The People of Thailand Grieve Over Their Former King
The Funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej ends the year of mourning and sets the stage for King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Era
Thousands of Thais dressed in black prostrated themselves and wept as the Funeral Urn for their former King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a man so revered who became the world’s longest-reigning monarch, was carried by chariot to his Cremation Pyre.
Despite monsoon-season downpours punctuated with searing subtropical temperatures, many mourners have spent days in tents hoping to be close to the official send-off for the 9th head of the Chakri dynasty Thursday.
The country’s top artisans have spent 10 months constructing the spectacular 50-metre-tall, Golden crematorium.
Its structure of 9 gilded spires was adorned with images from mythology and the life of the King, including statues of his 2 favorite dogs.
The Military junta set aside 3-B Baht ($100-M) for the lavish funeral of a man viewed as a beacon of stability and peacemaker in a nation that has suffered repeated violent coups and counter-coups since his coronation in Y 1950.
Lese-majesty laws make it illegal to criticize the Thai Monarchy, the world’s wealthiest, and the military generals currently in power see themselves as royal protectors, as they have ramped up prison sentences.
People feel genuine adoration for the King, who took the throne unexpectedly after his elder brother was shot to death. He helped lift many in Thailand out of poverty through decades of philanthropy.
The cremation important for the Thai public, with Bangkok residents folding more than 10-M flowers made of shaved sandalwood and placing them at temples. Its fragrance is believed to lead the souls of the dead to heaven.
More than 100,000 had entered the complex by early morning.
Close to 80,000 security personnel were deployed, and drones were banned within a 19km radius. In fear of a mass influx, the government built 85 smaller replicas of the crematorium around the country where people can mourn.
Bangkok’s 2 metro services were free to use all day Thursday and some food shops offered free meals.
Jazz music composed by the king, who loved the Saxophone, has been playing in public areas of the capital for weeks.
Queen Sofia of Spain, the former German president Christian Wulff, the UK’s Prince Andrew, and the Cambodian PM Hun Sen were some of foreign dignitaries who attended the cremation.
TV channels were ordered to reduce their color saturation and not to air overly upbeat content in the lead-up to the cremation.
Strict regulations handed out to reporters covering the event included a ban on long hair, earrings and mustaches for male journalists. “Unnatural hair coloring is not allowed,” they said.
The symbolic service, the actual cremation took place later Thursday, ends the official mourning period, a year in which government officials and many Thais have only worn black.
Public shows such as masked plays, puppet shows and orchestral concerts began Thursday evening, part of an extravagant 5-day Buddhist ceremony including thousands of musicians and dancers.
His successor, Vajiralongkorn or Rama X, does not yet command the same affection as his father and has spent much of his adult life abroad, mostly in Germany. Since ascending to the throne he has made amendments to the Constitution that reinforce his powers.
The rite to send off the former Kine, known as the “Father of all Thais”, is the emblematic end his era and paves the way for the formal Coronation of Rama X.
Since the King died on 13 October last year, more than 12-M people have visited his coffin at the Grand Palace.
The King’s ashes and bones will be returned to the palace Friday and placed in the Emerald Buddha temple, the most sacred Buddhist site in Thailand.
Long live Rama X.