Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thailand sets October date for late king’s cremation


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The funeral pyre and surrounding pavilions for the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej is seen under construction inside Sanam Luang park, in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok on April 25, 2017. The cremation of Thailand’s late monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej will take place on October 26, the junta announced on April 25, just over a year since his death plunged the kingdom into deep mourning. / AFP PHOTO / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA

The cremation of Thailand’s late king Bhumibol Adulyadej will take place on October 26, just over a year after his death plunged the country into deep mourning, the junta announced Tuesday.

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

A public holiday will be declared that day.

Cremations for senior Thai royals are huge and costly affairs but few subjects alive today will ever have witnessed one.

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 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.

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