World

50m-high funeral pyre 
for the late King Bhumibol

BANGKOK: Thailand's generals took centre stage yesterday at a ceremony blessing the start of construction of an enormous funeral pyre for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a vivid illustration of the army's close links to the palace.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, a former army chief who seized power in 2014, led the ceremony, which saw a crane erect the first of several giant steel pillars that will form the cornerstones of what will be a largely wooden pyre next to Bangkok's sprawling Grand Palace.

The ceremony was infused with the religious ritual that permeates palace life with Buddhist monks chanting mantras and Hindu Brahmin priests blowing conches as workers in hard hats fixed the pillar to a concrete plinth.

Royal cremations in Thailand are grand events. No budget has been publicly released but authorities are spending millions of dollars giving King Bhumibol a huge send-off.

Few Thais have ever seen a monarch's funeral. The widely admired King Bhumibol, who ruled for seven decades, was the world's longest-serving monarch until his death last October.

Designs for the funeral pyre show palace architects intend to build a pyre more than 50 metres high, complete with nine spires and covered in sculptures of mythical beasts.

No date has been given for the funeral, but several government officials told AFP they expect it to take place at the end of the one-year mourning period, in October or November. - AFP

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