It is difficult to believe that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is no more. As the news of his passing away at Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok spread like a wildfire, I was struggling to remember my seeing him for the first time on December 5, 2006, at the Grand Palace during his 79th Birth Anniversary Celebration.
I was privileged to have attended the Grand Celebration of the 79th Birth Anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace on December 5, 2006. So fortunate that I was in Bangkok with my wife, Aneile Kenye, for about first two weeks of December 2006 for Muaythai Training Programs at Muaythai Institute Rangsit. When our Muaythai Training Program was closer to end, information came to me that I was invited to attend the grand celebration of 79th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace, Bangkok on December 5, 2006.
The “Invitation” came one day ahead of the Birthday Celebration and the Security Clearance came only the next day, few hours before we were about to depart for the Royal Palace.
My friend, Montiem, ex-Muaythai Champion and Muaythai Master in Muaythai Institute Rangsit, asked me to buy a Yellow Shirt for the occasion. Yellow is Royal Color in Thailand.
Weeks ahead of the King’s Birthday Celebrations, the Thais started wearing yellow shirts as a mark of respect to their King. Every nook and corner of Bangkok City, images of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit were put up with the National Flag and the Royal Flag fluttering together. Images of the King and the Queen were also put up inside every shop and street of Bangkok City. Bangkok City was literally awash with royal color yellow and candle lights.
On December 5, 2006, around 100 Muaythai Members including Masters from Muaythai Institute Rangsit led by Manager Amuey left for the Grand Palace. Traffic congestions in roads leading to the Grand Palace were unprecedented. In fact, we had to leave our buses almost one and a half kilometers away from the Grand Palace due to traffic snarls. My friend Montiem and I started walking towards the Grand Palace. We were checked at the Security Gates and finally reached the compound of the Grand Palace. We saw a sea of people seated on the ground and we were directed to take our seats somewhere at the left side of the Palace. Behind us, food parks were arranged mainly manned by the Royal security personnel. Everyone coming to attend and greet the King in the Palace could enjoy a variety of food items including cakes from these food parks at free of cost.
After about an hour, the Thai Prime Minister, his Ministerial Colleagues and other foreign diplomats and dignitaries arrived at the Grand Palace. We saw King addressing to the Nation at the huge overhead projectors. He normally announces policies and programs for the people of Thailand during his Birthday Celebrations and the Thai Government implements them.
After the main function was over, the King came out in open car followed closely by Royal Family Members – Queen, Prince, and Princesses on foot. I saw with my own eyes thousands of Thais waiting to have a glance at their King shouted, chanted, cried, wept as their King coming out and waving to them. Many of them fainted even. I had never seen such a love and loyalty they had for their King. I watched the King waving frailly to us from his car in the din of shouting, chanting, crying and weeping from his people.
King Adulyadej was the world’s longest-reigning monarch and died after 70 years as Head of State. He died at Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok on October 13, 2016. He was 88. He was a people’s King and his death is the “End of an Era.”