Land of smiles turns to tears during street procession for Thai’s late King Bhumibol

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BANGKOK: As the cortege carrying the body of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej moved through the streets of Bangkok on Friday (Oct 14), a sombre silence fell over a most subdued crowd.

It was the final journey of a most beloved leader. And save for the outbursts of sorrow from many of the mourners, it was as silent a goodbye as could be imagined.

(Photo: Jack Board)

For hours they had waited. The sun bore down on their necks and brows as they sat and kneeled on the roadside. Many used posters of King Bhumibol’s portrait as shade, protecting them from the sun. It seemed fitting.

(Photo: Jack Board)

(Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Paramedics were left frantic throughout the early afternoon, as dozens of people succumbed to the heat in just one section of the procession area alone.

This man nearly fainted from the heat while waiting for the procession – but refused to leave. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

The crowd shared water behind the shadows of the guards who lined the streets and stood motionless for hours before dropping to their knees as the body passed.

The van carrying the body of King Bhumibol Adulyadej arriving at the Royal Palace. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

The death of the 88-year-old monarch did not come as a shock to Thailand, yet still it caused a deep pain to a nation that has known only this for seven decades. Dressed in black or white, Thais have, and will continue to, come together to say thank you to a man who unified an often-divided land.

“Love live the King,” some uttered under their breath. (Photo: Jack Board)

For many years, most had feared for King Bhumibol’s health and prayed for his recovery. It is clear that the realisation of loss has not yet dawned on all.

The procession led from the King’s home for his final days – and much of his later years – Siriraj Hospital to the Royal Palace, where a body-bathing ritual was to be carried out by his son – and king in waiting – Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

(Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

The Buddhist rite will mark the start of a year-long period of national mourning.

Mourners, as the cortege of King Bhumibol passed them. (Photo: Jack Board)

The King’s body will be embalmed before cremation, and world leaders are expected to fly to Bangkok to pay their respects in the coming days.

(Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

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