Street markets in Thailand have switched from their usual colorful fare — favored by young Thais — to black shirts of varying styles.
This follows the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej last Thursday afternoon. As the world’s longest serving monarch, the 88-year-old king reigned for 70 years and is widely revered by the country’s young and old as a unifying figure in Thailand’s polarizing politics.
The government asked its citizens to mourn for 30 days and government officials are expected to wear black clothing for a year out of respect — and the people have taken to this request with great fervor.
Chartchai Singhadeja, executive director of the Thai Garment Manufacturers Association, said that the country’s retail and distribution lines were unprepared to address the surge in demand for black clothing, especially since they had to contend with it over the weekend.
He added that an emergency meeting was held Monday morning between Thailand’s deputy prime minister, the ministry of commerce and four textile and garment associations, including his own.
“We are trying to figure out what we will do to solve this problem, both from the manufacturing side and the distribution and retail side,” Singhadeja said. “Because the king passed on Thursday, and then it was Friday and the weekend, it has affected the distribution channels and the transportation schedule. But everything will be back to normal soon, and we will be able to send all the stock to the different [retail] branches.”
The more enterprising clothing vendors have even started dyeing light-colored shirts black to meet the demand, and raising prices. Because of this, the Ministry of Commerce has issued a warning on price-gouging, local news reported, saying that anyone caught doing so could face a fine of up to almost $4,000 or a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.
Singhadeja said that the usual price for a generic black T-shirt outside of cities would be roughly 100 Thai baht, about $3, while Bangkok’s prices could range between 200 to 300 baht — about $6 to $8.