Late King mourned under solemn skies
9 minutes of silence descend on hospital where revered King Rama IX passed, write Patpon Sabpaitoon and Kornchanok Raksaseri
Thousands of Thais flocked to Siriraj Hospital yesterday to mourn the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej who passed away there one year ago at the age of 89. They joined their compatriots nationwide in commemorating the first anniversary of his passing. King Rama IX was pronounced dead at 3.52pm on Oct 13, 2016.
Many of those who spent the day at the hospital were also there one year earlier, praying for a miracle.
The prospect of heavy rain did not deter them yesterday.
Both sides of the 100th Year Siriraj Centennial Hall were occupied by a multitude of solemn faces clad mostly in black.
“I had flashbacks to last year,” TV and radio announcer Apisak Chuachan said as he recalled the extended moment of silence mourners observed yesterday at 3.52pm.
“At first it was so crowded I couldn’t hear the speaker. But people grew silent at 3.51pm and stayed quiet until about 3.59pm,” he said.
“I was numb, I couldn’t cry. Only when I got in the shower did I cry, and then I couldn’t stop.”
Pranee Abdulraman, a department store clerk from Pracha Uthit, said she wanted to express her love for the late King because she missed him so much.
“I chose to come here because it’s where King Bhumibol drew his last breath,” she said.
For Natthaporn Tantiweerawong, a doctor in Pathum Thani, the memories of that heartrending day remain vivid and painful.
“I was driving when I first heard the news,” Ms Natthaporn said.
“When it hit me, I felt confused, adrift and heartbroken,” she added, tears streaming from her eyes.
Thongkam Pomparkrong, a 63-year-old merchant from Kanchanaburi, struggled to hold back his tears as he recalled that tragic day.
“Not a day has passed that I don’t feel sad,” he said.
Due to the limited space, only 600 to 700 people were allowed inside the 100th Year Siriraj Centennial Hall and Prince Mahidol Court during yesterday’s merit-making ceremony organised by Siriraj Medical School.
Some attempted to sneak in, shuffling between doors only to be turned away.
One elderly lady, when denied access, pleaded to the security guard — “I just want a closer glimpse” — to no avail.
Many gathered on the lawn around a statue of Prince Mahidol holding pictures of the late King in their hands.
Some brought marigold flowers and yellow roses — the colour associated in Thailand with Monday, the day on which the late King was born.
During the ceremony, people were asked to close their eyes and reminisce about their beloved late King for 89 seconds as a tribute. The number of seconds matches the age of the late King, who passed away in his 89th year. The mourners at the hospital stayed silent for nine minutes.
The only sound during that time was the clicking of camera shutters.
Some were overwhelmed. Many fought back tears. Others wept freely.
After the ceremony the heavens opened on merit-makers exiting the grounds, many with garlands in their hands.
Nunta Sangswang, a 71-year-old retired civil servant, was leaving with her two grandsons. She paused for a moment to reflect on the day.
“It made me feel good, in a way”, she said. “Yet I still feel heartbroken.”
Sumet Tantivejkul, secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation and a close aide to King Bhumibol, was also in attendance.
“The real tribute to the late King is in our actions,” he said philosophically.
Not a day has passed that I don’t feel sad. THONGKAM POMPARKRONG A KANCHANABURI RESIDENT
Thais nationwide yesterday took part in merit-making ceremonies marking one year since the passing of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
In Bangkok, Siriraj Hospital where the late King passed away, took centre stage as thousands of people wearing black assembled at the hospital from sun-up to give alms to monks.
Merit making has been held nationwide to pay tribute to the late King, who passed away on Oct 13, 2016 after 70 years on the throne.
At the nearby Royal Thai Navy Convention Hall, a total of 199 Buddhist monks began collecting alms from 5.30am from people, who lined the entire route from the hall to Bovornsathanpimuk Road in front of the hospital’s main building. Some of the dried food given to the monks will be sent to the Border Patrol Police School, the navy said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, ministers and their spouses offered alms to the 89 monks at Government House yesterday morning. The number of the monks matches the age of the late King, who passed away in his 89th year.
At “Lan Khon Muang”, a civic space right in front of City Hall, Bangkok governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang presided over a merit-making ceremony for the late King at 7am, and leading officials to give alms to 89 monks.
Many people were seen arriving at the Grand Palace early yesterday to put fresh flowers around the wall of the palace and pray for the late monarch.
Among them was Yutthana Kiew-on, the owner of a badminton club in the Ratchadaphisek Road area. He said he offered free use of his badminton courts yesterday to commemorate the first anniversary of the late King’s passing.
“It’s a way of remembering what the King did for us, as far as my occupation allows me to do,” Mr Yutthana said. “It is something that puts smiles on the public’s faces, which is what His Majesty would have wanted.
“After finding about what we have done, they smiled and thanked us politely, so we feel good that we are able to give back to the public.”
Wongpavakarn Pitakboonkate, a contractor, said he wanted to be a model citizen by observing the five Buddhist moral precepts daily.
“Donating items on specific days and volunteering at Sanam Luang are definitely respectable practices, but it all starts with being a good person,” Mr Wongpavakarn said. “When you take a step back to look at the late King’s teachings, they fall in line with the five precepts.”
The five precepts are to abstain from harming living things, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies, and consuming intoxicating substances.
“So if we observe these practices each day instead of just one day, I am sure we would make him proud,” Mr Wongpavakarn said.
Elsewhere in the provinces, mourners wearing black also turned up to offer alms to monks as a tribute to the late King.
Provincial governors across the country led local officials to give alms to the monks, mostly numbered at 89 to pay tribute.
Members of the public wearing black also arrived at dawn to give alms to the monks and make merit.
Newspapers with pictures of the late King were quickly snapped up shortly after hitting newsstands.
Thais living abroad and many foreign embassies in Bangkok also held events commemorating the late King.
People mass at Siriraj Hospital and observe an extended period of silence at 3.52pm yesterday to commemorate the passing away there one year ago of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun makes merit at the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall in the Grand Palace, commemorating the first anniversary of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s passing yesterday.
Crowds of mourners for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej pack the road outside the Grand Palace yesterday as they prepare to lay flowers a year after his passing. Marigolds were a popular choice as yellow is associated with Monday in Thailand, the day on which the highly revered late King was born.