It is difficult to communicate to the outside world all the ways that the Thai people are endeavoring to express their love and respect for His Majesty Bhumipol Adulyadej, Rama IX, who passed away one month ago on October 13, 2016. Black and white bunting drapes every significant building in the city of Bangkok. Large LED billboards, formerly used for advertising, show photographs of the late King and are coupled with quotes from his speeches or his books. Songs have been written about him that play for hours on the radio. Videos of his life, his many projects, his family, royal ceremonies he participated in during his life, visits from the heads of state of other nations, and the practice of his faith have played nonstop on all the major Thai television channels during this past month. Some places of remembrance even have tables with books where mourners can express their thoughts. (See additional photos at the end of this blog post.)
The Thai people have struggled to find new ways to express their grief and their respect. At one of the Christian schools in Northern Thailand, Prince Royal’s College, the faculty, staff and students gathered on the soccer field to form a black-bordered image of the Thai number 9 (for King Rama IX) and the initials of their school. There have been an infinite variety of these kinds of demonstrations of respect for the late King. In Chiang Mai, thousands of mourners turned out to spell the name of their city in lights at a candlelight vigil for the King.
Thousands of Thai people have gone to the Grand Palace in Bangkok to demonstrate their love and respect before the golden casket that holds the body of the late King. Mourners stood in long lines for hours in the hot sun or the pouring rain. Initially, 30,000 to 40,000 people came each day, but the Grand Palace was unable to accommodate that number. There is now a website where people can receive a number that tells them what day and what time they will be able to enter and the government has limited the numbers to 10,000 per day. Food and water are provided for the mourners and free transportation is being provided from major transportation hubs to the Royal Parade Ground next to the Grand Palace.
Finally, Thai artists have experimented with different ways to demonstrate their love and respect that range from amazing to adorable. In this photo, the iconic silhouette of the late King can be seen against a cloudy sky (He is remembered for using chemicals to create rain during a drought) that forms the outline of the Thai number 9 (King Rama IX). In another, the keys of a computer have been moved around to show the phrase “Love the King 9” on the keyboard. There are countless black t-shirts with just the Thai number 9 on them in gold, white or gray. There are also black ribbons and armbands for those who cannot afford to purchase black clothing. Finally, there are many billboards that simply show a black ribbon and have the word “Do Good for Your Father,” for the King of Thailand is called the Father of his people. Daily, I am amazed at how many different ways the Thai people have found to show their love and respect for their late King.