Key developments after death of Thailand's beloved king

He died Thursday in Bangkok at the age of 88 and was the longest-reigning monarch in history.

Thai mourners stand in line to pay respects to the body of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Millions of people watched live on TV.

The heir to the throne, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, officiated over the funeral proceedings and will lead the official mourning for his father.

There was no official statement that the council's head, 96-year-old Prem Tinsulanonda, had been named regent, creating uncertainty, but Wissanu said an announcement wasn't needed because the process is mandated by Thailand's Constitution.

Thousands of grieving Thai people turned out in Bangkok before dawn on Saturday, lighting candles and reciting prayers to pay respect to the late king.

The cabinet expressed that Friday will be declared a government holiday, and flags are to fly at half-mast for the next 30 days.

The government has set up a telephone hotline to help people cope with grief, civil servants have been ordered to wear black for the next year, and websites have gone black and white.

Many events - including commercial fairs and cultural festivals- have been canceled across the country, while most entertainment places like bars and nightclubs have temporarily closed.

He is highly revered in Thailand and was seen as a unifying figure in a country split by deep political divisions.

He came up through the ranks of the powerful military and first achieved national prominence in 1974 when, as army commander in the rural northeast of Thailand, he favored development and civic action instead of military might against communist insurgents.

However, his critics argued he had endorsed military takeovers and at times had failed to speak out against human rights abuses.

Thais had expected Vajiralongkorn to be officially proclaimed king immediately after his Bhumibol's death was announced.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said people are to avoid any sort of "festivities" for the next 30 days. It looks firmly in control for a royal transition.

The 63-year-old Crown Prince has asked for time to grieve the loss of his father before becoming the next king of the Chakri Dynasty. Over the past 10 years, Thailand has suffered particularly intense political turmoil pitting arch-royalists against those seeking a redistribution of economic and political power, allied with Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist prime minister ousted in a 2006 coup.

One of the mourners, Arunee Sahathongthai, 49, said he was "very sad, I was born under this king", adding that Thais were "united in grief".

Thailand's strict lese-majeste laws have left little room for public discussion about the succession. "People respected the king so much, he was like a holy man", the head monk said.

  • Joey Payne