On November 2, 2016 the people of Chiang Mai Province expressed their veneration of His Late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej who ascended the throne 70 years ago and died on October 13, 2016 about two months before his 89th birthday anniversary. The service was attended by a throng of about 100,000 persons. (An early report in a Thai newspaper underestimated the crowd at 35,000, and that has been widely repeated.) It was held at the Royal Floral Park southwest of the city of Chiang Mai. The center of the park is one of several large “shrines” built around the country to honor His Majesty. The park hosts floral exhibitions and features long-term displays of multiple-use vegetation, which was a passionate interest of His Majesty.
The College of Music of Payap University was given responsibility for providing a choir and orchestra for the occasion. 200 youth from Payap, The Prince Royal’s College, Dara Academy, and Montfort College sang from the steps of the shrine and led the massed assembly in singing the King’s Anthem, “The Impossible Dream” and “The King of the Land.” The Governor of Chiang Mai spoke in behalf of the Province, remembering more than 90 visits HM the King made to Chiang Mai and his expansive agricultural projects which transformed Chiang Mai’s reputation into a renowned agricultural development area. ML Panadda Diskul represented the Government of Thailand as well as everyone in the audience addressing the King, as it were, to express gratitude and thanks for HM the King’s varied interests and their outcome. It was mentioned that Royal Projects undertaken under Him Majesty’s direction over 70 years amounted to more than one new project a week.
The memorial service included several highly planned components. Everyone in attendance lighted candles they had brought or which were provided by the provincial organizers. Candles were lit as the “King’s Song” Tha Wora Bhudda-jao was sung. At the end of the song everyone extinguished their candles except those placed along the avenue in front of the shrine. From the air these still-lighted candles spelled “Chiang Mai” with a heart, and the King’s monogram.
More than a dozen drone cameras buzzed overhead capturing the scene below. I am indebted to many sources for the photographic perspectives on this extensive event. I believe it is that largest gathering of its kind in Chiang Mai history.
NOTE: November 1 marks the beginning of the fifth year of this website, “Ken Dobson’s Queer Ruminations from Thailand”. Each year we have attempted a different set of topics. For 2016-2017 our subject matter will include images and interpretations from North Thailand, as well as timely reflections on topics of interest to Thai and American observers.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.