Thais flock to Grand Palace to offer New Year wishes to King

PHOTO: The Nation

LONG queues formed at the Grand Palace yesterday as many people wrote New Year messages offering their best wishes to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

On the first day of the New Year, members of the public and state officials waited their turn to write messages inside the compound.

Visitors included Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his wife Naraporn, National Legislative Assembly (NLA) President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, and other members of Cabinet and the NLA.

They were joined by Cabinet ministers, representatives from political parties, senior bureaucrats, military commanders, foreign diplomats and other dignitaries, including former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Mourners file into Grand Palace to pay respects to late Thai king

  • Tens of thousands of Thais streamed into Bangkok's Grand Palace on Saturday (Oct 29) as the public was granted its first chance to enter the throne hall where late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is lying in state.
  • For the past two weeks, crowds have massed outside the Grand Palace, a compound of shimmering temples and pavilions in Bangkok's old quarter, to pay tribute before a portrait of the monarch.
  • But Saturday was the first time the public has been allowed to enter the decorated throne hall, where he is lying in a coffin behind a gilded urn."I have been waiting here since 1am," said Mr Saman Daoruang, an 84-year-old sitting in a thousands-long queue that snaked around a large field outside the palace.
  • The authorities have said that 10,000 mourners will be permitted to enter the throne hall per day, in small batches.
  • Like many in the crowd, Mr Saman has been sleeping in a tent on the grassy parade grounds since he arrived in Bangkok by train from northern Nakhon Sawan province.
  • "But I haven't been able to sleep because I was so thrilled and proud to come here," he told AFP, clutching several portraits of the monarch.
  • King Bhumibol, who died at 88 two weeks ago, was adored by many of his subjects and seen as an anchor of stability in a kingdom rocked by turbulent politics.
  • His passing has thrust the country into a year of official mourning, with most Thais wearing only black and white since his death and TV channels devoting hours of airtime to footage from his 70-year reign.
  • Thailand's arch-royalist military government, which came to power in a 2014 coup, has encouraged mass displays of devotion for the late King and helped arrange a flurry of free bus, train and boat rides to move mourners to the capital.
  • It has also stepped up its enforcement of lese majeste - which punishes criticism of the monarchy with up to 15 years in prison per offence.
  • Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, has asked to delay his proclamation as king in order to grieve with the nation, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who has presided over the transition.
  • The regime has not provided a clear timeline for when the Prince will formally ascend the throne.

The Grand Palace was open to welcome well-wishers from 7.30am to 4.30pm.

Security measures were strict as usual yesterday with visitors being asked to produce ID cards and surrender their bags for examination.

The Grand Palace was not open for people to pay homage before the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Royal Urn, but the Throne Hall reopens today.

Mass display of grief on late Thai king's birthday

  • Thousands of Thais gathered on a Bangkok bridge named after the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej on what would have been his birthday Monday, the latest organised mass display of grief in a divided nation adjusting to life without him.
  • For much of his remarkable seven decade reign, Bhumibol's 5 December birthday was an auspicious moment for Thais with the monarch often delivering key speeches offering social and sometimes distinctly political guidance in a nation buffeted by years of coups and instability.
  • Stricken with ill health in the last decade of his life, he missed his last two birthday appearances before his death aged 88 on 13 October.
  • His passing has plunged Thailand into a year of mourning, heavily orchestrated by an arch-royalist junta who seized power two years ago, and has removed a key pillar of stability.
  • "I still feel lonely and empty as we don't have him anymore," a visibly moved Yaowana Kaewpud, one of the mourners on the bridge, told AFP.
  • The 47-year-old and her daughters had travelled from the outskirts of Bangkok to attend Monday's dawn ceremony, which featured black-clad mourners giving alms to 999 monks.
  • Bhumibol was widely revered as a calming constant and afforded a near god-like status among many Thais through his many years criss-crossing the nation, a reputation further burnished via a slick palace propaganda machine.
  • He was also shielded from any criticism or scrutiny inside the kingdom by a strict lese majeste law forcing subjects and the media to heavily self-censor.
  • His passing is a delicate transition both for the monarchy and its backers in the military elite.
  • Bhumibol forged a strong alliance with Thailand's coup-prone generals, who often used perceived threats against the monarchy to seize power in putsches that were almost always recognised by the king.
  • His reign saw breakneck development but also entrenched disparity between a Bangkok-centric elite and the rural poor.
  • In the last ten years Thailand has been torn apart by competing political factions representing those two sides.
  • While Bhumibol was widely revered, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has not yet achieved the same level of popularity.
  • The 64-year-old prince ascended the throne last Thursday after a seven week hiatus in which he asked to be allowed time to mourn his father.
  • He is comparatively unknown to ordinary Thais, choosing to spend much of his time outside the kingdom and has not given an interview for years.
  • While critical reporting on Vajiralongkorn is curbed, most Thais are aware of his colourful lifestyle, his three marriages and some of the uncensored overseas articles that have been published about him, largely thanks to social media.
  • But forwarding such articles can be perilous.
  • On Sunday, prominent dissident Jatupat Boonpattararaksa was arrested for lese majeste for posting a profile by the BBC's Thai language service on the new monarch on Facebook.
  • He faces up to fifteen years in jail if convicted.

At royal palaces in various provinces, residents as well as tourists were also allowed to sign |messages and extend New Year's wishes celebrating the holiday and paying respects to the monarchy.

Permission was granted for members of the public to enter the Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin, Thaksin Ratchaniwet Palace in Narathiwat and Phupan Ratchaniwet Palace in Sakhon Nakhon.

In Hua Hin, a district of Prachuap Khiri Khan, former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and |Mayor Nopporn Wuthikul were among the well-wishers.

Amateur illustrators and designers show their love for Thai King on social media

  • Among the sea of images created in memory of His Majesty are those of a Facebook group of 70,000-plus amateur illustrators and designers who are continuously posting their artistic creations of various techniques, both from actual photographs and from their imagination.
  • Amateur graphic designer, Sumana Sumanakul, also grew up seeing His Majesty travelling around the country with a camera. Her simple digital sketch in black-and-white captures his perseverance that earned him the loving title “Father of the Nation”.
  • Animation artist and graphic designer Tossapon “Prince” Kongpipattanakarn has chosen to remember the King in a brighter, light-hearted way
  • Jay The Rabbit, a social media character known for his sassy observations, offers his condolences with a simple but heartfelt image of complete darkness with a ray of light shining down from the sky, alluding to His Majesty’s ascension to heaven.
  • Illustrator Priyasri Promchinda, also known as Naamnoi, was specially touched by the Monarch’s affection for Khun Thong Daeng, the adopted mongrel that gratefully returned HM’s kindness.
  • Salinee Rattanachaisit, founder of CyranoDesign, created the work only hours before His Majesty’s passing. “When I think of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, I often picture him with a camera strapped around his neck and a big map in hand, venturing out to rural parts of Thailand for the betterment of his people. It turns out this is the last art work of His Majesty I created before the end of his long, illustrious reign.”
  • Piangkhwuan Kumrune, an aspiring illustrator known for her online gallery and shop, Kamijn, drew inspiration from HM King Bhumibol. “His tireless efforts, his hard work and his devotion have kept me inspired and motivated to create my works,” she says.