* King Bhumibol died at 88 on Thursday
* Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn expected to take throne
* Head of Privy Council to fill gap between monarchs
* Strict coverage guidelines imposed on media
(Adds thousands gathering, free transport, events cancelled)
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Pracha Hariraksapitak
BANGKOK, Oct 15 The head of Thailand's royal
advisory council will stand in as regent while the country
grieves over the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and awaits for
his son to formally succeed him, the government said.
Mourners lit candles and recited prayers before dawn on
Saturday outside Bangkok's riverside Grand Palace, where the
remains of the king will lie for months before a traditional
royal cremation, and thousands joined them during the morning.
The world's longest-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol died on
Thursday in a Bangkok hospital, at the age of 88.
The government has said Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn
wants to grieve with the people and leave the formal succession
until later, when parliament will invite him to ascend the
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said in an interview
broadcast on state television late on Friday that there was no
uncertainty about the succession but, in the interim, the head
of the powerful Privy Council would have to step in as regent.
"There must be a regent for the time being in order not to
create a gap," Wissanu said.
"This situation will not be used for long," he added,
without mentioning by name Privy Council head 96-year-old Prem
Tinsulanonda, a former army chief and prime minister.
CANDLES LIT AT DAWN
Prince Vajiralongkorn does not enjoy the same adoration his
father earned over a lifetime on the throne. He has married and
divorced three times, and has spent much of his life outside
Thailand, often in Germany.
The king's remains were taken in a convoy on Friday through
Bangkok's ancient quarter to the Grand Palace, winding past
thousands of Thais dressed in black, many of them holding aloft
portraits of a monarch who was revered as a father figure.
Buddhist monks chanted prayers beside his coffin on Saturday
as Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn came to pay her respects.
"I didn't ever want to hear this news although it couldn't
be avoided. All we can do now is hope that he will rest in
peace," said Sakhon Sondee from the eastern province of Surin,
one of thousands who gathered outside the Grand Palace despite
the 32 Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) temperature and humidity.
General Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a spokesman for the prime
minister's office, said 30 bus routes and some canal boat
services would be free to take people to Sanam Luang, an open
area near the Grand Palace.
The king had been in poor health the past several years and
his death plunged the Southeast Asian nation of 67 million
people into grief.
Most Thais have known no other monarch and King Bhumibol's
picture is hung in almost every house, school and office.
People in the capital and in towns across the country
dressed in black.
Shopping malls were open on Saturday and the government said
bars could continue doing business, but it decreed that no
entertainment events and festivities should be held outside for
30 days, the first month of one year of official mourning.
A number of domestic sport competitions, including soccer
and golf tournaments, have been cancelled or postponed, and the
Football Association of Thailand said it was seeking to move a
home World Cup qualifier against Australia on Nov. 15 out of the
'CRITICISM AND ANALYSIS' FORBIDDEN
The Nation newspaper said government guidelines for the
media stipulated that TV programmes and advertising "must not
contain improper scenes such as entertaining, dancing or violent
acts", and presenters must dress in white or black.
It said information related to the king's passing must be
approved by authorised bodies, while criticism or analysis would
not be allowed.
Thailand's strict lese-majeste laws, which have been applied
rigorously since a military government took power in a 2014
coup, have left little room for public discussion about the
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
called in a statement on Thailand's military government to lift
the censorship order on broadcasters
"While CPJ sympathises with the Thai people over the passing
of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, we lament that the government has
resorted to crude censorship at this sensitive time," said
Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia programme coordinator.
The king stepped in to calm crises on several occasions
during his reign and many Thais worry about a future without
him. The military has for decades invoked its duty to defend the
monarchy to justify its intervention in politics.
Military government leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha
said after the king's death that security was his top priority
and he ordered extra troops deployed around the country.
Thailand has endured bomb attacks and economic worries
recently while rivalry simmers between the military-led
establishment and populist political forces after a decade of
turmoil including two coups and deadly protests.
The junta has promised an election next year and pushed
through a constitution to ensure its oversight of civilian
governments. It looks firmly in control for a royal transition.
(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by John
Chalmers; Editing by Robert Birsel)