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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 6, 2017)
ASIA / PACIFIC
Page 16 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
November 6, 2017
Thailand grieves in elaborate final goodbye to King Bhumibol
By Tassanee Vejpongsa
and Stephen Wright
The Associated Press
solemn faces and out-
right tears, black-clad
Thais said farewell to their king
and longtime father figure on
Bangkok’s streets and at viewing
areas around the nation, capping
a year of mourning with funeral
ceremonies steeped in centuries
Three processions involving
the royal family, thousands of
troops, a golden palanquin, a
gilded chariot, and a royal gun
carriage transported a cere-
monial urn representing King
Bhumibol Adulyadej’s remains
from the Dusit Maha Prasad
Throne Hall to a spectacular
newly built crematorium.
The urn, placed under a
nine-tiered white umbrella and
accompanied by a palace official,
was then hoisted into the main
chamber of the golden-spired
crematorium as monks chanted,
traditional instruments wailed,
and artillery fired in the distance.
New King Maha Vajiralongkorn
then climbed the red-carpeted
steps to light candles and incense
in honor of his father.
The ceremony was watched in
person by tens of thousands of
mourners dressed all in black and
millions more around the
kingdom in broadcasts aired live
on most Thai television stations
and shown at designated viewing
areas across the country.
Somnuk Yonsam-Ar sat on a
paper mat in a crowd opposite the
Grand Palace in Bangkok. Her
granddaughter slept in her lap
and her husband rested his head
against a metal barrier. The
family came from the coastal
province of Rayong, where they
run a food stall.
Somnak waved a fan to cool
herself but said she was not tired.
“I feel blessed to be able to sit
here, and be part of this,” she
said. “It’s an important day for
The funeral for Bhumibol took
place over five days and began
with his son, King Maha Vajira-
longkorn, performing Buddhist
chanting monks and officials in
immaculate white uniforms.
Bhumibol’s body was cremated
within the special crematorium
built over a year and repre-
senting mystical Mount Meru,
where Buddhist and Hindu gods
are believed to dwell.
Thai media reports and images
posted online showed smoke
rising just before midnight.
Deceased Thai royals have
traditionally been kept upright in
urns during official mourning.
But Bhumibol, who spent much
of his early life in the west, opted
to be put in a coffin, with the royal
urn placed next to it for
The urn was at the center of the
processions, including one led by
Vajiralongkorn, Bhumibol’s only
son, in which the golden con-
tainer was placed upon the Great
Victory Chariot. Built in 1795
and made of gilded and lacquered
carved wood, the chariot has been
used to carry the urns of royal
family members dating to the
start of the Chakri dynasty.
As the chariot, pulled by
hundreds of men in traditional
red uniforms, passed the mourn-
ers lining the parade route, they
prostrated themselves, pressing
their folded hands and head on
the ground in a show of
Bhumibol’s death at age 88 on
October 13, 2016, after a reign of
seven decades sparked a national
outpouring of grief. Millions of
Thais visited the throne hall at
Bangkok’s Grand Palace to pay
inspired was fostered by palace
courtiers who worked to rebuild
the prestige of a monarchy that
lost its mystique and power when
a 1932 coup ended centuries of
ROYAL FAREWELL. Elephants —
doused in powder to appear an auspicious
white — stand at attention and trumpet at
a ceremony to mark one year since King
Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death, on October
13, 2017, in the ancient royal capital of
Ayuttahya, Thailand. Mourners clad in
black stood in front of the elephants and
fell silent for 89 seconds from 3:52pm,
marking the official time of Bhumibol’s
death in what Thailand’s Buddhist culture
recognized as his 89th year. Then they
sang an uplifting royal anthem and held
pictures of Bhumibol above their heads
while others prostrated on the ground.
absolute rule by Thai kings.
That effort built a semi-divine
aura around Bhumibol, who was
protected from criticism by a
draconian law that mandates
prison of up to 15 years for
insulting senior royals.
But he was also genuinely
respected for his development
projects, personal modesty, and
as a symbol of stability in a nation
frequently rocked by political
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turmoil, though his influence
waned in his final years.
The funeral was by design an
intensely somber event, but also
rich in history and cultural and
Mourners were not allowed to
Continued on page 11