Largest memorial held outside Bangkok
More than 100,000 Thais and foreigners from near and far shed tears and paid last respects to HM the late King along Pattaya Beach Road, Central Road, Pattaya Bay, and all nearby side sois in the largest memorial held outside Bangkok for the late monarch.
The Nov. 19 “76 Million Hearts Mourn Our Father” event drew people from both government and the private sector, rich and poor, Thai and foreign. They all sang, lit candles and cried over the October 13 passing of the only King most Thais have ever known.
Mother Nature seemed to share the emotion of the day, pouring out heavy rain for two hours. But heaven’s tears couldn’t daunt the mourners from paying homage to HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej 37 days after his passing.
This was a gathering never seen before in Pattaya, a multitude of souls united in spirit and in dress, oblivious to nationality or religion or class. With great passion for His Majesty’s tireless dedication to the country, the memorial was brought to the public by civic groups and Pattaya City Hall.
Roads were closed early in the afternoon and Beach Road was envisioned as a long walking street with a variety of booths offering food, drink and more. But as the crowd swelled to proportions even beyond the expectations of organizers, it became a still ocean of mourners, with little room to move, let alone stroll.
As if on cue, the rain began to ease as the program began at 5 p.m., when participants took the stage at the Beach Road intersection with Central Road against a backdrop of more than 1,000 boats and jet skis in Pattaya Bay. The watercraft moved to create a massive heart and Thai number 9 to honor King Rama IX.
Images of the formation were captured by aerial drones and from high-rise towers while people on the ground watched the maneuver on giant video screens.
On land, disabled children from the Father Ray Foundation and local students in black and white made their own No. 9 before the national anthem played at 6 p.m.
Peter Cummins, writer, historian and sailor spoke about his meetings and sailing experiences with His Majesty the King.
The special correspondent for the Pattaya Mail said he was honored by part of the historic commemoration and part of outpouring of love, loyalty gratitude and grief.
Cummins was first asked about his personal references to “my King” and to explain His Majesty’s endearing fraternity with the Thai people.
He explained that he never felt tied to his own small town in Australia, but when he came to Thailand to join the United Nations, “I was invited by HM the King to go sailing at the Klai Kangwol Palace. I sailed, met with the King and Queen and with their gracious acceptance, after long conversations, I had met ‘my King’ and found my ‘home’.”
Asked what he might say to the late monarch had he had a chance to meet him once more, the writer and historian said he would thank him “for allowing me the honor of spending half of my life in Thailand, enjoying the same goodness and fair administration of your just rule and care for even the least of your subjects.”
Cummins noted that the U.N. recognized the remarkable life of His Majesty the King. In a first-ever interlude at the ongoing U.N. General Assembly, a minute of silence was observed. As the president of the 71st Assembly, Peter Thompson said, “The late King was revered by his people and admired throughout the world, for his grace, dignity and humility.”
“I feel I, too, have been a recipient of His Majesty’s kindness and benevolence and like the Thai people, I will always have the legacy of the King to guide me, on land and sea,” Cummins said.
Children led the crowd in singing ‘Tonmai Kong Por’ (Father’s Tree) after which a video presentation of the Royal funeral procession on 14 October 2016 was shown on screen while the poem ‘King of King’s was recited. National artists ‘Mo Lam’ Chaweewan Dumnern and ‘Khaen Master’ Acharn Ohn Khaenkhiaw performed ‘Lam Long’ (traditional northeastern song) to mourn the passing of the King. The crowd was visibly moved by the stories, bringing home the point for non-Thais that HM the King’s death sparked unfathomable grief and sadness in many Thais.
The gravity of the evening was felt most as the massive crowds stood silent for 89 seconds. The silence was broken by the singing of “The Father of Thailand”, or “Nai Luang Kong Pandin”, by blind children from the Redemptorist School for the Blind.
One of the most touching parts for many was the brightly lit replica of the golden Suwannahong ‘royal barge’ containing photos of HM the Late King, which floated through the crowd whilst Professor Tanis Sriglindee played HM the King’s royal composition ‘The Impossible Dream’ on his ‘Klui’ – the Traditional Thai Flute.
Chonburi Governor Pakarathon Tienchai read a message expressing grief and sadness and led the gathering in taking the oath of allegiance, pledging their loyalty and obedience to His Majesty the King’s advice and teachings and to dedicate our lives in the service of our motherland.
“It has been a very emotional period for Thai people, but also a month where people have reminisced about what our Father left us with his tireless efforts and dedication to the people,” Governor Pakarathorn said of the past five-plus weeks.
“Over his 70-year reign, the people of Thailand got to witness a man who was devoted to his people and aimed for the well-being of all citizens through various projects and his royal works. For the sake of everybody, our Father worked tirelessly, with no days off and he carried on, regardless of health problems or sickness.
“There is nothing that can compare to the unconditional love that our Father gave us and his legacy will live on for eternity,” the governor said.
Mana Yaprakham, chairman of the Pattaya Cultural Council, said the panel recently joined with local artists to create paintings and drawings of HM the King and his 4,000 royal projects. The artwork will be displayed on Father’s Day, Dec. 5, at Central Festival Pattaya Beach. The pieces will be both auctioned and put out for retail sale with proceeds going to the Chai Pattana Foundation charity for the underprivileged.
Pattaya itself has come together to “do good for Dad” by offering free clothing, taxi rides, food and services, all in honor of HM the King, trying to follow the example he set for seven decades.
The charitable acts by the common man are what His Majesty often extolled, including in his New Year’s address on Dec. 31, 1976.
“There are always obstacles, but working together is the true key to success, regardless of what the goal is,” HM the King said. “(I) believe that the knowledge of Thais, working together as one will achieve the most of things which will eventually lead to civilization and stability for the future.
“The best way to help each other is join hands and minds; join hearts and make critical decisions without self-gain or conflict involved. Everybody has a position and a role to play as to giving contributing to anything by doing their best in their respected positions with their abilities and knowledge. We all must be honest, must forgive and must unite for anything to be successful. This way our country will see development in no time.
I call upon the power of the Sacred Triple Gems and all that is holy may protect you all from harm, and I wish you all the best of health, a strong will and strive forward to build our country together. I wish you all the strength and courage needed to execute all goals and ambitions.”