Thailand mourns top Buddhist leader

Thailand mourns top Buddhist leader
Thai women hold a portrait of Thai Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara outside the Chulalongkorn hospital, in Bangkok on October 25, 2013.

BANGKOK - Flags flew at half-mast and crowds of mourners turned out to pay their respects Friday after Thailand's top Buddhist leader died aged 100.

Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara died on Thursday due to a blood infection following recent surgery for an intestinal infection, according to Chulalongkorn hospital where he had been receiving treatment.

Police said thousands of mourners, some weeping and clutching pictures of the revered monk, lined the streets as his body was transported from the hospital to a temple in the capital for religious ceremonies.

People of all ages, from school boys to frail old women, crouched respectfully next to the heavy traffic. Most dressed in the mourning colours of black or white.

"I wanted to cry. I came early morning to pay my respects to his body and I cried," said Panya Thammachat, 59.

Thailand's most senior monk had been hospitalised for more than a decade.

The respected cleric - a friend of the Dalai Lama - was born Charoen Gajavatra on October 3, 1913 in the western Thai province of Kanchanaburi and ordained as a novice when he was 14 years old.

He was appointed Supreme Patriarch in 1989 by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was "very sad" to hear of his passing, according to the royal household bureau, which was instructed by the monarch to mourn for 30 days.

Police asked entertainment venues across the country not to stage live music shows or allow dancing until November 8 as a sign of respect.

Tourists wishing to visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok were requested not to wear brightly coloured clothing during the mourning period.

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