Funeral for late King Bhumibol draws to a close

Photo: King Rama
Photo: King Rama

A year of official mourning for Thailand‘s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej ended yesterday after a lavish five-day funeral full of pageantry and religious ritual.

King Bhumibol, a beloved monarch who died last October aged 88, was cremated on Thursday after a day charged with emotion that brought the nation to a standstill.

At his death he was the world’s longest-serving monarch, spanning seven decades of Thailand‘s turbulent modern history to become its leading symbol of unity.

But he left behind a kingdom deeply divided along political, economic and social lines, with a military junta in charge and democratic government a distant prospect, though elections have been promised for November 2018.

As dusk fell on Sunday, King Bhumibol’s 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.

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 funeral.

Buddhist monks led prayers at the temples while black-clad mourners sitting on pavements outside clasped their hands together in respect.

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 ended at midnight on Sunday.

*This story has been edited to comply with Thailand’s les majeste law.

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