Solemn Crowds Gather for Final Farewell to Late Thai King
Tens of thousands of public mourners paid their last respects to Thailand’s late king Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946–2016) on Thursday and in the early early hours of Friday morning for the final day of public viewing of the royal urn as the famed Grand Palace in Bangkok prepares for the monarch’s final funeral rites. Queues of black-clad mourners stretched for more than two kilometers, according to Royal Household Bureau officials, with visitors lining up for as many as 12 hours.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej (r. 1946–2016) passed away at Bangkok's Sririraj Hospital on 13 October last year at the age of 88, following many years of ill health. The late king, also known as Rama IX as the ninth monarch of the Chakri dynasty, was the world's longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history, having sat on the throne for more than 70 years. Widely loved and respected in Thailand, he was seen as a unifying figure of stability in the country that has struggled through decades of political instability punctuated by numerous military coups. His only living son, Maha Vajiralongkorn, has since assumed the throne, although he does not enjoy the same level of public approval as his late father.
“I've been here since 6pm [on Thursday] and I managed to pay my respects only at 7am,” said Bangkok resident Tossapon Thongmak. “We were rained on last night, but this is a must. We must pay our respects to father,” he said in reference to the late monarch. (Channel NewsAsia)
A total of 110,889 people were reported to have visited the Grand Palace to pay their last respects on Thursday and Friday, before the gates closed for the last time at 02:18am on Friday morning, bringing total visitors to 12.74 million—almost one-sixth of the predominantly Buddhist kingdom’s population—as the late monarch lay in state in the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall within the Grand Palace for almost a year. A series of complex Buddhist and Brahmin ceremonies will be held for the state funeral from 25–29 October, with the cremation scheduled for 26 October.
“Our family agreed a long time ago that we would come to Bangkok to pay respect on the last day,” said Pradit Pumsan, who traveled with his wife and two sons from the northeastern province of Yasothon. “We [were] prepared to wait until midnight if necessary. We want to show the world how much we love the late King Bhumibol and wish to be his servant forever. After all, this is the last thing that our family can do for him.” (Bangkok Post)
The royal crematorium that has been specially built for the occasion stands more than 50 meters tall, according to officials involved in its design, which is based on Buddhist cosmology. The main structure is crowned with a seven-tiered roof and spire, and surrounded by eight pavilions representing the mountains surrounding Mount Meru. The pavilions are decorated with sculptures of mythical creatures, such as naga, kinnara, and garuda, from the Himavanta (Thai: Himmaphan), a forest believed to surround the base of Mount Meru.
“This is the first time that many Thais will experience a royal funeral for a monarch,” said Tonthong Chandransu, a public relations official for the funeral organization committee. “So the grandeur, the beauty, and the determination of everyone involved in the preparation is a new experience for all. From the architecture, the craftsmanship, the various preparations and their fine details, I have never seen this sort of dedication.” (Channel NewsAsia)
An estimated quarter of a million people are expected to attend the cremation, according to the Thai government. For those unable to attend the funeral in person, 85 miniature replicas of the royal cremation site have been set up throughout the country.
Thailand is predominantly a Theravada Buddhist country, with 93.2 per cent of the kingdom’s population of 69 million identify as Buddhists, according to 2010 data from the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center.
Crowds grow solemn for last farewells (Bangkok Post)
Highest turnout on last day to pay respects before Royal Urn (The Nation)
Thousands queue to pay last respects to Thailand's late King Bhumibol (Channel NewsAsia)
ROADS TO CLOSE AROUND GRAND PALACE AFTER FINAL MOURNERS PAY RESPECTS (Khaosod English)
Thais bid farewell to late King ahead of cremation (The Straits Times)
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