Thailand bids final farewell to King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Millions of Thais and scores of foreign royals and dignitaries gathered in Bangkok last Thursday to bid a final tearful farewell to late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a rare and spectacular royal cremation ceremony broadcast and watched by Thais and friends of Thailand around the world as tributes to the late king poured in.

The many square miles surrounding the towering spired golden crematorium at Sanlam Luang, or the Royal Field, was a sea of black as mourning Thais from all walks of life and all corners of the Kingdom turned out in a show of deep love, devotion and grief. They thronged the route of the grand procession, hands clasped together in reverence, tears rolling down their cheeks as the crimson-clad Royal Guards in their plumed pith helmets and a corps of soldiers in ancient Siamese uniforms carried the royal urn on a golden chariot from the old Grand Palace to the site of the ceremony.

Social media in Thailand was “eerily quiet” throughout the early part of the day, the Bangkok Post reported, before erupting in an outpouring of affection, praise and grief for the late monarch. “We are proud beyond words to have been born in the reign of King Rama IX,” wrote Pimporn Siriwan, an advertising executive on her Facebook page in a typical posting.

Members of royal families from 15 nations attended the ceremony, as did high-ranking representatives and distinguished guests from 26 other countries. Among those in attendance were the King of Bhutan, the Sheikh of Bahrain, the Queens of Sweden and Spain, the Crown Princes of Denmark and Norway, Prince Andrew of Great Britain and Princes and other royals from Japan, Qatar and other lands.

Thais and friends of Thailand around the world gathered at Buddhist temples and community centers to observe the ceremony by satellite link and make offerings of prayers and sandalwood flowers, or dok mai chan, the scent of which are thought to lead the spirit to the heavens, according to traditional beliefs.

Throughout the United States, tens of thousands from all walks of life poured in over 50 Thai temples observing the royal cremation ceremony on October 26. In DC area alone, nearly two thousands, mostly young generation who came with family members, gathered at Wat Thai DC in Maryland to pay their final respects to the late King.

King Bhumibol was the only King ever born in the United States, and in his birthplace of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mayor E. Denise Simmons issued a formal proclamation declaring October 26, 2107 “King Bhumibol Adulyadej Day” to “honor this great man and his enduring legacy.”

“For seven decades, King Bhumibol Adulyadej was Thailand’s guiding light, regarded far and wide as Father to His nation, his fortitude and devotion to human development was and remains an inspiration to all, and His Majesty was a beacon of hope for Thais rich and poor, young and old due to his selflessness, generosity and tremendous compassion,’’ the Mayor wrote.

On the morning after the ceremony, King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun returned to the crematorium and in proceedings overseen by Buddhist monks and Brahmin priests gathered up King Bhumibol’s ashes and relics for internment first at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace and later at Wat Bowornives and Wat Rajabopit temples in Bangkok where loyal subjects will be able to pay homage to their late beloved monarch forever forward.