Thailand yesterday began an elaborate five-day funeral for king Bhumibol Adulyadej with his son, the new monarch, performing Buddhist merit-making rites in preparation for moving Bhumibol’s remains to a spectacular golden crematorium.
Thousands of mourners dressed entirely in black have endured tropical heat during the day and torrential rains at night as they waited to enter the historic royal quarter of Thailand’s capital to bid farewell to a monarch celebrated as a unifying symbol throughout his seven-decade reign.
The rites in the ornate throne hall of Dusit palace, where Bhumibol’s remains have been kept for the past year, began the series of ceremonies and processions that include his cremation this evening within a golden edifice representing mystical Mount Meru, where Buddhist and Hindu gods are believed to dwell.
About 250,000 people are expected to line the streets of Bangkok’s royal quarter to witness elaborate gilded processions today that are to be broadcast live.
As orange-robed monks chanted and officials in crisp white uniforms looked on, Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn knelt beneath a nine-tiered golden umbrella.
By tradition, deceased Thai royals have been kept upright in elaborate urns during official mourning, but Bhumibol, who spent much of his early life in the West, opted to be put in a coffin, with the urn placed next to it for devotional purposes.
Bhumibol’s death at age 88 on Oct. 13 last year sparked a national outpouring of grief and a year of mourning. More than 12 million people — nearly a fifth of Thailand’s population — have visited the throne hall at Dusit palace to pay respects.
One mourner, Banterng Saeuong, yesterday said that the funeral was the most important event in his lifetime.
“I am happy to stand in the rain or sit under the sun,” the 55-year-old said.
The funeral is to be an intensely somber event, but also rich in history and cultural and spiritual tradition. Mourners are allowed to prostrate when royal processions pass, but must not hold up cellphones to take photographs or selfies.
Police are trying to calm occasional flare-ups of tension among mourners. There have been accusations of line-jumping and exchanges between some who have waited hours or traveled from far away.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations