Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Hong Kong’s Thai people pay tribute to late king Bhumibol Adulyadej

More than 3,000 from city’s 30,000-strong Thai community head to small temple in Yuen Long for sombre memorial

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 4:32pm

More than 3,000 of Hong Kong’s Thai people congregated at a small temple in the New Territories on Thursday, to pay tribute to their late king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, as their country prepared for his cremation.

Black-clad mourners thronged Wat Buddhadhamaram in Yuen Long, the city’s oldest Thai temple, to commemorate the revered monarch, who died last year aged 88 after a seven-decade reign.

The death of the “father” of the nation plunged Thai people around the world, including around 30,000 expatriates in the city, into a year of grieving.

In Yuen Long, from 2.30pm and into the early evening, the temple, four adjacent makeshift tents and the outdoor areas were all packed with mourners, most of whom had taken time off work to pay homage.

Thailand’s consul general in the city, Asi Mamanee, presided over a memorial service at 4pm, where mourners observed a moment of silence and offered sandalwood flowers to an altar with the late king’s photo, Buddhist chants playing in the background.

The temple is in Ngau Tam Mei, a 20-minute minibus ride and then a 10-minute walk from the middle of Yuen Long. From 2pm, mourners lined up outside Yuen Long MTR station for shuttle buses arranged by the consulate.

Some wept during the ceremony. Wanna Kaewsawang, 52, held a poster of the young Bhumibol.

“Every Thai person loves the king,” the restaurant manager said, breaking into tears as she spoke.

“He cared for everyone in the country and built a lot of infrastructure in the countryside.”

She said her farming family in Phitsanulok, in the middle of the country, benefited from the late monarch’s irrigation projects.

Karaoke restaurant owner Suphatra Winan, 46, and his wife Teerayut Rattanatisoy, 45, closed their venue for half the day and took 20 of their workers to the memorial on a coach.

“We’re very sad about the passing of the king,” Teerayut said. “We see him as our biological father. He’d served the country since my parents’ generation and I felt close to him.”

The funeral procession in Bangkok was broadcast live in the temple. The US$90 million funeral, nearly a year in the making, formally began in the Thai capital on Wednesday. Bhumibol’s body was cremated on Thursday night, and the final funeral service will be on Sunday.

There are four Thai temples in Hong Kong. Wat Buddhadhamaram is the most important, as it hosts an annual Buddhist royal robes offering ceremony called Thod Kathin. Worshippers usually visit during major festivals like Songkran, the Thai new year.