‘His legacy lives on forever’
BANGKOK — The streets of Thailand’s capital were filled with hundreds of thousands of black-clad mourners as the kingdom bade farewell to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The $90-millon royal cremation rites for Bhumibol, one of the world’s longest serving monarch who passed away on October 13 last year, began with a solemn Thai Buddhist ritual led by the new monarch, King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Wednesday.
The royal urn was mounted on the “Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot” or the Great Victory Chariot, which was then pulled by some 200 men as it paraded towards the royal crematorium.
The well-loved monarch was honored with a salute of 21 shots fired by both rifles and canons as eager mourners braved the heat to get a glimpse of the royal procession.
The actual cremation of the king’s body, the royal urn and coffin will take place at 10 p.m. Thursday.
Royals and dignitaries from over 40 countries will attend the cremation, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, Japan’s Prince Akishino and Princess Akishino, Queen Maxima from the Netherlands, the King and Queen of Bhutan and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
President Rodrigo Duterte has sent Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano to represent the Philippines in the ceremony.
Many of those who lined up to witness the ceremony camped out in the streets of this city so they can stay as close as possible to the Grand Palace and the Sanam Luang, where the lavish cremation pyre was built.
“This king has done a lot for the people,” said 76-year-old Sakit Chantanotoke, a professor from Thanyaburi Pathumthani in the northern part of Thailand. “He deserves our praise and respect.”
“His legacy will live on forever.”
Local media reported a record number of bus arrivals in the Thai capital as hotels were fully booked at least three months before the funeral.
Some 85 replicas of the royal crematorium, were constructed across the nation, allowing the public in provinces to give merit to the king by offering sandalwood flowers.
The elaborate ceremony drew mixed emotions from the crowd of mourners.
Many women cried as the royal urn was mounted on the chariot before the parade, while some expressed fascination and amusement from the grandeur of the rites.
Merits through service
Some citizens paid tribute to King Bhumibol by providing services to fellow mourners gathering at the heart of the Thai capital.
They provided free food, water, smelling salts, facial towels and even free rides to and fro the cremation field.
Thousands of volunteers ushered mourners onto the field, making sure that the queues were orderly.
Companies and small businesses offered assistance to mourners, such as transportation from the province to the capital or free shuttles in the city.
Even motorcycle drivers and shared taxi service drivers, popular known as tuk-tuk, ferried mourners wishing to attend the ceremony.
Trains running through the venues provided free service as well, while ride hailing apps like Uber offered discounted trips as much as 500 baht or about 18 dollars. With a report from the Associated Press
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