A year of tears

photo: SEKSAN ROJJANAMETAKUN

One year ago today, Thailand lost a great king, the moral and spiritual centre of the entire nation. Upon hearing the news, people sobbed on the bus, wept on the train, cried in the office. It's one of those rare moments in life that affected all of us in such a way that we remember exactly where we were and how we felt when the reality of what happened set in. One year on, we ask dozens of people from all walks of life about how they remember that fateful day.

Buala Phraleelak, 60

Buala Phraleelak, 60A Bangkok food hawker from Nong Khai

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was selling a spicy salad while hearing the news. The lottery vendor told me that King Rama IX had passed away.

What did you do after you found out?

I burst into tears, stopped selling food and returned home. It took several days for me to get over it.

What have your learned from the event of the king's passing?

We should follow his teachings and contribute to society. I have become a volunteer for the Fine Arts Department's tasks. After this, I plan to teach woodcarving to children free of charge in my leisure time.

Describe King Bhumibol in one word.

Hard-working.

What are your plans for Oct 26?

I'll attend the royal funeral at one of the provided venues.


Dr Kaset Sutasha, 42

Veterinarian, Bangkok

Where were you on Oct 13 last year?

I was working -- treating animals as usual at Kasetsart University's animal hospital in Bangkok. A friend walked over and told me, and then we went to watch the news on television.

What did you do after you found out?

I was silent, crying in my heart, and I had to force myself to continue working. The atmosphere in the hospital was abnormal.

What have your learned from the king's death?

Everything that happens will come to an end. But the passing of the king has ignited the hearts of the Thai citizens eternally.

What first comes to your mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

The collar of his pet dog, Khun Tongdaeng.

Which of the late king's projects first comes to mind?

The Royal Projects up North, where King Bhumibol reduced the growing of opium, replacing it with vegetation and flora.

What are your plans for Oct 26?

I will continue to treat animals at the hospital to my best ability -- following in his footsteps because the king never stopped working in his 70-year reign.


Peerapat "Add" Wimolrungkarat, 37

Photographer

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was at the Prince Mahidol Statue Square [in Siriraj Hospital] on Oct 11, 12 and 13 in order to document the environment around the area. Then there was the announcement from the Bureau of the Royal Household.

What did you do after you found out?

I had to collect my thoughts and focus on the shooting to my best ability.

What do you think of when you hear the king's name?

His cameras.

Describe him in one word.

A developer.

Which of the king's projects first comes to mind?

Doi Tung Foundation.

What are your plans for Oct 26?

Taking photographs at my assigned location for the National Archives of Thailand.


Nid Chaiyabutr, 39

An Isan-born street vendor working in Bangkok

Where were you last Oct 13?

I was watching the television, and suddenly the announcement came up.

What did you do after you found out?

I got goosebumps. I called relatives to ask if the news was actually real.

What have you learned from the king's death?

I realised how kind people can be, and they did come together in the time of tragedy. Like in Sanam Luang, we saw a lot of volunteers and people coming together for their love and respect of the king.

What first comes to mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

A paddy field.

Which of the king's projects first comes to mind?

His agricultural and royal rain projects.

What song makes you think of King Bhumibol?

Ton Mai Khong Por (Father's Tree) by Bird Thongchai.


Eat Pinchai, 40

Farmer, Mae Chaem district of Chiang Mai

Where were you on Oct 13 last year?

I was at my home in Chiang Mai. I heard the news from the TV.

What have your learned from the king's passing?

He made me believe that I can improve my life. I will follow his teachings.

What do you think of when you hear the king's name?

Forest. For people on the mountain, forest means life.

Describe him in one word.

Expert.

What song makes you think of the late king?

Pid Thong Lang Phra (Doing Good Without Boasting) by Carabao.


Adiplin Panupong, 31

Diplomat, Ankara, Turkey

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was at work at the Royal Thai Embassy in Ankara acting as charge d'affaires. I heard it from the prime minister's live announcement.

What did you do after you found out?

Contacted the headquarters for guidelines, as well as receiving multiple calls from the host country and different embassies.

How did you deal with your feelings?

Acknowledged the pain and tried to keep my mind on the upcoming procedures. Many Thais will contact the embassy and the embassy must be ready to provide any information on closures and answer questions.

What do you think of when you hear the king's name?

His cameras.

Describe him in one word?

Magnificent.

Which of the king's projects first comes to your mind?

Royal Renewable Energy project.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

Ton Mai Khong Por (Father's Tree).

What are your plans for the royal funeral on Oct 26?

I will be in Istanbul organising the ceremony for Thai people and Turks to participate in.


Joy Wantawong, 35

A Lao worker living in Thailand for 19 years

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was working at my boss' shop in Mahachai. I heard it on the news.

What did you do after you found out?

I felt so sad but I had to get back to work.

What object first comes to your mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

Water. Because of his irrigation projects, we have water to use.

Describe him in one word.

Father.

Which of the king's projects first comes to mind?

Chang Hua Mun project (in Phetchaburi).


Somphong Motorcycle-taxi driver

Where were you on Oct 13 last year?

I was at my motorcycle-taxi station on the street. It's a quiet station and I remember that I was alone there practically all afternoon until it got dark. I heard people on the street mentioning the king's passing. I didn't believe them at first. So I scolded them, told them to stop talking nonsense or they'd end up in jail.

