One year af­ter King’s death, Thais pre­pare for fi­nal good­bye

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - WORLD - — AFP

BANGKOK: Monks led som­bre cer­e­monies across Thai­land yes­ter­day to mark one year since the death of King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej, as the griev­ing na­tion pre­pares to bid a fi­nal farewell to the beloved monarch in a spec­tac­u­lar cre­ma­tion cer­e­mony this month.

Revered as a demi-god and loved as a ‘fa­ther’ of all Thais, Bhu­mi­bol com­manded deep de­vo­tion dur­ing his his­toric 70-year reign.

The past year has drawn out re­mark­able scenes of col­lec­tive mourn­ing across the king­dom, with many Thais ex­pung­ing colour from their wardrobes and don­ning only black and white for most of the year.

The solemn mood has deep­ened this Oc­to­ber as many Thais grap­ple with hav­ing to say good­bye dur­ing his cre­ma­tion on the 26th, an elab­o­rate five-day event that will send Bhu­mi­bol’s spirit to the af­ter­life.

Yes­ter­day black-clad Thais streamed into tem­ples, state agen­cies and the court­yard of the Bangkok hos­pi­tal where Bhu­mi­bol died to give alms to Bud­dhist monks in hon­our of the monarch.

“I don’t want the cre­ma­tion cer­e­mony to take place, I just can’t cope with it,” 57-year-old Kanok­porn Chav­a­sith, one of hun­dreds of mourn­ers gath­er­ing out­side the Grand Palace in Bangkok yes­ter­day, said through tears.

An­other tear­ful mourner, 61year-old Chalita U-sap, told AFP: “I want him to stay with us for­ever.”

As the mas­sive funeral draws nearer, TV chan­nels have been or­dered to re­duce their colour sat­u­ra­tion, re­frain from over­lyjoy­ous con­tent and roll out doc­u­men­taries high­light­ing the monarch’s good works.

Busi­nesses have erected por­traits and trib­utes to the king, while parks and pave­ments have been lined with marigolds — a flower associated with Bhu­mi­bol be­cause of its yel­low colour.

The mourn­ing has been en­cour­aged and or­ches­trated by the ul­tra-roy­al­ist junta that seized power in 2014 as Bhu­mi­bol’s health was de­clin­ing.

A se­vere royal defama­tion law, which has been vig­or­ously en­forced by the junta and landed crit­ics decades in jail, makes it dif­fi­cult to mea­sure the role that so­cial pres­sure plays in draw­ing out dis­plays of de­vo­tion.

Frank dis­cus­sion of the monar­chy and its role in Thai pol­i­tics is barred un­der the lese ma­jeste law, which has em­bed­ded a cul­ture of self-cen­sor­ship across the arts, me­dia and academia.

Bhu­mi­bol’s suc­ces­sor, his 65-year-old son King Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn, is sim­i­larly shielded from crit­i­cism by the dra­co­nian leg­is­la­tion.

The new monarch has yet to at­tain his fa­ther’s level of pop­u­lar­ity and has made moves to con­sol­i­date con­trol over the palace bu­reau­cracy and re­duce gov­ern­ment over­sight dur­ing his first year on the throne.

Thai­land’s crown has lim­ited for­mal power but is one of the world’s rich­est and wields in­flu­ence be­hind the scenes with the loy­alty of much of the busi­ness and mil­i­tary elite.

The cre­ma­tion site for the late Bhu­mi­bol is re­flected on a lo­tus pool. — AFP photo

Well-wish­ers of­fer alms to Bud­dhist monks to mark the first an­niver­sary of Bhu­mi­bol’s death at the Siri­raj Hos­pi­tal in Bangkok. — Reuters photo

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