The annual Bangkok World Film Festival has been postponed until next year. It joins a growing list of events and festivities in Thailand that have been cancelled or rescheduled following the death of the much loved King Bhumibol on Thursday.
The king had been in poor health for several years. But, such was his standing, that his death has nevertheless plunged the country into shock and grief.
The military government proclaimed a year of official mourning. Flags will be flown at half-mast for the next month. During that time entertainment and “joyful” events are to be suspended.
In one of the most visible signs of national mourning, newspapers and websites have turned from color to largely black and white. The Nation newspaper led its Saturday with a monochrome image of a motorcade and the headline “King Makes His Final Journey.” The Bangkok Post ran a colored, but elegant photo, and the headline “Thousands Flock to Cortege.”
The BKWFF, due to have started 18 days from now, will now be held in January instead. In a statement on its website, festival director Victor Silakong wrote: “The Kingdom of Thailand has lost its beloved monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is now in mourning. The film festival has been rescheduled for January 20-29, 2017 at SF World Cinema CentralWorld.”
Other cancellations include: the Pattaya International Fireworks Festival (previously scheduled for Nov. 25-26); the Surat Thani Full Moon Party; and the Chiang Mai Yi Peng Lantern Festival (Nov. 13-15). The famous Lumpinee Boxing Stadium will be closed for a month. The Grand Place and the Emerald Buddha Temple will be closed until Oct. 20 the Royal Place announced.
Several Korean pop music acts have cancelled their scheduled performances in Thailand. These include bands Bigbang (Oct. 29-30) and FT Island (Nov. 12). Korean talent agency JYP called off its two day ‘Mix and Match’ event (Nov. 5-6) and will offer refunds.
The impact of the king’s death and the mourning on the tourism industry remains unclear. There have been several semi-official assertions that the all-important business will not be much affected. High season for foreign visitors typically runs from December to February.
However, with bars and clubs closing and others discouraging a party atmosphere, Thailand’s reputation as a fun destination for Asian and European visitors will likely be toned down. No countries have issued travel advisories suggesting avoidance of Thailand. But the Tourism Authority of Thailand has issued a set of guidelines for foreign visitors, advising self-restraint and the wearing of somber clothing.
Several travel agencies in China have reported cancellations, cruise ship companies are reported to be skipping stops in Thailand in the near term, and low cost airline Thai Smile has offered a 90 day period during which rebookings will be free of charge.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was Friday announced as the new king. However, the prince is to delay taking up the monarchy and will instead join the country in mourning. A regent has been appointed, former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda.