Extremes of devotion mark last goodbye to Thai king

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A woman's 470-mile trek to see the late Thai king's cremation ceremony was only one example of the level of religious devotion on display in Thailand on Thursday.

Thailand's semi-divine "father" was idolized like no other modern monarch. A year of mourning has done nothing to diminish that veneration as Thailand marks a final end to his era with his cremation, uncertain of what is to follow.

"I have walked a long way until all my toe-nails have fallen off," said 61-year-old Montha Suchit, who set off in mid-September from Nakhon Si Thammarat in southern Thailand.

"This is the least we can do to repay him," she told Reuters as she waited, clad in black like most of Thailand, for King Bhumibol Adulyadej's funeral procession to pass by.

52 PHOTOS
Thailand King Bhumibol's cremation ceremony
See Gallery
Thailand King Bhumibol's cremation ceremony
Mourners wait to offer flowers as a sign of respect for the late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok on October 26, 2017. Black-clad mourners thronged Bangkok's historic quarter before dawn on October 26 ahead of the cremation of king Bhumibol Adulyadej, a revered monarch whose passing after a seven decade reign plunged Thailand into a year of grieving. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke is seen at the Royal Crematorium site during the Symbolic Royal Cremation near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn takes part in the royal cremation procession of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Royal urn of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is transported on a ramp to Funeral Pyre during the Royal Cremation Ceremony near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Police officer stands guard during the Royal Cremation Ceremony of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
A moruner awaits the beginning of the cerimonial funeral procession for the late Thai King Bhumiphol Adulyadej in Bangkok on October 26 2017 (Photo by Thomas De Cian/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Great Victory Chariot is pulled during the funeral procession for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej before the Royal Cremation Ceremony in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
The Great Victory Chariot carrying the royal urn of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej arrives during the Royal Cremation Ceremony near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
The Great Victory Chariot carrying the royal urn of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej arrives during the Royal Cremation Ceremony near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Thai royal guards salute during the Symbolic Royal Cremation at the Royal Crematorium site near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Mourners react as the Royal Urn of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is carried by the Great Victory Chariot during a royal cremation procession at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A mourner weeps as the Great Victory Chariot carrying the royal urn of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej arrives during the Royal Cremation ceremony at the Royal Crematorium site near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Mourners react as the Royal Urn of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is carried by the Great Victory Chariot during a royal cremation procession at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
The Royal Urn of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is seen inside the Royal Crematorium site during the Symbolic Royal Cremation near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
The Great Victory Chariot carrying the royal urn of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is pictured during the royal cremation ceremony near the Grand Palace in Bangkok , Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Thai Royal Guards attend the funeral procession for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej before the Royal Cremation Ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Royal guards take part in the Royal Cremation ceremony of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Mourners line up to offer sandalwood flowers at a replica of the Royal Crematorium during the funeral of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn takes a part in the royal cremation procession of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Thailand's Princesses Sirivannavari Nariratana and Bajrakitiyabha take a part in the royal cremation procession of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Religious statues decorate the Great Victory Chariot carrying the Royal Urn of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a royal cremation procession at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A Thai royal guard attends the funeral procession for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej before the Royal Cremation Ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Thai soldiers pull the The Great Victory Chariot with the royal urn during the funeral procession for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej before the Royal Cremation Ceremony in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Royal Guards take part in the royal cremation procession of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in front of the the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Mourners react as the Royal Urn of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is taken on the Great Victory Chariot during a royal cremation procession at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn (C) and other members of royal family take part in the royal cremation procession of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Mourners shield themselves from the sun as they wait for the Royal Cremation ceremony of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej to begin near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Mourners wait just before the sunset to go through security check for tomorrow's Royal Cremation ceremony of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A sleeping girl wears a pin with picture of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej as mourners wait for tomorrow's Royal Cremation ceremony near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A woman holds the portrait of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej as mourners wait for tomorrow's Royal Cremation ceremony near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Thai royal guards salute the start of the Royal Cremation ceremony for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn presides over rites as the royal urn is moved from the Grand Palace in a procession to the Royal Crematorium for King Bhumibol Adulyadej's cremation in Bangkok, Thailand, in this still image taken from video, October 26, 2017. Thai TV Pool/via Reuters TV
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha marches in the royal cremation procession of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kerek Wongsa
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: A Thai woman prays during a religious ceremony on the day of the historical cremation of Thailand's King Bhumibol on October 26, 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand. The funeral of the much loved king is taking place around Bangkok's Grand Palace. The kingdom has been preparing for the cremation of the former king for over a year following his death at the age of 88 on October 13, 2016. The ceremonies will take place over five days with the cremation of the king's body in a grand Royal Crematorium on October 26th. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: Thai mourners watch a big screen during a religious ceremony on the day of the historical cremation of Thailand's King Bhumibol on October 26, Bangkok, Thailand. The funeral of the much loved king is taking place around Bangkok's Grand Palace. The kingdom has been preparing for the cremation of the former king for over a year following his death at the age of 88 on October 13, 2016. The ceremonies will take place over five days with the cremation of the king's body in a grand Royal Crematorium on October 26th.. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
Mourners await the cremation cereomony for the late Thai King Bhumiphol Adulyadej in Bangkok on October 26 2017 (Photo by Thomas De Cian/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Thai police stand at attention as smoke from artillery gun salvos rises in the air near the cremation grounds where the body of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's body was taken to be cremated in Bangkok on October 26, 2017. A sea of black-clad mourners massed across Bangkok's historic heart early on October 26 as funeral rituals began for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a revered monarch whose passing after a seven-decade reign has left Thailand bereft of its only unifying figure. / AFP PHOTO / ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: A Thai woman watches a giant video screen showing the funeral of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 26, 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand. Tens of thousands of people, dressed in black , have gathered in Bangkok over a year after the death of Thailand's popular King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The five-day royal cremation ceremony is taking place between October 25-29 in Bangkok's historic Grand Palace and the Sanam Luang area. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: Thai mourners watch a big screen during a religious ceremony on the day of the historical cremation of Thailand's King Bhumibol on October 26, Bangkok, Thailand. The funeral of the much loved king is taking place around Bangkok's Grand Palace. The kingdom has been preparing for the cremation of the former king for over a year following his death at the age of 88 on October 13, 2016. The ceremonies will take place over five days with the cremation of the king's body in a grand Royal Crematorium on October 26th. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: Thai mourners pray during a religious ceremony on the day of the historical cremation of Thailand's King Bhumibol on October 26, Bangkok, Thailand. The funeral of the much loved king is taking place around Bangkok's Grand Palace. The kingdom has been preparing for the cremation of the former king for over a year following his death at the age of 88 on October 13, 2016. The ceremonies will take place over five days with the cremation of the king's body in a grand Royal Crematorium on October 26th. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: Thai mourners watch a big screen during a religious ceremony on the day of the historical cremation of Thailand's King Bhumibol on October 26, Bangkok, Thailand. The funeral of the much loved king is taking place around Bangkok's Grand Palace. The kingdom has been preparing for the cremation of the former king for over a year following his death at the age of 88 on October 13, 2016. The ceremonies will take place over five days with the cremation of the king's body in a grand Royal Crematorium on October 26th. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
Mourners wait to offer flowers as a sign of respect for the late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej at the King Rama V Monument in Bangkok on October 26, 2017. A sea of black-clad mourners massed across Bangkok's historic heart early on October 26 as funeral rituals began for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a revered monarch whose passing after a seven-decade reign has left Thailand bereft of its only unifying figure. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: A man watches the royal funeral on his phone near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. Hundreds of thousands of people, dressed in black, have gathered in Bangkok over a year after the death of Thailand's popular King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The five-day royal cremation ceremony is taking place between October 25-29 in Bangkok's historic Grand Palace and the Sanam Luang area. (Photo by Aaron Joel Santos/Getty Images)
Thai soldiers in dress uniforms carry flowers as a sign of respect for the late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej at the King Rama V Monument in Bangkok on October 26, 2017. A sea of black-clad mourners massed across Bangkok's historic heart early on October 26 as funeral rituals began for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a revered monarch whose passing after a seven-decade reign has left Thailand bereft of its only unifying figure. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
Mourners pray as the Royal Chariot carrying the Royal Urn, unseen, passes during the cremation procession for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Sanam Luang ceremonial ground in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. The elaborate, $90 million royal cremation ceremony for Bhumibol brought the nation to a standstill, as mourners bid a final farewell to a monarch who reigned for seven decades. Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mourners pray as the Royal Chariot carrying the Royal Urn, unseen, passes during the cremation procession for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Sanam Luang ceremonial ground in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. The elaborate, $90 million royal cremation ceremony for Bhumibol brought the nation to a standstill, as mourners bid a final farewell to a monarch who reigned for seven decades. Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: The Royal Crematorium is seen at the early morning before the cremation of the late King Rama 9, in Bangkok, Thailand on October 26, 2017. Thailand's Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the world's longest serving monarch who died on October 13th, 2016 at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. The Royal funeral ceremony will take place over three days in the Thai Capital front of the Royal Palace at the Grand Royal Crematorium site exclusively build for the much beloved King Rama 9. The first day, the Royal Urn will be transferring to the Royal Crematorium for the Royal actual cremation, and his Royal Relics and Ashes will be transferring back to the Grand Palace and into two different Temples in Bangkok the following days. (Photo by Guillaume Payen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND - OCTOBER 26: Thai boy scouts march to a replica of the Royal Crematorium offering flowers ahead of the historical cremation of Thailand's King Bhumibol on October 26, Bangkok, Thailand. The funeral of the much loved king is taking place around Bangkok's Grand Palace. The kingdom has been preparing for the cremation of the former king for over a year following his death at the age of 88 on October 13, 2016. The ceremonies will take place over five days with the cremation of the king's body in a grand Royal Crematorium on October 26th. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
Thai army dressed in ancient traditional uniforms during in the royal cremation ceremony for the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej outside the Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, 26 October 2017. (Photo by Anusak Laowilas/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Mourners lay flowers as a sign of respect for the late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok on October 26, 2017. Black-clad mourners thronged Bangkok's historic quarter before dawn on October 26 ahead of the cremation of king Bhumibol Adulyadej, a revered monarch whose passing after a seven decade reign plunged Thailand into a year of grieving. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
A mourner cries during a flower-laying ceremony for the late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok on October 26, 2017. A sea of black-clad mourners massed across Bangkok's historic heart early on October 26 as funeral rituals began for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a revered monarch whose passing after a seven-decade reign has left Thailand bereft of its only unifying figure. / AFP PHOTO / Ye Aung Thu (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Thousands spent days camped on torn cardboard boxes to secure a spot near the procession with only plastic sheets for protection from intermittent monsoon rain and tropical sun.

