Thais in Malaysia prepare for King Bhumibol's final farewell

IPOH - Distance is not a barrier to Thais living here - they are equally dedicated as those back home in saying goodbye to their late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

At 4pm today, some 1,000 Thai natives in the city are expected to turn up for a religious ceremony at the Wat Siribunyamagaram Siamese Temple on Jalan Raja Dihilir to pay their last respects.

The ceremony is going to be held at the same time as King Bhumibol's Royal Cremation ceremony in Bangkok.

Thai volunteer Rattiya Bedi, who has been living here for two decades, said they had prepared around 400 artificial dok mai chan (funeral cremation flowers) to be sent to the Thai capital.

"The real flowers can only be made from the mai chan (kalamet tree) which isn't available here, so we have used our own materials to craft the flowers to look exactly like the original. Others living in Negri Sembilan, Johor, Sarawak, Kedah, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan will also deliver these flowers to the Thai Embassy to be cremated alongside our late king," she said in an interview.

Rattiya (centre) and other volunteers making preparations for Bhumipol's funeral prayers at Wat Siribunyamagaram temple in Ipoh.Photo: The Star/Asia News Network

Rattiya, 41, was seen arranging an altar for the late king with other volunteers and devotees, using layers of black and white cloth to make it funeral-appropriate.

"He's the greatest king anybody could ask for.

"He has done so much for the Thais. He even sacrificed his personal wealth to help build bridges and roads to develop rural areas in the country," Rattiya said, adding that she regretted not being able to return to her hometown in Bangkok for the ceremony.

Another volunteer, Datchanee Kinlek, 43, had a hard time saying goodbye to a man she knew as the "father of all Thais".

"Since I was born, I kept hearing of the good deeds he has done for our people. I can't explain this deep love we have for him. We are proud to have had a great king," she said.

Homemaker Sakhon Saleesongsom put on a black ribbon pin to mourn her beloved king.

The 49-year-old from Chiang Rai still fastens the pin to her clothes, in a daily expression of devotion.

"It was very heart-wrenching and I still can't believe one year has passed by so quickly," said Sakhon, who has lived in Malaysia for 30 years.

Project manager Justin Ng is now in Thailand to attend the ceremony with his wife Laddapron Kongied.

He spent six months working in Thailand in 2010 and since then, has grown fond of the people there.

"I came to understand how much Thais love and respect their king," he said.

Boutique owner Toi See Luon chose to travel to Thailand to be part of the "once-in-a-lifetime event".

"The Thais are so deeply steeped in tradition. I've always been fascinated with the royal family there," said the 58-year-old.

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