By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN
AS MANY people have already camped out near Sanam Luang in the hope of getting a place in the prime viewing zones for this week’s Royal Cremation, authorities have acted on the advice of HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn and opened up further zones for the general public.
The new areas will be along the roads on three sides of the Grand Palace wall, which cover 9,420 square metres and should be able to seat about 18,840 people. Space will still be limited, though, and together with the existing prime zones, they should be able to accommodate just 60,000 mourners.
Given the overwhelming loyalty HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej has commanded, it is likely that only people who arrive very early will find a space close to the ceremonies, which will run from tomorrow until Sunday. The actual cremation will take place on Thursday. Starting from 10pm today, officials will clear areas near the ceremonial grounds in Sanam Luang, including the prime zones. During this process, these areas will be off-limits to the public until they are reopened at 5am tomorrow.
Petcharat Chankrajang, 48, said yesterday that he did not expect to be the first to rush in to find a place, even though she camped out near an entry point to the prime zones on Sunday morning.
“When I arrived, dozens of people were already here. They have spread out mats on the footpath to make clear that the spots have been taken,” she said.
Petcharat said she might have been about the 100th person to arrive.
“My spot is about five metres from the entry point,” she said.
Those at the very front of the line said they had arrived on Saturday.
Coming from Chachoengsao province, Petcharat planned carefully for this week because she was aware of the likely size of the crowd and the limited facilities available in public areas.
She said she had determined that several restrooms would be available, with usage fees ranging from Bt3 to Bt5. She had also rented a room near Sanam Luang so she could drop in to take a shower if the circumstances allowed.
“I have also brought along all the medicine I may need,” said Petcharat, who was wearing black in mourning for her beloved King.
“I don’t hope to be the first one to get in; I only want to be there in the prime zones. This is the very last time that I can bid my King goodbye.”
The footpath along the Khlong Lod near the Thepthidaram Temple was full of plastic mats yesterday afternoon, indicating where people had reserved their places. While many were absent, some people were sitting in the area under the scorching sun.
The area is next to the screening point around the statue of Mother Earth Squeezing Her Hair.
Maneerat Laowaret, a 60-year-old housewife from Samut Sakhon province, said she had stayed put because she was worried that someone would take her place.
“I don’t even want to stay in the room I have rented nearby. I am doing this with all my heart. I have to get into the area near my beloved King, no matter what,” she said.
People in the prime zones will also be able to get a close view of the Royal Processions held in honour of the late King during the Royal Cremation ceremonies.
Reigning over Thailand with moral authority and outstanding devotion to his people for seven full decades, the late King is regarded as one of the greatest monarchs.
According to a Bangkok Metropolitan Administration official who was posted near the canal, the authorities have not prohibited people from reserving spots in the area. He said there were officers working around the clock to ensure security, and street |cleaners to ensure tidiness. However, until tomorrow, no mobile restrooms would be available for people, he said.
Officials and police in the area said there had been some minor disputes over queue-jumping, but no quarrel had become serious. For people who cannot get into the prime zones, there are 85 replicas of the Royal Crematorium across the country where they can lay sandalwood flowers and pay their final tributes to their beloved King.
The Interior Ministry announced yesterday that construction of all replicas had been completed. Dignitaries from at least 39 countries, including members of royal families, have confirmed that they will attend the Royal Cremation.