"He was the lifeblood of the nation," said Sorana Theppanao, 60, who counted himself lucky to have got a place near the procession by sleeping out for three days.

King Bhumibol developed a very personal following with hikes to remote villages and an emphasis on helping the poor despite the royal family's immense wealth.

He cultivated an image of being above coups and protests while intervening in times of crisis.

The royal image was enhanced by a well-funded public relations apparatus. It was also protected by laws that meant anyone insulting it could get a long jail sentence.

"The circumstances and propaganda were crucial, but the individual made it all work the way it did, and hence the Thais' deeply emotional final farewell," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University.

Some mourners questioned whether the king would have wanted such an ostentatious sendoff, for which $90 million was budgeted. Upstream of Bangkok, some districts were left flooded after heavy rains so waters could not disrupt the spectacle.

12 PHOTOS
Thais get tattoos in remembrance of King Bhumibol Adulyadej
See Gallery
Thais get tattoos in remembrance of King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Ukkrit Sakulwararak shows a newly-inked tattoo on his back to honour Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at his house in Bangkok, Thailand, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Piyaphan Phanwiroj, 34, shows a newly-inked tattoo that reads "I was born in the reign of King Rama IX", on the back of his neck, to honour Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at a tattoo shop in Bangkok, Thailand, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Suthida Rojanapanyawong is tattooed to honour Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at a tattoo shop in Bangkok, Thailand, October 18, 2016. The tattoo reads "Born in the reign of King Rama IX".REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Suthida Rojanapanyawong is tattooed to honour Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at a tattoo shop in Bangkok, Thailand, October 18, 2016. Tattoo reads "Born in the reign of King Rama IX". REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Piyaphan Phanwiroj, 34, is tattooed to honour Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at a tattoo shop in Bangkok, Thailand, October 18, 2016. The tattoo reads "I was born in the reign of King Rama IX". REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
This photo taken on October 18, 2016 shows a finished tattoo of a heart with the number 9 in honour of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Tattoo OD Studio in Bangkok. Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth king of the current Chakri Dynasty. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, ending a seven-decade reign and leaving the politically divided nation without its key pillar of unity. / AFP / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on October 18, 2016 shows an customer's arm with a tattoo stencil of the number 9 in honour of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Tattoo OD Studio in Bangkok. Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth king of the current Chakri Dynasty. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, ending a seven-decade reign and leaving the politically divided nation without its key pillar of unity. / AFP / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on October 18, 2016 shows a customer getting a tattoo in honour of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Tattoo OD Studio in Bangkok. Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth king of the current Chakri Dynasty. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, ending a seven-decade reign and leaving the politically divided nation without its key pillar of unity. / AFP / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on October 18, 2016 shows a customer being prepared for a tattoo 'King 9' in honour of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Tattoo OD Studio in Bangkok. Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth king of the current Chakri Dynasty. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, ending a seven-decade reign and leaving the politically divided nation without its key pillar of unity. / AFP / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on October 18, 2016 shows a customer holding a phone displaying several fonts of the number 9 before getting a tattoo in honour of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Tattoo OD Studio in Bangkok. Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth king of the current Chakri Dynasty. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, ending a seven-decade reign and leaving the politically divided nation without its key pillar of unity. / AFP / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on October 18, 2016 shows a customer getting a number 9 tattooed on her back to commemorate the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at Tattoo OD Studio in Bangkok. Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth king of the current Chakri Dynasty. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, ending a seven-decade reign and leaving the politically divided nation without its key pillar of unity. / AFP / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"We all came out to thank the king personally, so in that sense the extravagance was not needed and does not reflect the late king's attitude," said 70 year-old Tip Boonmak.

