Black-clad mourners gathered en masse at sites around Bangkok on Thursday for a royal cremation ceremony a year in the making for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as “Father of the Land.”
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen was among the “guests of distinction” expected to gather for the commemoration, alongside members of royal families from more than a dozen countries, and regional leaders, including those from Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea and Laos.
Government-aligned FreshNews reported the prime minister left Phnom Penh this morning to lead a “high delegation” to Bangkok for the event, including Defense Minister Tea Bahn, which was expected to draw hundreds of thousands of mourners from across the country.
The late king led Thailand for seven decades before dying on October 13 of last year at the age of 88. The ceremony was to last until Sunday, with the actual cremation occurring tonight at 10 p.m.
More than 80 replicas of the royal crematorium were created to allow mourners to place sandalwood flowers in final respects to the king, who was genuinely revered by Thais across the country.
The Associated Press described the event as a “5-day marathon of intense solemnity” that was “as much about honoring the monarch as … about controlling a delicate political moment.”
Mourners were were warned against taking selfies as the procession passed or shouting “long live the king.”
The highly detailed funeral pyre for today’s cremation was built after one used in the cremation of King Rama VI, according to the Bangkok Post, which created an entire microsite for the occasion and is a massive nine-tier structure, made of beautifully carved banana stalks and ornately decorated with flowers.
The procession itself, featuring thousands of troops and golden carriage, was carried live on most Thai television stations.
An AP video of the morning scene showed the elaborate procession passing through the city streets.