“What will the country be like without the Father? Father!” bellowed a distraught Patcharapol Piamsaad, one of hundreds of Thais who had held hopeful vigils for days outside his Bangkok hospital.
The revered HM King Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, died Thursday at the age of 88 – depriving the nation of a towering, unifying father figure.
For many His Majesty’s passing was too much for many to take.
Well-wishers had stood quietly below the King’s hospital room praying, as they had for days, when news of his passing suddenly rippled across the crowd, turning quiet prayers into agonised wailing.
Stunned Thais clasped their hands in redoubled prayer, with some throwing themselves to the ground.
Others stood to sing his personal royal anthem, wiping away tears.
Many in the surrounding area flocked to the riverside hospital, clutching portraits of Bhumibol and crying, while other parts of the capital appeared in an eerie silence.
“I want the King to hear us in case he will come back to life,” said Sukit Tanaboonsombat, 46, one of those leading the chants of “Long live the King!” and never taking his eyes off the hospital windows.
Sukit said he raced over to the hospital after hearing the news of His Majesty’s death, which he refused to believe.
“I’m waiting for a miracle to bring the king back to life because he said he wanted to live until 120 years old.”
Across the board, Thai television turned its programming over to honouring the revered King, broadcasting images of him at his 1946 coronation, patrolling in military fatigues, and overseeing programmes aiding the poor.
His worsening health has raised concerns over the country’s political future.
Most Thais have known no other monarch and though His Majesty officially took no part in politics, he has been portrayed as a guiding light through decades of turmoil, coups and violent unrest.
“We are waiting for a miracle but it’s likely impossible,” said Panaree Thanawirachotikul.
“We’re shouting to heaven and angels to tell His Majesty that Thais will always have very strong loyalty toward him.
“His Majesty has passed away, but he will always be in all the Thai people’s hearts.”
Out of respect, Bangkok’s notorious red-light districts also quickly closed on Thursday evening, with images posted on social media showing usually buzzing bars completely empty.