Remembering a beloved King

He was a King that Thailand will never forget. Ministers, Buddhist monks and countless people around the country turned out last Saturday to honor, make merit, and meditate on the memory of their late King Bhumibol Adulyadej two years after his passing.

The date October 13 has become an official day of observance of the life and legacy of the late king, just as October 23, the day on which his grandfather King Chulalongkorn the Great died in 1910 has also long been a national day for over a century.

With the deep grieving over King Bhumibol’s death in 2016 still fresh in peoples’ hearts and minds, the day was a solemn one. Nightlife was nearly non-existent, and many shops closed as people chose to spend time with family and loved ones, or do good deeds or perform public service as a way to show respect for the late king.

On social media, millions of Thais posted photos of King Bhumibol, and the phrases “Forever In Our Hearts” and “Still on My Mind,” which are the titles of songs he composed. Each person found their own way to commemorate the man many referred to as “father,” because they regarded him as the Father of the Nation.

King Bhumibol’s birthday on December 5 will still be observed as Father’s Day in Thailand. He was born on that date in 1927 in a Massachusetts hospital, the only king ever born in the United States of America.

Sanam Luang, the Royal Field in front of the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, was described as a “sea of yellow.” Yellow is associated with King Bhumibol and his son and current King Maha Vajiralongkorn because that is the astrological color for Monday, the day of the week both monarchs were born.

Thais wear yellow to show their devotion to the king, and tens of thousands of Thais flocked to Sanam Luang for ceremonies to commemorate King Bhumibol’s 70 years on the throne.

He was the longest-reigning monarch in the world at the time of his passing at age 89, but his subjects’ devotion to him had less to do with longevity than his long years of service to them, working to improve their lives, especially the poorest and most marginalized among them.

At the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha led ministers and government officials in an alms-giving ceremony to 890 Buddhist monks and novices to mark the day.