Thais gather as late King's funeral begins today

BANGKOK Sombre crowds gathered to pay final respects to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej yesterday, braving a downpour to camp out along the funeral procession route for a monarch who died last year and was revered by some as a demigod.

The five-day Buddhist ceremony, which begins today, has taken nearly a year to prepare and 3 billion baht (S$123 million) has been set aside to pay for the funeral.

Arriving a day early to guarantee their place for a funeral that is expected to draw 250,000 people, mourners pitched flimsy tents in the middle of Bangkok's old quarter to provide some protection from the torrential rain.

Hotels in the old town neighbourhood were booked up weeks in advance, and a national holiday has been declared for Oct 26, the day of the cremation. - REUTERS