BANGKOK – Week-long religious ceremonies began on Wednesday in Bangkok ahead of the Royal cremation ceremony for late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej scheduled on Thursday.
The capital was prepared with an extensive scale of roadblocks and checkpoints across the city, particularly in the inner area of the historic Rattanakosin Island, a place where Bangkok was founded in 1782, with the Grand Palace as the center.
A religious ceremony within the walls of the Grand Palace, where the late King’s body has been lying in state since his death on Oct. 13, 2016, on Wednesday afternoon will be the first in a series of ceremonies to follow.
The funeral procession will begin on Thursday at 7:00 am as thousands of armed forces personnel will pull the 14-ton Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot, or the Great Victory Royal Chariot, built in 1795 to carry the urns of kings, queens and members of the Chakri Dynasty ever since, as it carries the urn of King Bhumibol, Rama IX, to be placed in the crematorium, before the cremation staged in the evening at the Sanam Luang ground, across from the Grand Palace.
Performances on three stages at Sanam Luang are scheduled in the evening hours after the cremation and will continue throughout the night as part of the traditional mourning period.
Further religious ceremonies for the late King’s ashes will be conducted between Oct. 27-29.
During this time, over 50 roads in the inner area of Rattanakosin Island will be blocked off for traffic.
Mourners who wish to attend the royal cremation ceremony must pass through one of the nine checkpoints and walk to the ceremonial area.
Authorities have allowed mourners to access the area from 5:00 am Wednesday, after a shutdown on Tuesday night for security, and many have vowed not to leave the spot until after the cremation on Thursday.
Over 250,000 people were expected to access the Rattanakosin Island area, while 40,000 would gain spots to watch the funeral procession closely in the area around the Grand Palace, according to the Thai government.
Mourners were advised to wear black and behave solemnly.
Temples and schools across Bangkok have opened for people traveling from other provinces of the country to stay. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration expects them to be able to house around 30,000 people over its nearly 200 temporary accommodations.
Oct. 26 is declared a national holiday, with most public places closed including numerous shopping malls and offices. The skytrain (elevated rail) and underground train services in Bangkok are operating free of charge from 6:00 am to 2:00 am on both Wednesday and Thursday. There will also be no fee charged on tollways across and around Bangkok and its vicinity.