Thailand prepares for once-in-a-lifetime Royal Funeral

Originally aired on Channel NewsAsia on October 24, 2017

Today is the beginning of a five day ritual of Thailand's late King Bhumibol royal funeral. The cremation of the body will take place on Thursday, October 26th. In my report for Channel NewsAsia, we look at how Thais are preparing for the once-in-a-lifetime event and how they will remember their late monarch.

TRANSCRIPT

A funeral for a king cannot be left to chance.

That’s why since the beginning of this month, thousands of people have gone tirelessly through their paces to ensure the Royal Cremation Ceremony for Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej goes off without a hitch.

At the final dress rehearsal on Saturday, tens of thousands of spectators were at the Grand Palace to witness the procession.

Most Thais will be witnessing a King’s funeral for the first time in their lives.

Just the rehearsal alone left many grappling with their emotions, including the normally stern Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

An army of volunteers is training for the big day to manage the quarter of a million mourners expected to enter the grounds of the Grand Palace.

The volunteers say by helping out here, it’s their way to pay back the sacrifices King Bhumibol made for his subjects during his long reign.

"I think that everyone want to come into this area but its space is quite limited. As a volunteer, I will show my respects through my work,” says one volunteer.

"I’ve been doing volunteer works since the beginning. I’m glad that I can re-pay my gratitude for father (the King Bhumibol)," expresses another one.

“I want to do a good deeds for the king. The late king Bhumibol was a great role model for tirelessly doing good deeds,” proclaims a female volunteer.

SAKSITH SAIYASOMBUT; Bangkok, Thailand:
"Tributes to the late monarch have sprung up everywhere across the country, like this elaborate display at the Pak Khlong Talad, Bangkok's biggest flower market.

The passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the royal transition marks a watershed moment for the Thai people. The late king was on the throne for 70 years, long enough for people to remember only this one king and long enough to have built a legacy, which will last long into the future."

The people of Thailand revere their late king.

"I remember him all my life and I’ve seen that His Majesty has been caring about every citizen," remembers one older woman.

"His Majesty has made sacrfices all his life. All his 70 years on the throne, he pledged to look after the country," says a man.

"Deep inside, I’m sad that he is gone. But on the other hand, every Thai is willing to do (good deeds) for His Majesty and to follow his example," says a woman.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej will be cremated in a grand, purpose-built funeral pyre in front of the Grand Palace on Thursday.

His ashes will be enshrined at two nearby Buddhist temples, marking the end of a year-long mourning period.

Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok