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People wear pink to honor king in Thailand

After Thailand’s 79-years-old king left a hospital dressed in a pink blazer and a dress skirt people across the country started wearing shirts of that color.

For about two years, Thais have shown their respect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej by wearing yellow - the color that in Buddhist tradition symbolizes Monday, the day of the week the monarch was born.

Many Thais have donned yellow shirts every Monday since 2006, the year of Bhumibol's 60th anniversary on the throne. The tribute has continued this year to celebrate his 80th birthday on Dec. 5.

But it looks like pink is about to become the new yellow in Thailand. Demand for pink T-shirts is picking up.

Astrologers have determined pink to be an auspicious color for the king's 80th year. A royal emblem, using pink among other colors, was specially designed for his birthday.

Bhumibol was released from a Bangkok hospital Wednesday after more than three weeks of treatment for what the palace described as weakness on the right side of his body and a colon infection.

Thousands of cheering, flag-waving well-wishers - many dressed in yellow - had waited outside the hospital to see the king as he was brought out in an electric wheelchair.

In what royal watchers believe to be a first, the king was wearing a pastel pink sport coat and a pink collar-less dress shirt over dark slacks.

Pink T-shirts went on sale earlier this year, just after the emblem was designed. But business is expected to boom following the king's recent public appearance leaving the hospital.

The Commerce Ministry is preparing to produce 30,000 pink shirts in coming weeks to meet rising demand, said Yanyong Phuangrat, chief of the ministry's domestic trade department. The ministry has hired private companies to make the shirts, hoping to control the prices of the hotly desired items.

"There is a high demand for pink T-shirts because it's an auspicious color for the king," said Yanyong.

The royal palace, however, said it is not behind the pink-shirt fever.

"I'm not sure who started the pink T-shirt (craze). It wasn't the palace's idea. I think it came from the private sector," said Preecha Singkittisunthorn, director of the king's personal affairs division.

One of the first stores believed to have sold the pink shirts was Phu Fa, owned by Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, which sells handicrafts and items made by villagers around Thailand.

An initial batch of 10,000 pink shirts that went on sale in July has sold out. New stock was expected to arrive Saturday, said Sudarat Na Nakhon, an employee at a Phu Fa shop in Bangkok.

"There are a lot of yellow shirts on the market. So, we thought that we should have other colors, too," Sudarat said.

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