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Thais told to stop shaming mourners not wearing black

BANGKOK — Thais should not reprimand others who do not wear black or white clothing as the nation mourns the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, said the Thai government yesterday, after some individuals who failed to wear mourning colours were singled out for criticism on social media.

Thais told to stop shaming mourners not wearing black

Mourners waiting outside the Grand Palace to pay their respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, yesterday. The country began observing a one-year mourning period after the monarch died on Thursday. The huge demand for black clothing has raised fears of a national shortage. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK — Thais should not reprimand others who do not wear black or white clothing as the nation mourns the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, said the Thai government yesterday, after some individuals who failed to wear mourning colours were singled out for criticism on social media.

“People should not watch attentively for a mistake as if they (those not in mourning colours) do not feel grief. Please look at their intention,” said Thai government spokesman Lieutenant-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday, adding that these people may be facing financial problems or find it hard to get black clothing, which has been flying off the shelves in shops.

"The prime minister wants people to understand each other and sympathise with the limits faced by each individual," Lt Gen Sansern said, referring to junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha. 

"This should be a time to demonstrate love, unity and keep the society peaceful," the spokesman quoted the prime minister as saying. Those who cannot dress in white or black can wear grievance symbols such as black ribbons or bows on their shirts, either on the chest or upper arm, Lt Gen Sansern said.

Lt Gen Sansern’s comments follow reports in local media that some Thais were guilty of shaming others who did not wear black-and-white clothes as the country observes a one-year mourning period.

On Saturday, Facebook user Hnong Teeaun Chongcharoenchaikul reportedly posted a photo of a man in a red shirt eating rice porridge and criticised him for the alleged lack of respect for the late King.

“What was your heart made of? What were you thinking when you wore this bright coloured shirt to leave your home?” Hnong Teeaun wrote in a public post, which soon went viral, according to Thai news portal Khaosod.

The post was taken down after Mr Winny Thanawin identified himself as the man in the red shirt and explained that he had gone to grab a bite at a roadside stall after a long day joining other Thais for the King’s funeral procession on Friday. Mr Winny added that he was sorry if he had offended anyone, using the hashtag “repented” in his post.

Another similar incident happened to cartoonist Narong Jarungthamchot, who wrote on Facebook about how two patrons at a restaurant had lashed out at him for wearing a grey striped shirt. “Evil, he’s probably not a Thai, look at his shirt,” Mr Narong quoted one of them as saying.

The death on Thursday of King Bhumibol has plunged Thailand into deep mourning, with tens of thousands pouring onto the streets in extraordinary displays of sombre devotion.

It has also driven up the demand for black clothing, raising fears of a national shortage, with the government saying it will work with manufacturers to ensure supply as well as crack down on those exploiting the situation to make a quick buck.

The central commission on prices of goods and services issued a statement on Friday forbidding vendors to sell mourning clothes “at an inappropriate price” and requiring them to openly display prices.

At a streetside stall at Pratunam, a bustling wholesale market in Bangkok’s commercial heart, Ms Somporn Sriwichai is raking in more business that she has in weeks of selling T-shirts for between 150 baht (S$5.90) and 250 baht.

“All of us in Thailand are very sad and I don’t want to be selling black clothing,” said the 45-year-old, who normally sells children’s dresses.“But I have very little money and now I have something I can really sell,” she said, adding that she shifted 100 items on Friday alone. AGENCIES

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