Amid mourning, Thailand divided over Chinese New Year fashion

Thailand's Lunar New Year celebrations on Friday will be quite different from preceding years.
  January 28th, 2017

Thailand's Lunar New Year celebrations on Friday will be quite different from preceding years.

As a sign of mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on Oct. 13 last year, the vibrant red garments, gold adornments and colorful frills that are usually worn to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune may be considered disrespectful throughout the country.

Many are still wearing black, white or grey as a display of grief, despite the fact that the traditional 100-day mourning period ended on Jan. 20.

The transition to wearing clothes with more color has been going quite slowly.

One Bangkok resident, Suvanne Suttilertkun, told Reuters that she would be "wearing a black traditional dress with gold embroidery for Lunar New Year,” to respect the fact that the broader public was still mourning the revered King Rama IX (King Bhumibol’s formal title).

The king stood as the world’s longest-reigning monarch, serving for seven decades on the throne.

(Read also: Thailand issues tourist guidelines for mourning period)

Chinatown shopkeepers have reported a drop in the sale of red clothes and so have shifted to other alternatives in gold, silver and black.

However, other Thais have decided to begin wearing the traditional bright red because the government and public know that it is a special occasion.

Sixty-year-old Tanagrit Leartskritanapa said that “most of the people understand this is for Chinese New Year. We have to wear bright auspicious colors to bring luck into our lives.”

Thai-American music composer, author and social critic, S.P. Somtow, has predicted that the since the majority of Thai Chinese speak Thai and are well-integrated into society, there will not be any tension during the festival.

As recorded by a 2012 survey from the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, some 9.3 million Thai are ethnic Chinese, accounting for roughly 11 percent of the population.

“The mourning for a year is not mandatory and people know that the Chinese New Year is coming. It is a big thing here,” Somtow added. (mra/kes)