Viet Nam News
BANGKOK — Thailand’s new king picked bits of bone and ash from his father’s remains on Friday to be enshrined as royal relics, after the cremation of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej capped an extravagant funeral that brought the nation to a standstill.
The lighting of the funeral pyre late Thursday night, which was held behind closed doors, closed the book on the 70-year reign of a monarch who was elevated to saint-like status.
The grand send-off, held a year after Bhumibol died aged 88, was a spectacular show of the enigmatic rituals that gird a powerful monarchy cloaked in myth and spirituality.
On Friday Bhumibol’s son and successor, 65-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn, ascended the steps of the glistening crematorium complex to select relics from his father’s ashes.
The monarch poured fragrant water on the pile of remains, before using his hands to place bits of bone into six golden, diamond-encrusted urns that will be moved in procession to the Grand Palace later Friday.
Throughout the ceremony aides skirted around the king on their knees, a requirement in a palace with rigid hierarchies.
"After the religious ceremony... all the six urns will be put into a fourth procession to go back to Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall and the golden stupa inside the temple of Emerald Buddha," said an official announcer describing the ceremony.
The five-day funeral, which ends on Sunday and cost some US$90 million dollars, has seized the attention of a nation where love for king Bhumibol runs deep.
Vice President Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Thịnh on behalf of the State of Việt Nam attended the royal cremation together with over 40 other royal and governmental representatives.
More than 300,000 mourners in black crammed into Bangkok’s old quarter to watch the colourful procession on Thursday that carried his funeral urn to the sprawling purpose-built crematorium.
Many wept and prostrated as the gilded urn passed. Others around the country have tuned in to televised broadcasts of the processions, monk-led rituals and traditional music and performances marking Bhumibol’s send-off to heaven.
But the funeral’s climax – the lighting of the pyre – was not broadcast live Thursday night as most media were whisked away from the area. Later in the evening smoke could be seen rising from the illuminated funeral pyre.
The passing of Bhumibol, an anchor of stability across decades of political tumult, has ushered Thailand into a new era of uncertainty.
The new monarch has yet to command the same level of devotion and his approach to the crown – and relationship with the military government – remains inscrutable. — AFP