BANGKOK: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered tighter security measures before and during the Royal Cremation of the revered late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
In total, more than 11 million Thais from around the country have paid their respects in person to their late King at the Grand Palace over the past year, according to official figures.
The premier had assigned the military, police, the National Security Council and the National Intelligence Agency to prepare the funeral security plan, months prior to the recent shooting in Las Vagas.
Deputy junta chairman General Prawit Wongsuwan said that security has been stepped up and full-scale security measures would be implemented for the funeral rites, culminating with the October 26 cremation. Due to its national importance, Oct 26 has been declared a public holiday.
Recent estimates of 250,000 mourners appear to be conservative. Many observers expect millions of mourners to gather around Sanam Luang, (the grounds for the cremation pyre) to witness the king’s farewell in a ceremony the likes of which has not been seen for generations.
Many hotels near the Grand Palace are fully booked, during 24-29 Oct, as Thais from home and abroad are expected to descend upon the metropolis in huge numbers. Traffic around the Royal site is being diverted and delays are to be expected. Hotels in the area are laying on buffets during meal times, in preparation for the expected large numbers of diners.
It’s a security headache of gigantic proportions. “This will be one of the biggest events in the world,” Gen. Prawit said. “We have to do our best in order to maintain security.”
“Some 70,000 security officers will be deployed to keep the peace”, he added.
Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Kongcheep Tantravanich, responding to questions of security, said in a recent Khaosod newspaper interview, “If there are attempts to disrupt the royal funeral, or do something to prevent things from going smoothly – we are prepared.”