Thousands of Thais streamed into the gates of Bangkok’s Grand Palace on Saturday as the public was granted its first chance to enter the throne hall where the body of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is lying in state. Bhumibol, who died at 88 two weeks ago, was adored by many of his subjects and seen as an anchor of stability in a kingdom rocked by turbulent politics.
His passing has thrust the country into a year of official mourning, with most Thais wearing only black and white since his death and TV channels devoting hours of airtime to footage from his 70-year reign. For the past two weeks crowds have massed outside the
Grand Palace, a compound of shimmering temples and pavilions in Bangkok’s old quarter, to pay tribute before a portrait of the monarch.
But today was the first time the public has been allowed to enter the ornate throne hall where his body is lying in a coffin behind a gilded urn. “I have been waiting here since 1:00 am,” said Saman Daoruang, an 84-year-old sitting in a massive queue that snaked around a large field outside the palace, where tens of thousands were gathered by morning.
Many of the black-clad mourners, who hailed from around the country, were seen wiping away tears as they left the spired building. Authorities have said 10,000 people will be permitted to enter the hall per day. Like many in the crowd, Saman slept under a tent on the grassy parade grounds after arriving in Bangkok by train from northern Nakhon Sawan province.