Thais pack Bangkok streets to bid farewell to late King

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Credit: straitstimes.com

Thousands of mourners packed the pavements of inner Bangkok as the country began the last cremation rites for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October last year.

The monarch’s body, which has lain in state in the capital’s Grand Palace since his death, will be cremated this evening in an elaborate facility specially built on an open field next to the palace.

A royal urn – serving as a symbol of the late monarch – will be carefully transported this morning from the Grand Palace to the crematorium, carried first on a traditional palanquin, then transferred to a two-century-old chariot and then to a royal gun carriage.

Many have slept in the open for days to witness this rare ceremony up close, regarding this as their last chance to pay respects to a revered king they consider the father of the nation. Across the kingdom, millions more will pay their respects at 85 replica crematoriums, and tune in to simultaneous broadcasts of the ceremony on television as well as over the Internet.

King Bhumibol assumed the throne in 1946 at a time when the royal influence was waning. By the end of his 70-year reign, however, the palace’s influence and prestige had grown significantly.

Through palace-backed projects to improve rural livelihoods and ideas like his “sufficiency economy” philosophy, which advocates moderation and risk management, he left a deep imprint on generations of Thais.

The monarchy under him also grew to be one of the world’s richest, with the Crown Property Bureau holding key stakes in major Thai companies.