Late Thai King's cremation

Thousands flock to Thai embassy in Singapore to pay their respects

Many of the mourners placed sandalwood flowers in front of the late King's portrait at the Royal Thai Embassy in Orchard Road yesterday. The proceedings in Bangkok were also broadcast live.
Many of the mourners placed sandalwood flowers in front of the late King's portrait at the Royal Thai Embassy in Orchard Road yesterday. The proceedings in Bangkok were also broadcast live.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Thousands of mourners visited the Royal Thai Embassy in Orchard Road yesterday to mark the death of the late Thai King.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej died on Oct 13 last year, aged 88. His body had lain in state in the Thai capital's Grand Palace since his death.

The Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore said it expected about 3,000 to 4,000 people to turn up between 10am and midnight yesterday to pay their respects.

Dressed in black, the mourners placed sandalwood flowers in front of a portrait of the late King. The flowers are traditionally used in cremation ceremonies in Thailand.

Although the embassy was supposed to open at 10am, it had to bring the opening time forward to 9.30am because queues had already formed outside the gates, its staff said.

Throughout the day, live broadcasts of the proceedings in Bangkok were being screened at the embassy in Singapore. The cremation ceremony later in the evening was also broadcast live at the embassy.

When The Straits Times visited the embassy at noon, there were a few hundred people paying their respects. About 300 volunteers were helping out, ushering people into orderly rows to pay their respects, and giving food and drinks to the mourners.

One of the volunteers was 21-year-old embassy intern Kawita Ponsree. "I felt so sad because he was like a father to the Thai people," she said.

"I chose to help out because as a Thai, I want to be part of the event and help my people."

She recalled driving to dinner with her friend on the day the King died.

"We heard the news on the radio and we cried all the way to our dinner place. The King means a lot to the Thai people. He wanted to improve living conditions for us," she said.

Another mourner, housewife Panadda Charoensuk, said she took her Singaporean husband to the palace in Bangkok last year when the King died.

"I wanted him to understand what this whole event means to us," she said tearfully. "This is our last chance to be close to someone who has done so much for us."

The 39-year-old went to the embassy to pay her respects, and then watched the proceedings online.

The Thai Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Thongchai Chasawath, said: "The King is more than a monarch to the Thais. He made a great contribution to the social and economic development of the country. It was a long reign, and we respect him a lot. This cremation is really the last day for us to remember his love for the people."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'Thousands flock to Thai embassy in Singapore to pay their respects'. Print Edition | Subscribe