FRIDAY, Oct 13 marked the one-year anniversary of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death. Serendipitously coincidental in timing, the skies of Bangkok burst as if tears from the heavens.
Since news of King Bhumibol’s death stunned the nation last year, the country has been sombre, quiet, and deeply respectful in mourning.
Dressed in all black, countless families congregated to Bangkok’s Royal Grand Palace, slowly walking in a melancholic unison that matched the dark colours of their outfits. In methodical, eerily quiet uniformity, thousands lined up to pay their last respects to the late King Bhumibol.
The year of mourning is almost over with the national cremation in Bangkok’s Sanam Luang district to take place on Oct 26, 2017.
“It’s already been a year—I had to come here with my family to show my final appreciation for all he has done,” says an elderly man named Dao Denyaden.
Last Friday began national remembrance services in honour of the late King. Thais from all walks of life came together to say their goodbyes to a King that was profoundly loved and revered to an almost god-like status.
Incredibly, many rural Thais, with framed portraits of the king around their necks, have undergone country-wide pilgrimages: walking hundreds of kilometres to show physically how much he meant to them.
King Bhumibol was in many ways the perfect “father” to all Thais, genuinely loved beyond compare. Reverence for the monarchy is fully widespread in Thailand, and outright discussion of the monarchy and its role in politics is stringently restricted under the country’s draconian lese majeste law.
The King was known for propelling Thailand towards economic prosperity and innovation, bringing international respect and recognition to Thailand.
He has been credited for essentially single-handedly spear-heading sustainable agriculture development and for bringing the nation into the forefront of South East Asia’s agricultural market, especially enabling more effective means of rice farming.
His vision was to create and value a sense of minimalism, through encouraging Thais to consume the least amount possible while producing enough to be self-sufficient.
Not only did he earn an adorned reputation for revolutionising sustainable agriculture in Thailand, adulation around Bhumibol stemmed from his philanthropy, humility, and as a symbol of stability in a country often plagued by political turmoil.
His son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne following his father’s death, and in a nation undergoing a dramatic final mourning period, Thai love for the monarchy, at least for now, is still very much intact.
“We loved him then, and still love him now after his death,” Denyaden uttered holding back tears.
Shortly after the processions concluded for the night, the skies opened up with record-breaking torrential rain pour that left the entire city flooded, perhaps a true symbol of the nation’s deep out crying and mourning for their beloved father.