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BANGKOK — Thailand on Wednesday began a five-day cremation ceremony for its late monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, marking the end of a yearlong transition period in which the country bid farewell to a leader who oversaw its economic development for seven decades.

In the weeks leading up to the cremation rites, citizens young and old lined up outside the Grand Palace, waiting for hours to get into the grounds to pay their respects. Many of them clutched wreaths of jasmine flowers, while some chose to bring yellow blooms — the color associated with the royal family.

Clothing vendors throughout the city have been busy stocking up on paraphernalia depicting the late king’s face, while others like the Central Department Store chain put on special sales for black apparel.

Boonyalip Kahawong, a 52-year-old pharmacist, traveled from Nakhon Nayok province — about 60 miles northeast of Bangkok — with his wife to pay their respects. “We love his majesty because he has done so much for the Thai people. He is the father of this land,” said Kahawong. “I think we lost the heart of Thailand.”

But alongside the outpouring of grief is concern and skepticism, too. Political instability has been an Achilles’ heel for the nation and the late king provided a stabilizing and unifying force. His son, the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, who ascended to the throne in December, remains an unproven entity.

Pui Wongsuthee, 68, who traveled from Chiang Mai to say a farewell, was one of those feeling uncertainty over Thailand’s new leader.

“I don’t think the new king will be the same like his father,” she said. “He has to learn from his father or the people won’t accept him. He has to learn how to treat the people right.”



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