A few days ago, I was in Thailand, a land fondly known to its people as “The Land of Smiles”. But quite surprisingly, this country of smile and joy was undergoing the feeling of great loss, pain and collective numbness.
For their “Great Father”, their beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away on 13th October 2016. Otherwise often associated with the bright colors and busy life; however, on October 14 and 15 Thais were seen predominantly dressed in black and were mourning.
The people stood in front of shopping centers watching up at the big digital screens that broadcasted the LIVE event of the King’s body being taken from Siriraj Hospital in a motorcade to the Grand Palace. I could spot many people openly weeping and wailing.
Workers and salespersons in the malls put on the TV sets and were seen wiping their tears with their handkerchiefs. On the streets, some people were bowing down in front of the portraits of the revered King and as they offered prayers lighting incense sticks they cried.
The Thais mourned the loss as if like they had lost their own father. That’s the love of the people of Thailand for their King. That’s the reverence and submission to their “Great Father” despite the political division that occurred in the past few decades of his reign.
“The news of his death cut deep into my heart like a knife. I am heartbroken. I feel lost,” a man was quoted in a local English newspaper.
Indeed, all this touched me, deep inside my heart. And I couldn’t stop myself from crying too. So I offered my prayers and good wishes whenever I spotted the King’s portraits in Thailand.
For Thais, his was a life of sacrifice. He devoted himself to the development of the country and hardly had any fun-filled life during his reign of 70 years. Preaching perseverance and tolerance, he had no luxurious home entertainment where he lived.
Believed to be a leader with very high moral authority and wise leadership, he had visited the remotest villages and brought them much-need helps by constructing anti-flood schemes, agricultural projects, water reservoirs and modern development.
Mostly importantly, he was known for his outstanding ability of unifying the people of Thailand. That’s why he was called as “Father of the nation” and the unifying figure. There have been a few great leaders in the world throughout the history but His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand ranks among the highest.
The sudden death of the King brought a great feeling of loss and pain to his citizens. Thailand has planned to observe 100 days of official ceremonies and religious rites. The government declared one year of official mourning and asked Thais to wear black and avoid festivities for 30 days.
The business centers, industries and individual households were mourning the loss by displaying their messages on big billboards and banners. Huge grieving crowds gathered at the Siriraj Hospital holding yellow flags and the King’s portraits to bid a final farewell to their King as the King’s body was taken to the Grand Palace.
Thai social media have been at their busiest ever. People freely shared their feelings and memories and video clips, songs and pictures related to the King’s life. A lot of Thais shared Facebook posts of our Druk Gyalpo His Majesty The King who led the people in prayers for the late King.
Some distributed free foods and water to all those who came for the procession during the day. Some people walked from long distances (more than 10 hours) to reach the hospital. They did all this to demonstrate their respect and tribute to the King.
By Riku Dhan Subba
The writer works in the Department of Information and Media and is a blogger.