Thailand sets October date for late king’s cremation

Aided by a jazz soundtrack, Thai artisans work against the clock scratching, moulding and shaping the intricate clay sculptures that will adorn the funeral pyre of Thailand’s revered former King Bhumibol Adulaydej
File picture: Roberto Schmidt / AFP Photo

Thailand will hold the cremation for its late king Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 26, the junta announced Tuesday, a ceremony that will be held at a vast funeral complex currently being built outside his palace.

Government spokesman Lieutenant General Sansern Kaewkumnerd said five days of funerary rites would begin on October 25, with the cremation held on the second evening.

A public holiday will be declared that day.

Cremations for senior Thai royals are huge, arcane and costly affairs, but a monarch’s funeral – the last one was in 1950 – is on an even more monumental scale.

At the time of his death on October 13 last year Bhumibol, 88, was the world’s longest-reigning monarch.

His rule spanned seven tumultuous decades that witnessed significant economic growth but saw democratic aspirations wilt under the weight of multiple palace-endorsed coups.

The monarchy is also shielded from any criticism by a draconian lese majeste law. It was used more frequently towards the end of Bhumibol’s reign, especially after the 2014 coup.

While he had been ill for years, his passing still left many Thais bereft.

There have been huge displays of mourning and many choose to wear monochrome black or white clothing for the duration of the one-year official mourning period.

A huge cremation complex is being constructed on a parade ground specially reserved for royal funerals outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

The complex, which will include towering pavilions and hundreds of statues of gods and mythical beasts, represents Mount Meru – the allegorical centre of the universe in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cosmology where Thais traditionally believe Bhumibol’s spirit will return.

Bhumibol’s successor, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to hold his own coronation soon after the cremation.

He has yet to attain his father’s widespread popularity and has made recent moves to consolidate his constitutional and behind-the-scenes powers.

Leave a Reply