Thailand Prepares for Cremation of Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej

The Kingdom of Thailand will begin the five-day royal cremation ceremony next month for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose reign lasted seven decades.

The country’s military government has budgeted 3 billion-baht ($91 million) for the funeral.

Huge crowds are expected near a vast crematorium being constructed at Sanam Luang, a park in the heart of Bangkok close to the Grand Palace. The cremation itself is scheduled for Oct. 26. Thais believe the deceased monarch will ascend to heaven.

An ornate palanquin, seen through a window in Bangkok on Friday, is prepared for the royal funeral. Bhumibol died on Oct. 13 at age 88. The monarch, who took the throne in 1946, had come to symbolize continuity. During his reign, the country had more than two dozen prime ministers and 10 military coups.

Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

The Bangkok National Museum has been turned into a site of funereal preparations. Bhumibol was the world’s longest-reigning monarch at the time of his death. He was the ninth king in the two-century-old Chakri Dynasty, one of the world’s wealthiest monarchies.

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Artisans work on a gold chariot for the funeral procession. Artisans and craftsmen are putting together hundreds of sculptures of deities, angels and mythical animals for the ceremony. The royal family and foreign dignitaries will watch proceedings from a pavilion built next to the crematorium. The ornately decorated pavilion can house 2,400 people.

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The restored golden chariot will carry the royal urn to the 40-story high crematorium constructed at Sanam Luang. Thailand moved forward from a mainly agrarian society into Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy during Bhumibol’s time on the throne. Now, the key drivers of the economy are exports, such as cars and food, and tourism.

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A view of the ceremonial ground at Sanam Luang, a park in the heart of Bangkok near the Grand Palace.

Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

A worker wears a pin with a picture of the king at Sanam Luang ceremonial ground.

Bhumibol’s name means “Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power.” Thailand has been ruled by a military government since its most recent coup in May 2014. The nation may return to democracy next year, though a date for elections hasn't been announced.

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Ongoing construction and preparations at Sanam Luang. The five-day cremation process begins Oct. 25, when a Buddhist religious ceremony is scheduled for the late afternoon. Bhumibol’s body will then be moved to the crematorium in a coffin overnight.

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Thai citizens wait to pay their respects at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on Friday. The king’s picture is on display in Thai homes, businesses and public spaces as a mark of reverence.

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A small shrine to the king sits on a table at the Fine Arts Department in Bangkok. A ceremonial royal urn will be moved to the crematorium at 7 a.m. on Oct. 26, the second day. Rituals will commence at about 5:30 p.m., culminating with the cremation at 10 p.m.

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Artists work on decorative items for the king’s cremation. On Oct. 29, the final day of the cremation process, Bhumibol’s ashes will be enshrined at two temples in the Thai capital: Wat Ratchabophit and Wat Bovoranives.

Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

Public discussion of Thailand’s monarchy is curbed under the country’s lese majeste code, laws that can be invoked against anyone accused of defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir apparent or regent. Offenders can receive jail sentences of up to 15 years.

Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

A statue of the king at the Fine Arts Department. Bhumibol was born Dec. 5, 1927, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his father, Prince Mahidol, was studying medicine at Harvard University. Bhumibol was survived by his wife Queen Sirikit. His only son, Maha Vajiralongkorn, succeeded to the throne. His coronation will be held at some point after the cremation.

 

Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg