Thailand expects 250,000 to attend late king’s cremation

BANGKOK: A quarter of a million people are expected to descend on the Thai capital for an elaborate cremation ceremony planned for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej next month, a junta leader said Friday.

The kingdom has been prepping for the event since Bhumibol died at the age of 88 in October, triggering an outpouring of grief in a nation where the charismatic leader commanded a cult-like following.

Royal artists have been working around the clock to erect an enormous funeral pyre outside Bangkok’s Grand palace, complete with towering spires and covered in sculptures of mythical beasts.

Spanning four days from October 25-29, the cremation event will be a spectacular and costly affair infused with Buddhist ceremonies, cultural performances and ancient palace rituals that will send Bhumibol’s spirit off to the afterlife.

“We expect around 250,000 people to attend this royal ceremony,” deputy junta leader Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters on Friday, adding that replicas of the funeral pyre would be set up around Bangkok to help absorb the crowds.

Some 70,000 security officers will be deployed to keep the peace, he added.

Since the monarch’s death, tens of thousands of black-clad mourners have been queueing daily to visit the throne hall where Bhumibol’s body is lying in state.

In total, more than 11 million Thais from around the country have paid their respects before the body over the past year, according to palace figures.

Bhumibol’s successor, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to hold his coronation after the cremation but no date has been set.

The Great Victory Royal Chariot or Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot, will be used to carry the body and the royal urn of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The royal cremation of King Bhumibol is scheduled for 26 October 2017, and the funeral will consist of a five-day rites ceremony. King Bhumibol died at the age of 88 on 13 October 2016 after 70 years on the throne.

TOP PHOTO: Officers of the Thai Army and royal officials participate in a training exercise to pull a royal funeral chariot vehicle, which will be used in the procession for the royal funeral pyre of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s cremation ceremony, at the 11th Infantry Regiment King’ Guard in Bangkok, Thailand, 28 September 2017.

The funeral will consist of a five-day rites ceremony. King Bhumibol died at the age of 88 in Siriraj hospital on 13 October 2016.