Throughout the past year, since the news of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulayadej’s passing, and even more so as we near the actual cremation date (Oct. 26, 2017), Thais from all walks of life have come forward for volunteer jobs. The jobs are undertaken with an attitude of gratefulness towards His Late Majesty for what he has done for the country and its residents.
The committee overseeing the organization of volunteer activities has done an incredible job setting up the structure and getting the right things done. According to the information at the Kingrama9 web site (http://kingrama9.net/NewsHighlights/File/10) volunteers have been arranged into the following eight groups: 1) Sandal wood flower production, 2) Information, 3) Public Works, 4) Transportation, 5) Services, 6) First Aid, 7) Security, 8) Traffic. Each of the eight groups has a sub-structure, but too detailed to be mentioned here.
The Sandal wood flower used in Thai cremations is made from wood shavings and tied together to resemble a flower. This is placed on the pyre by mourners to aid in the cremation of the deceased. For this cremation, the Thai government has arranged for the burning of sandal wood flowers offered by the general public, in replica crematoria, located in various provinces throughout the country; and to be burned simultaneously with the actual cremation.
The replica crematory are located at the following sites: the Dusit Plaza (Rama V Equestrian statue); four replicas outside of sanam luang: 1) the Rama 1 Park, 2) the area between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the giant swing, 3) Nagharabhirom Park, 4) the old government lottery office (north of sanam luang, on Ratchadamnoen Ave.). Replicas at the four corners of the city: 1) Tupatemi Stadium, Pathum Thani, 2) King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang, 3) Bai Tec, Bangna, 4) Buddha Monthon, Nakorn Pathom. There are 76 replica crematory located in the provinces.
There are 104 designated sites throughout Bangkok (see photo above) where sandal wood flowers may be placed for collection, 878 in the provinces, and 94 collection sites in various cities around the world.
Not all volunteers are associated with the above mentioned group. There are other independent groups volunteering their time making the sandal wood flowers as well, such as this group from Soon NamJai Maitree, Ministry of Culture. A selection of their flowers appear in the photos below.
The same is true in regards to transportation. I know of some cases where private citizens, taxi drivers by profession, have been ferrying people back and forth between their origin point and the Grand Palace, free of charge. It is absolutely incredible to see this outpouring of love and gratefulness from the people regardless of occupation or status. His Majesty was born on Dec. 5th and because of that that date is Father’s Day in Thailand. And as their father’s children, people are offering every imaginable act of assistance as a way to show their gratefulness to their late father in the final days leading up to the cremation.
Again, many young people have come forward, volunteering for the public works (no. 3 above), doing trash detail, collecting used water bottles and discarded plastic wrappers, etc., keeping the place nice and tidy for mourners. These jobs are not reserved for the young, people in their 70s and 80s are volunteering, too.
This morning as I was leaving the monastery for my morning alms walk and couldn’t help but notice a large number of white-robed laymen preparing for ordination. I later learned that they were part of a group of 90 men from TOT (Telephone Organization of Thailand and TOT Corporation Public Company Limited) who were ordaining to make merit for His Late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulayadej. After ordaining they will go to a meditation monastery in Korat to practice meditation, dedicating the merit to the late king. This is in addition to the 89 police officers from throughout the nation who ordained in a program named “Ruam Jai Pakdi”, as well as the students from Assumption and Nawamin Rajutis schools.
I’m sure similar activities will intensify in the days leading up to the cremation.