Bangkok (AP) – Thais marked one year since the death of HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej with solemn ceremonies and acts of personal devotion Friday before an elaborate five-day funeral later this month.
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Official commemorations were organized at Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital, where he died, and at Government House and the ornate royal palace. But many ordinary people showed their respects on the streets, at neighborhood markets and temples, kneeling before orange-robed monks to perform a Buddhist merit-making ritual.
“You see his achievements on TV sometimes, but now that he has passed we are learning about so many other things he has done for the country,” said Panicha Nuapho, 66, who traveled from a province 330 kilometers (205 miles) north of Bangkok to pay respects at Siriraj Hospital. “This is my final send-off,” she said, weeping.
Outside the hospital, mourners clad in black offered alms to a long procession of Buddhist monks and several thousand packed its grounds, joining nurses and doctors in prayers as monks chanted over loudspeakers.
HM the late King’s death at age 88 after a reign of seven decades sparked a national outpouring of grief and a year of mourning that will culminate with his cremation on Oct. 26. More than 12 million people, or nearly a fifth of Thailand’s population, have visited the palace throne hall where HM the late King’s body has been kept for the past year.
HM the late King was genuinely adored for his charitable work, personal modesty and as a symbol of stability in a nation frequently rocked by political turmoil.
Thailand’s military government asked the public to observe 89 seconds of silence Friday at 3.52 p.m., marking the official time of Bhumibol’s death in what Thai culture emphasizes was his 89th year.
At the same time, nine elephants powdered an auspicious white kneeled with their handlers in His memory in the ancient royal capital Ayutthaya outside of Bangkok.
His son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, knelt before a portrait of HM the late King and Queen Sirikit at Dusit Palace and presided over merit-making ceremonies on Friday and Saturday. Many people flocked to the palace area and left flowers beneath a giant portrait HM the late King.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha oversaw ceremonies at Government House.