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A HUGE CROWD of black-clad citizens yesterday watched the first rehearsal of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Royal Cremation procession with heartbreak and tears.
Many had journeyed from far-away provinces to catch a glimpse of the magnificent royal procession with their own eyes.
People from around the country, many of them elderly, gathered along the footpath of Rajdamnoen Nai Avenue from early in the morning to witness the first major rehearsal of the royal procession for HM the late King Rama IX.
The much-revered King passed away at the age of 89 on October 13 last year after reigning over Thailand for seven full decades.
The rehearsal featured the procession of royal chariots and palanquins along the route designated for the real Royal Cremation to be held on October 26.
However, unlike the real ceremony, which will comprise six separate processions, the rehearsal consisted of only the first, second and third processions.
Rain at Sanam Luang in the morning did not deter the many people who travelled to the Royal Funeral ground. Despite their infirmities, many elderly and ill people insisted on waiting to see the rehearsal of the grand processions, which will transport the Royal Urn from the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall in the Grand Palace to the Royal Crematorium site at Sanam Luang.
They all said they wanted to be there to pay their last respects to their beloved King Bhumibol.
The rehearsal started at 8am, with the crowd waiting patiently to military bands, parades of soldiers and progress of the royal chariots. The rehearsal reflected the planned events for the actual ceremony, with the first procession beginning at the Throne Hall, with the Phra Yannamas Sam Lam Khan (a palanquin with three poles) carrying the Royal Urn out of the Grand Palace at Thevapirom Gate and then progressing along Maharat Road to Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm. At this point, the Royal Urn transfers to the bigger royal chariot, Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot, and the second procession starts.
According to the ceremony, the Royal Urn is then carried on Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot on to Rajdamnoen Nai Avenue and then enters the Royal Funeral ground at Sanam Luang before the Royal Urn is transferred to Rajarot Puen Yai, or the Royal Gun-carriage, for the third procession.
From this point, the Royal Urn is carried around the Royal Crematorium counter-clockwise for three times and the Royal Urn is placed inside the Royal Crematorium.
The overall length of the first three royal processions’ path is 2.48 kilometres and the rehearsal took around three hours from the Grand Palace to the Royal Crematorium at Sanam Luang.
The next two big rehearsals will be held on October 15 and 22.
An 85-year-old grandmother from Chiang Rai, Loung Kanabordi, said that she wanted to see the procession so much, as it will be her last chance to be close to the late King Rama IX.
“I have stayed overnight at Sanam Luang since Thursday to pay my last respects before the Royal Urn at the Throne Hall, and then I waited to watch the first rehearsal for the royal procession before I return home,” Loung said.
As there were many people vying for good vantage points, she was unable to see the rehearsal as she wished. However, she insisted that she will come back again for the Royal Cremation ceremony.
Bunluen, 76, also went to the rehearsal with strong spirit to say her final farewell to the late king.
She admitted that she had to sneak out of her home to come to the rehearsal: “My children would not allow me to go because of my health – but I came anyway.
“I wished to say my last farewell to the King by myself and I did it,” Bunluen said, and then she cried as Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot drove past the crowd. Authorities expect up to 300,000 people to be able to watch the processions in honour of HM the late King Bhumibol during the Royal Cremation ceremonies on October 26.