Viet Nam News
BANGKOK — A sea of black-clad mourners massed across Bangkok’s historic heart early Thursday as funeral rituals began for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a revered monarch whose passing after a seven-decade reign has left Thailand bereft of its only unifying figure.
As dawn broke an estimated 200,000 Thais had gathered around the Grand Palace to bid an emotional farewell to a monarch known as "father of the nation", silently packing the pavements, many clutching portraits of the beloved late king.
The golden spires of a spectacular $90 million cremation site, purpose-built for the funeral, were bathed in light as Bhumibol’s son and heir, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, joined Buddhist monks to start a day of sombre processions, colourful pageantry and religious ceremony.
Vajiralongkorn will light the funeral pyre at 10pm (1500 GMT) as his father, Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty, is laid to rest.
The ceremony will be attended by a "Who’s Who" of Thai power -- royals, generals and establishment figures -- as well as scores of foreign dignitaries.
The lavish event gives the public a chance to say goodbye to a king who was crowned in 1950 and towered over decades of Thai history.
A mourner holds an image of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as she waits for his funeral procession to take place in Bangkok on October 26, 2017. A sea of black-clad mourners massed across Bangkok’s historic heart early on October 26 as funeral rituals began for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a revered monarch whose passing after a seven-decade reign has left Thailand bereft of its only unifying figure. - AFP /VNA PHOTO
Bhumibol’s intimate connection with his subjects was on ready display Thursday as Thais from across the country waited near the cremation site.
"He was perfect. He helped the country and Thai people so much. Seventy million Thai people are united in their love for him," said 65-year-old Wacharadej Tangboonlabkun, who like most Thais knew no other monarch before Bhumibol’s death.
The death of a figure of constancy in a politically combustible country has dipped the kingdom into uncertainty.
"There’s no more a father who only gave to his children," Kingkan Kuntavee, 47, said.
The new king, who wore full military regalia early Thursday and was attended to by kneeling palace aides as he started funeral rituals, will be crowned after his father is laid to rest.
He is yet to win the same affection among the Thai public as his father, who won a reputation as austere, benevolent and incorruptible despite the fast-changing times.
Aged just 18 when he ascended the throne, the US-born Bhumibol became the fulcrum of the monarchy.
Thais have donned black for much of the last year in a remarkable outpouring of grief, which officially ends on October 30.
They are expected to wear colourful clothes at the conclusion of the rites, which celebrate the king’s ascent to Mount Meru, the centre of the universe in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cosmology. — AFP