The royal funeral for Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej won’t be held for another couple of weeks, but with work on the royal crematorium nearing completion and the restoration of the centuries old royal chariots and royal palanquins finalised, it is now time to ensure the entire ceremony goes off without a hitch.
Last Saturday saw the first rehearsal of the ceremony, which will take place over five days between October 25 and 29 and be the first funeral for a Thailand monarch since that of the late King’s brother, King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) in 1950.
The Thailand government has reportedly set aside a budget of Bt3 billion (about US$90 million) for King Bhumibol’s funeral ceremony, which will involve more than 83,000 members of Thailand’s armed forces; 78,000 of them deployed on security detail.
Over the five days of King Bhumibol’s Funeral six royal processions will take place as the late King’s body, and later ashes, are transported to and from the royal crematorium grounds in accordance with ancient custom, before being enshrined at two Buddhist temples, Wat Rajabopidh (Wat Rajabopit), and Wat Bovoranives (Wat Bowonniwet Vihara).
A total of 5,613 Thai soldiers, sailors, and airmen will take part in King Bhumibol’s funeral processions, the largest of which will take place on the royal cremation day and stretch some 890 metres (0.55 mile), and involve 2,406 troops – 216 of who will haul the Great Victory Royal Chariot (Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot).
Used 25 times since its construction in 1795 by King Rama I, the 13.7 ton (15.1 US ton), 18 metre (59ft) long, 11.2 metre (36.75ft) high, and 4.8 metre (15.75ft) wide wooden chariot was last used in 2012 for the cremation of Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda, the late King’s cousin, and will carry the royal urn containing symbolic hair and nail clippings of the dead King.
Despite Sanam Luang having a capacity to accommodate up to 300,000 people, only 47,500 people will have the opportunity of watching the funeral ceremony for the ‘people’s king’ live – 7,500 invited dignitaries who will view the ceremony from inside the royal crematorium, and 40,000 others who will undergo a 24-hour-long security lock-down leading up to the cremation.
The Thai government has enforced special measures for those in the vicinity of King Bhumibol’s funeral processions, banning the live coverage by reporters’ on social media, prohibiting media outlets from relaying any video from sources other than the government-run TVPool, and warning that mobile phone signals will be disconnected at some locations.
Media, as well as those attending King Bhumibol’s funeral are required to dress in black, while photographers and videographers are restricted to 13 designated stands along the royal procession routes.
The wearing of caps, hats, and dark eyeglasses are prohibited, as too are jeans and sports shoes. Women with long hair are requested to wear it up, while unnatural hair colouring, is not allowed. Men must have short hair, while beards, moustaches, and earrings are prohibited. Photographers are required to salute the King and members of the Royal Family before and after taking photographs of them, and are prohibited from standing to take photographs over other people’s shoulders.
The video above depicts portions of the rehearsal of the the ‘Procession of Honour’ on October 7, and the 16 different uniforms that will be worn during King Bhumibol’s funeral ceremony. Additional dress rehearsals will be on October 15 and 21, with full details of King Bhumibol’s funeral ceremony and information on minor rehearsals being updated on the kingrama9 website.
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