KNEELING

As the procession passed, mourners dropped to their knees, many still holding up mobile phones to record the scene.

"This is the last day we meet him before he goes to heaven," said Kannika Kamsikeaw, 39.

For foreign visitors, the emotion was hard to comprehend.

"It's incredible to see this humungous outpouring of devotion," said 34-year-old Australian Celine Massa. "I don't feel that emotion for any public figure."

More than 95 percent of Thais were born during King Bhumibol's reign, marked by economic transformation and political turbulence through which he was a stabilising figure.

16 PHOTOS
King Bhumibol Adulyadej through the years
See Gallery
King Bhumibol Adulyadej through the years
Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej waves as he returns to Siriraj Hospital after a ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok in this December 5, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo 
Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej arrives to preside over the unveiling ceremony for the King Rama VIII monument in Bangkok in this June 9, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo 
Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej arrives back at the Siriraj Hospital, after a ceremony at the Anatasamakom Throne Hall, in Bangkok December 5, 2012. REUTERS/Kerek Wongsa/File Photo
Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej (L) and Queen Sirikit wave to well-wishers on the 60th anniversary of the king's coronation in Bangkok in this June 9, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej (R) takes a photograph during his arrival at the Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok in this July 20, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/File Photo
Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej reads a statement convening Parliament in front of 391 newly elected members of parliament at Ananta Samakhom throne in Bangkok in this July 10, 1995 file photo. REUTERS/Apichart Weerawong/File Photo
Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej signs the royal command approving new cabinet of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai (L) at the Chitrlada Palace in Bangkok November 14, 1997. REUTERS/File Photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
US President Bill Clinton (L) meets King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the royal residence November 26. Clinton arrived in Thailand for a brief state visit to commemorate the Thai king's 50th birthday on the throne and to help boost commercial ties.
BANGKOK, THAILAND - 1996/04/21: The king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, presides over the start of the building of a bridge over the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. (Photo by Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BANGKOK, THAILAND: Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej reviews the honor guard as a part of the celebration to commemorate his 78 birthday at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, 02 December 2005. King Bhumibol, the world's longest reigning monarch will turn 78 on 05 December 2005. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is sitting in front of the king. AFP PHOTO/ Saeed KHAN (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
THAILAND - JUNE 09: Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej waves after giving a speech to nearly 1 million Thais as he stands with his wife, Queen Sirikit, on the balcony of the Ananda Samakhon Throne Hall in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday, June 9, 2006. Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej will undergo surgery on his back July 20, a palace statement said today. (Photo by Udo Weitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Bhumibol Adulyadej (born 1927), King of Thailand. He is also known as Rama IX, as he is the ninth monarch of the Chakri Dynasty. Having reigned since 9 June 1946 with his wife Queen Sirikit, 1960. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
OSLO, NORWAY: Portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, aka Rama IX, and King Olav V Of Norway at the palace of Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 28: King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, aka Rama IX, and wife Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara with Italian president Giovanni Gronchi (with wife Carla Bissatini in background) in Rome, Italy during an official visit of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in Italy on September 28, 1960. (Photo by Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
PULLY, SWITZERLAND: Portrait of king Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand (21 years old) , aka Rama IX, with his future wife Sirikit Kitiyakara (17 years old) in Pully, Switzerland in 1949 - The king had suffered a heavy automobil accident in 1948 which he has not yet recovered. (Photo by Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who has succeeded his father, does not have the same following. Recently, he has spent much of his time in Germany, where his son is at school. Asserting his new power, he has required changes to the constitution and taken personal control of the palace's financial holdings.

Besides drawing a line under King Bhumibol's era, the cremation is a step towards the military government's promised revival of politics and an election next year.

For more than a decade, politics in Thailand was torn between 'yellow shirts' - royalists dressed in the king's color - and 'red shirts', who backed a populist movement whose governments were twice overthrown by the army.

But any animosities were hidden on Thursday on the streets of Bangkok.

"Today there is no color," said Napthanicha Chantarasena, 33, among those who had camped out for days. "There is only my king."

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.