Thailand sets late King Bhumibol's cremation for Oct 26, funeral to take place over five-day period

The confirmation of the cremation date sets a time frame for the coronation of Bhumibol's son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Long live the Thai King: Mourners queue outside Bangkok's Grand Palace to pay tribute
A boy carries a portrait of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej while he lines up to pay respect at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Reuters

Thailand's late will be cremated on Oct 26 and the funeral will take place over a five-day period, a government official said on Wednesday. The confirmation of the cremation date sets a time frame for the coronation of Bhumibol's son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Last December, King Maha Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne but his formal coronation has been put on hold until after his father's funeral. According to political observers, the new king's coronation will formally kick-start politics following a year-long mourning period and a general election should follow soon after.

"The palace has confirmed that the king agrees with the government's plan. The cremation day will be October 26," a senior government official, who declined be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said: "The funeral will take place over a five day period."

King Bhumibol died in October 2016 at the age of 88 following a long illness. He reigned for seven decades after ascending the throne in 1946 that made him a rare unifying figure in an otherwise deeply polarized nation. King Bhumibol was regarded as a pillar of stability during decades of political upheaval and rapid development.

Thailand has been ruled by a military government since a 2014 coup that saw the military wrest power from an elected civilian government. The military has said the coup was aimed at ending months of unrest.

The United States and several other countries have called for a swift return to democracy in Thailand. In response to this, the Thai government has said that a general election will take place after the late king's funeral. However, some have cast doubt over the election timeline.

"Political life is unlikely to resume until next year, after the cremation and coronation," a Western diplomat based in Bangkok, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

"There's an understanding among political parties that there will be no election this year. After the coronation seems the most likely time for things to start to happen," the diplomat added.

The officials said King Bhumibol's cremation will be a lavish affair befitting of a much-loved monarch. The authorities have not issued any budget publicly for the funeral. It is expected that the cremation will attract huge crowds.

Thai Buddhists often wait a week or more before cremating their dead but royal funerals are exceptional. The last royal funeral in Thailand was in 2008 for King Bhumibol's elder sister Princess Galyani Vadhana. It followed a 100-day mourning period.

Reports said King Bhumibol's cremation will take place at a public square in Bangkok. An enormous wooden funeral pyre is being erected at the place of the cremation.