Thousands of mourners queue up on last day to pay respects to late King

Originally published on Channel NewsAsia on October 5, 2017

Today is the last day where mourners can go to Grand Palace to pay their last respects to the late King Bhumipol Adulyadej. But as the deadline approaches the number of people waiting in line skyrocketed in the past few days, with tens of thousands of Thais waiting up to 8 hours in extreme cases. Here's my short Channel NewsAsia report on the mood today.

TRANSCRIPT

It is the last chance for Thais to pay their last respects to the late King Bhumipol Adulyadej and they’re certainly using that chance, as tens of thousands of Thais have come here to the Grand Palce to sit in line very patiently. And patience is what you need to bring, because the lines are stretching over several kilometers, the waiting hours can be in extreme cases be up to 8 hours some people have been staying overnight or at least since the very early morning to get their last chance to come to the Grand Palace. 

Originally, the last day was supposed to be September 30th, but amidst the masses of people that are still coming here to the Grand Palace the officials have extended to October 5th. Also, countless of volunteers have been working around the clock, handing out food and water and also in some cases providing medical attention. And that’s probably one of the reasons why people here are certainly in very good spirits. 

“I left home at 6 in the morning and came here at 8. It’s not too warm today, because it rained last night. But today it’s moving quickly,” says a young woman.

“It’s my first time here and I planned to come on the last day and I was able to clear my schedule. The organization is pretty good and pretty quick,” a young man remarks

“It is a great honor to pay the last respects to His Majesty. We are Thai citizens and we love our ‘Father’ and to pay respect to him is a great joy,” tells an older woman, with tears in her eyes.

King Bhumipol Adulyadej passed away on October 13th, 2016 after a 70 year rule on the throne. Ever since the Grand Palace has opened its doors in late October, 11.6 million people are estimated to have come by to pay their last respects to the body of the late King. But not only ordinary Thai citizens were among them, but also many foreign dignitaries as well, such as head of states and foreign ministers. 

So what happens next? We are on the final stretch of a one year mourning period and next to me, next to the lines and just outside Grand Palace, the Royal Funeral Pyre is being constructed and it’s almost finished. And just like the death of the King itself, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many Thais. A quarter million people are expected to come on October 26th, where the funeral will take place - and that is the very last chance for Thais to say goodbye to their beloved monarch.

Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok