Preparations for the funeral of the King of Thailand

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Preparations have begun for the funeral of the King of Thailand

The funeral of the King of Thailand is still a year away. Thailand’s most beloved King in history, His Royal Highness King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away on the 13th October, bringing unprecedented scenes of mourning to the streets of Thailand’s capital city Bangkok, and just about every other part of the country. Incredible numbers of mourners have gathered outside the Grand Palace. There are far too many to cram inside during the opening hours of 8.30am to 4pm each day. So they are simply camping out overnight in the streets outside. Those who make it inside can pay their respects to a photo of the King and sign the book of condolence.

Enormous crowds soon gathered outside the Grand Palace
Enormous crowds soon gathered, joining long queues outside the Grand Palace. Source: CNN

His Royal Highness King Bhumibol Adulyadej will be lying in state in the Dusit Throne Hall, from 1 pm on the 28th October onwards. The Thai people will be able to perform their “tawai bangkhom”, a highly respectful form of wai where the hands are clasped at head height and moved in a circular motion three times. His body was carried by motorcade to the Grand Palace as hundreds of thousands lined the streets, all dressed in black to pay their respects. The numbers are so great that shops have run out of black clothing and local dye centres have sprung up, enabling people to pay their respects.

Informal dye shops have sprung up throughout the Capital
Informal dye shops have sprung up throughout the Capital. Source: dailymail.co.uk

The Funeral of the King of Thailand

There has been an official period of one year’s mourning announced and the funeral is likely to take place at the end of this time. His cremation, when it takes place, will be an event unlike any in living memory for almost all Thais. There will not be many alive who can remember a funeral of the King of Thailand. Following his cremation, his ashes will be enshrined within the Grand Palace.

“A good person can make another person good; it means that goodness will elicit goodness in the society; other persons will also be good.”

His Royal Highness King Bhumibol Adulyadej

King Bhumibol was unique; of that there is no doubt. Reigning for 70 years, he was a highly qualified engineer and oversaw many important projects, from which the Thai people are still getting the benefit. He was a fascinating character, always busy yet still finding time for his hobbies of music, painting and photography. His music, was more than just a small hobby. King Bhumibol was an accomplished saxophone player and composer loving jazz. He also played the clarinet, trumpet, guitar, and piano. Over the years he played with greats like Benny Goodman, Stan Getz and Lionel Hampton. These achievements in his work and his hobbies are all the more impressive, when you consider that he lost the sight of an eye in a motor accident in Switzerland in 1948.

Bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman invited King Bhumibol to his New York apartment for a jam session in July 1960
Bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman invited King Bhumibol to his New York apartment for a jam session in July 1960. Source: The Guardian

Loved by So Many

It was so obvious that this was a man who had earned the respect of everyone, that became apparent to in the 5 years I lived there. Just about every Thai person and expat that I know had a great affection for him. The people that he served so well, for so long, held him in an almost Godlike. He was always seen as a steadying hand on the rudder of a country that has seen some very turbulent times indeed.

The Western coverage of events in recent days, has deeply offended many Thai people. For some obscure reason, some foreign TV companies are playing down the numbers of mourners that are in attendance. It is apparent to all who witness the scenes around the palace, that they are indeed massive crowds. One can only imagine how big they will be for the funeral itself.

The crowds have been much larger than the foreign media would have you believe
The crowds have been much larger than the foreign media would have you believe. Source: CNN

I lived in Thailand for almost five years between 2008 and 2013, mainly in Bangkok. I have many Thai friends and as I say, the admiration for the King was universal, and I feel deeply for those friends now and would like to add my personal condolences. There is no doubt in my mind that when the time comes for the funeral of the King of Thailand, it will be a huge event; one the most significant funerals anywhere in the world in my lifetime.