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Thailand will OBSERVE a year of mourning following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Oct. 13. The Thai king was 88 years old and had been head of the country for 70 years—he was the world’s longest reigning monarch.

King Bhumibol’s son, the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is set to become the new king on Dec. 1, but his coronation will happen at a later time. He is expected to adopt a new constitution.

Thailand has strict laws that prevent criticism of (or even talking about) the prince or the succession. Prince Vajiralongkorn may not be as popular as his father, whose long reign was seen as a stabilizing force in a country that has seen military coups and political upheaval.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy that has had a military-run government since 

May 2014. The country was known as Siam until 1939. It is the only Southeast Asian country to never have been colonized by a European country.

Thailand is about twice the size of the state of Wyoming. It has a tropical, rainy climate and gets lots of rain during the summer months, May through  September.

The rainforests are home to elephants, tigers, leopards, rhinoceros and tapirs. The elephant is the national symbol of Thailand, but there are only a few thousand elephants left in the wild.

Thailand has more than 1,430 islands. The capital city of Bangkok is known for its many canals, Buddhist temples and statues. Thailand shares a border with four other countries, Malaysia, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Laos and Cambodia.

During the first few weeks of mourning, sporting events were canceled and all the television channels in the country had programming dedicated to the late king. Regular shows will resume this month, but they are asked to be more solemn for the upcoming year. Citizens and visitors are wearing black or somber colors.

November 2016