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Never has black been such poignant a colour as tens of thousands of loyal and grieving Thai subjects descended on Wat Plai Laem temple on Koh Samui today to mourn the passing of the late King Rama IX.
The main ring road around Samui was nose to tail traffic on the way to the temple as every mode of transport available; cars, scooters, songthaews and taxis, were crammed to the brim with islanders making the heart rending journey to join in with family and friends in saying a final farewell to their King after what has been a year long official mourning period throughout Thailand. Since the King’s passing on the thirteenth of October last year over twelve million people, Thais and foreigners alike, have visited his coffin which has been on display at the Grand Palace.
Accompanied by the baleful intonations of the temple monks, the teeming crowd of mourners slowly and respectfully made their way to the Wat’s cremation edifice, where they could at last pay their respects to a man that many Thai’s lovingly called father. With King Bhumibols reign having lasted an unprecedented seven decades, the world’s longest reigning monarch, a large majority of Thais have only known this man as their king. There is a genuine and very real feeling of adoration for this exceptionally well loved head of state whom many revere as a demigod and this outpouring of love was clearly evident today as, under a blistering sun, many of the mourners prostrated themselves on the ground with cries of grief and sorrow, inconsolable at what is so often considerd a very personal loss, such was the manner in which the King was taken into the hearts of his subjects.
As the triple line of mourners progressed with reverent heads bowed, the occasional wail of unbridled grief shook one to the core, the piercing intensity cutting like a sabre through the otherwise sombre atmosphere, volunteers from the island’s Boy Scout brigade and even Police officials were to be seen passing amongst the crowd offering out cold bottles of water to those in need.
The future of the monarchy is assured by King Bhumibol’s son, Vajiralonkorn, who will be crowned King Rama X in the coronation ceremony to be held this December at the Royal Palace. In today’s fast paced, information overloaded society, one wonders how the Thai people will adjust to their new monarch as in the non-social media past it was undoubtably much easier to venerate and worship an almost myhtical figure. Whatever the future holds, one thing remains certain, King Bhumibol Adulyadej will remain treasured in the hearts of his people for all time as an exceptionally kind, sympathetic and caring monarch who ruled his country with simple majesty.