Mourning in Bangkok
Sadly, while staying in Bangkok the King who has been on the throne for 70 years has died after a long time of ill health. I have already done one blog post about waiting for the King to go from the hospital to the Grand Palace but I feel I have to write another to remind myself if not anyone else how unifying a moment this is. The country will probably be in mourning for a whole year, which means they have to display outward signs of mourning by wearing black or white.
The whole of Thailand are descending on Bangkok and especially the Grand Place, many, many people have set up home there, sleeping on the grass, most of them don’t need tents it’s nice enough to sleep outside, but not very comfortable. I have been told that 80 year old ladies and gents are traveling down to show their respects to the king and also sleeping on the ground outside the palace and this is early days, it’s only day 3 after his death and the area around the palace tonight was absolute bedlam.
There was some kind of ceremony tonight at the Palace and I got to the intersection as the official cars were leaving, the traffic had all been stopped, on a very busy intersection with each road having about 5 or 6 lanes each, all full of trucks, buses, cars, taxis, tuk tuks and loads and loads of motor scooters. There was a huge military presence organising the traffic, but once all the official cars had passed us, which took a long time because there were about 70 cars and vans, the police had loud speakers and told everyone to cross the road quick before all the traffic starts proper, so it was a mad scramble between pedestrians, scooters, cars and the rest to carry on with their journey.
The mourning has turned into a kind of festival, I don’t mean that disrespectfully but there is quite a jovial atmosphere with everyone coming together for a common purpose, as humans I think we are conditioned to pull together as one when tragedy happens in our lives and the people of Bangkok are certainly coming together for this tragedy, they totally revere their king. Apparently he has done so much to unify the country during his reign, the people all love him.
There is free food for everyone, free drinks but no alcohol, the sale of alcohol stopped on Friday and nothing has been sold in the shops since, everyone is just sitting around enjoying each other’s company, while three huge screens at Sanam Luang show footage of the King’s life.
While the traffic was on stop and the royal cars were passing we were asked by the military to all sit down in order to be lower than the Royalty which means the Crown Prince must have been in one of the cars.
I stayed around Sanam Luang for a little while mingling with the Thai people and watching everything, the military and police have a huge job trying to control the traffic because everyone wants to be around the palace to give their respects to the King and they bring garlands of flowers, which the flower market are up all night preparing and also food gifts which they offer in respect of his death which is part of the Buddhism faith, so I was told by the girls I met.
The city is working overtime to ensure the time of mourning is comfortable for all, which means everyone is supporting each other and taking part in all the garland making, the preparing of the food, the handing out of water, food, sweets etc.
This could all go on definitely for the next 50 days, possibly longer. Everyone must wear black or white during this time and will probably carry on beyond that.
I met a lovely man today at the monument for the student uprising, who told me that the military junta kicked out the government 20 years ago and now rule, they keep the economy low by ruling the people and not allowing advancement, they have told the people that during the period of mourning they must not smile either. He did say he found this a bit ridiculous and he laughed when he said if he sees a military he puts on a sad face till they have passed.