Thais pre­pare for fi­nal farewell

Cit­i­zens mark one year since king’s death with prayers

The Star Malaysia - - World -

BANGKoK: Thais marked one year since the death of King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej with solemn cer­e­monies and acts of per­sonal de­vo­tion be­fore an elab­o­rate five­day fu­neral later this month.

Of­fi­cial com­mem­o­ra­tions of Bhu­mi­bol were organised at Bangkok’s Siri­raj Hos­pi­tal, where he died, and at Gov­ern­ment House and the or­nate royal palace.

But many or­di­nary peo­ple showed their re­spects on the streets, at neigh­bour­hood mar­kets and tem­ples, kneel­ing be­fore or­ange­robed monks to per­form a Bud­dhist merit­mak­ing rit­ual.

“You see his achieve­ments on TV some­times, but now that he has passed we are learn­ing about so many other things he has done for the coun­try,” said Panicha Nuapho, 66, who trav­elled from a prov­ince 330km north of Bangkok to pay re­spects at Siri­raj Hos­pi­tal.

“This is my fi­nal send­off,” she said, weep­ing.

Out­side the hos­pi­tal, mourn­ers clad in black of­fered alms to a long pro­ces­sion of Bud­dhist monks and sev­eral thou­sand packed its grounds, join­ing nurses and doc­tors in prayers as monks chanted over loud­speak­ers.

Bhu­mi­bol’s death at age 88 af­ter a reign of seven decades sparked a na­tional out­pour­ing of grief and a year of mourn­ing that will cul­mi­nate with his cre­ma­tion on Oct 26.

More than 12 mil­lion peo­ple have vis­ited the palace throne hall where the king’s body has been kept.

The rev­er­ence Bhu­mi­bol in­spired was in part the re­sult of decades of work by palace of­fi­cials to re­build the pres­tige of the monar­chy, which lost much of its in­flu­ence af­ter a 1932 coup ended cen­turies of ab­so­lute rule by Thai kings.

That ef­fort built an aura of di­vin­ity around Bhu­mi­bol, who was pro­tected from crit­i­cism by dra­co­nian lese ma­jeste laws, but the king was also gen­uinely adored for his char­i­ta­ble work, per­sonal mod­esty and as a sym­bol of sta­bil­ity.

Thai­land’s gov­ern­ment had asked the pub­lic to ob­serve 89 sec­onds of si­lence yes­ter­day at 3.52pm, mark­ing the of­fi­cial time of Bhu­mi­bol’s death in what Thai cul­ture em­pha­sises was his 89th year. — AP

In lov­ing mem­ory: Ele­phants doused in pow­der to ap­pear an aus­pi­cious white tak­ing part in a spe­cial cer­e­mony at the an­cient royal cap­i­tal Ayut­tahya. (Be­low) Well-wish­ers of­fer­ing alms to Bud­dhist monks in Bangkok to mark the first an­niver­sary of Bhu­mi­bol’s death. — AP/Reuters

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