Cremation controversy

28 10 2017

In an earlier post, PPT mentioned that the live broadcast of the funeral, which dragged on all day and night, concluded by not showing the cremation at about 10 pm. We wondered why the live stream did not advise viewers that it would not be shown. We added that the telecast repeatedly had a caption that the cremation would be at 10 p.m.

It seems there is now considerable controversy and mystery about the decision to black out the cremation.

Khaosod has a detailed report that begins by recounting the disappointment and shock that the cremation was blacked out. The thousands of mourners “believed the actual cremation would be broadcast live as it had been done in previous funerals for other royal family members. But that broadcast never came, and no announcement would be made until much later.”

The report adds that even officials at the cremation were nonplussed.

Then came the “competing explanations” about “why people were not allowed to witness the cremation…”.

The report states that the “official televised broadcast schedule did not note the 10pm cremation.” We know that is wrong, although we were watching a livestream on YouTube, but it was the official version. As we noted above, the time of the cremation came up in captions several times.

So we can be pretty sure that the broadcasters did not know they were not going to show the cremation until quite late.

The reports states:

Reporters were told the live broadcast would run all night, and that public performances marking the end of the mourning period would be suspended during the actual cremation. At 9pm, a Khaosod English reporter at the official press center was told the ceremony would definitely be televised….

At 10pm, people were still sitting quietly in front of the screen [at Ratchadamnoen] getting ready for … [the cremation]. Many meditated. But the screens kept looping a documentary about King Bhumibol’s works. At one point, it cut to show live orchestra performing in the Sanam Luang.

When the time arrived, audience members watching from home saw the coverage cut and replaced with a message: “Royal Cremation of His Majesty King Bhumibol. Everyone is advised to turn toward the Meru Mas and pay their highest respects.”

Those on Ratchadamnoen Avenue saw nothing except the continuing performances and assumed the ritual was delayed.

At about “11pm, a royal fire was lit at the replica crematorium on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to burn sandalwood flowers.” This seems to have been seen by many as the cremation. Khaosod says:

By that time, the crowd was confused and reluctant to leave. No official announcement was made. Some decided to leave, while others refused and chose to stay.

A Khaosod reporter states that:

… a palace media liaison [official] informed some reporters at about 10pm, when the cremation was scheduled to begin, that it would not be televised because the king’s successor, His Majesty the King Rama X, had deigned it a “private affair.”

The junta announced at “11:16 pm that … the broadcast and ceremony had ended and coverage would resume in the morning,” with no other explanation.

Ten minutes later, smoke emerged from the top of crematorium, and that was when more people were convinced, despite being so close to where it happened, they had already missed the time they had waited a lifetime to experience.

Online, some speculated that it might have been for sake of privacy of the king’s wife, Queen Sirikit, who has been ailing and out of the public eye for several years.

We can be pretty sure that we’ll never know the real reason for the public cremation becoming private. Some things may never be discussed in neo-feudal Thailand.