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Crowds sing tribute to late Thai king


BANGKOK (Reuters) – A huge crowd of Thais gathered on Saturday outside Bangkok’s Grand Palace to sing the royal anthem in honor of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on Oct. 13 after seven decades on the throne.

The government has declared a year of mourning for the 88-year old king, who was seen as a father figure for generations of people, and, though a constitutional monarch, a calming influence over the country’s often turbulent politics.

People dressed in black traveled by bus, boat and on foot to Sanam Luang, a tree-lined open space that has been used for royal cremations outside the river-side Grand Palace, bringing the area to gridlock well before the singing.

Police said more than 150,000 were in Sanam Luang and side streets with more people expected through the day.

The royal anthem, known as Sansoen Phra Barami, is played before the screening of every cinema show in Thailand, when the audience stands to honor the king as pictures of his life and work are shown on the screen.

Saturday’s singing was recorded for use in cinemas, organizers said.