BANGKOK, Oct 29 – A year of official mourning for Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej ends Sunday after a lavish five-day funeral embroidered with pageantry and religious ritual. Bhumibol, a beloved king who died last October aged 88, was cremated on Thursday after a day charged with emotion that brought Thailand to a standstill.
At his death he was the world’s longest serving monarch, striding over seven decades of Thailand’s turbulent modern history, to depart as the kingdom’s chief figure of unity. But he left behind a kingdom deeply divided along political, economic and social lines, with a junta in charge and democratic government a distant prospect.
As dusk fell on Sunday, his son and heir 65-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his sister, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, carried a pair of golden urns containing their father’s relics from the Grand Palace to two Bangkok temples where they will be housed in a cream-coloured Rolls Royce.
A ceremonial cavalry unit with soldiers in full regalia — including blue plumes in their helmets — led the convoy, in a sombre but small procession capping the US$90 million (RM381.78 million) funeral. Buddhist monks led prayers at the temples while black-clad mourners sitting on pavements outside clasped their hands together in respect.
Bhumibol’s reputation as “father of the nation” was buffed up by a careful palace PR machine, while criticism of the king and key senior royals is banned by a tough lese majeste law. Thais have dressed in black or subdued tones for much of the last year, with black and white ribbons tied to school gates, temples and government buildings. The prolonged display of official mourning for the late king lapses at midnight on Sunday. — AFP