset by your behaviour, no matter how unintended that offence has been, recognise that you have made a mistake, apologise and show humility. Thai people will understand that foreigners do not always know what is correct and mistakes will be made, but showing indifference, being defensive or aggressive is not the answer.

Remember that for most Thai people, the King’s reign has always been a feature of their daily lives. The current times are without precedent, so some confusion and uncertainty is being experienced by everyone.

Be ready to offer your condolences to Thai people around you, to pay respect to their grief. Try to understand the bond that connects them to their king, so that you may feel it too and they will be grateful for your understanding and compassion. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has asked that members of the public stay updated via media announcements and notices from the Bureau of the Royal Household as well as the Royal Thai Government about any changes. This includes changes affecting travel plans. The TAT has also asked tourists and visitors for their understanding and patience should they experience delays or changes.