What is the first thing you did after hearing the news?

Actually, nothing. Because I still didn't believe it. So I waited a bit until the end of my workday to go home and watch the reports on television.

How did you process your feelings?

I felt saddened. All this time, he was here, and all of a sudden, he wasn't. I felt powerless, too.

What comes to your mind at the mention of the king?

His hard work. He wasn't afraid of breaking a sweat.


Rinrada "Yoshi" Thurapan, 20

Miss Tiffany's Universe 2017

Where were you on Oct 13 last year?

I was at the university when I first heard the news. After that, I hurried home to wait for the official confirmation on television.

What have you learned from the king's death?

Birth, getting old, sickness and death are normal occurrences that every human has to face. No one can escape from it. But there's one thing we can do: keep doing good things.

What do you think of when you hear the king's name?

Our banknotes and coins. They all carry an image of the king.

Describe him in one word.

Father.

Which of the king's projects first comes to mind?

The artificial rain. I'm originally from Roi Et province in Isan, I know how badly the drought can affect people.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

The Royal Anthem.


Suporn Watanaporn, 63

NGO activist in Chiang Rai

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was working at home at the time. I found out from LINE and Facebook.

What did you do after you found out?

I cried.

What object first comes to your mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

His map.

Which of the king's projects first come to your mind?

The royal rainmaking project.

What song makes you think of him?

Porn Pee Mai (New Year).

What are your plans for the royal funeral?

I will definitely join the royal cremation ceremony at Sanam Luang. I booked a plane ticket from Chiang Rai to Bangkok last April.


Natvitra Krittayapatr, 54

Dentist, Bangkok

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was at the clinic in Lat Krabang and read about it on LINE. It was not a rumour.

What did you do after you found out?

I immediately headed to Siriraj Hospital and reached there around 7pm. I joined the crowd there and faced the reality.

What have your learned from the king's death?

Every Monday for almost a year, I went to pay respect at the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall and was also there on the last day, Oct 5. I saw how Thais are united through the deep bond with our father-king.

Describe him in one word.

A genius.

Which of the king's projects first come to your mind?

Royal projects that improve hilltribe people's quality of life by reducing opium cultivation.

What song makes you think of him?

Phra Racha Poo Song Dhamma always brings tears.

What are your plans for the royal funeral?

I'll be at Sanam Luang from the night of Oct 24, in order to attend the royal cremation ceremony.


Tony Meechai, 40

PGA golf professional

Where were you last Oct 13?

I was at the Banchamek Gym, where world-champion Buakaw was preparing for an upcoming fight. I heard the news from the television.

How did you deal with your feelings?

My dad had just passed away two months prior so to have to go through it all over again was depressing. I just continued to practice meditation.

What have you learned from the king's death?

Time is of an essence. We must use our time on this planet for the good of the family and society.

What do you think of when you hear the king's name?

The picture of King Rama IX practicing golf with his mother.

Describe him in one word.

Awesome.

Which of King Bhumibol's projects first comes to mind?

The rainmaking project.


Harald Link, 62

CEO of B. Grimm

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was coming out of a meeting and got a phone call telling me of the passing of the king.

What lessons have you learned from King Bhumibol's death?

I think we and the whole Kingdom took His Majesty's teachings more to heart this year than any other year and I hope this will continue.

Describe him in one word.

The most beloved and caring monarch.

Which of the king's royal projects are you most fond of?

The arduous efforts over many decades to integrate all hilltribes and communities at the borders who otherwise might have become disenchanted with our country.

Which song reminds you of him?

I Say (a royal composition) for its melody.


Khemupsorn "Cherry" Sirisukha, 37 TV actress

Where were you when you heard the King had died?

I was caring for my sick grandmother at the hospital. I learned of the news from the announcement on TV, which we kept at a very low volume because we didn't want grandma to find out or her condition could get worse. I ended up crying in the bathroom and had to pretend as if nothing had happened in front of her.

What have you learned or can take away from the king's passing?

Goodness is the only thing that will remain in the hearts of the people.

What object comes to your mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

A map, a camera and a pencil.

Describe His Majesty in one word.

Perfection.

Which of the king's projects first come to your mind?

The Royal Rain project.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

Nai Luang Khong Pan Din (The King Of The Land) from Four Reigns The Musical.

What are your plans for this Oct 26, when the royal funeral takes place?

I plan to wait around the ceremonial ground since Oct 24, and I'll probably be in the area on Oct 26.


Patnicha Kongyaem Nuenen, the Netherlands

Where were you when the King died?

I was at home. I remember I was about to make lunch -- it was noon in Holland -- when a friend told me through Facebook chat.

How did you deal with the feeling?

I was shocked. I cried without knowing it. Maybe because I was far away from Thailand, I wanted to be there to share the nation's grief.

What have you learned from the event?

We live not just for ourselves, but for the society as a whole.

What object first comes to mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

A calendar with his picture. For someone who lives outside of Thailand, it's a rare object to find.

Describe His Majesty in one word.

Father.

Which of the king's projects first come to mind?

The sufficiency economy.

What's your plans for the funeral?

I'll place a funeral flower at a Thai temple in the Netherlands and donate money for Siriraj Hospital.


Puviwat Sasiluksananukul, 27 Owner of Bluesiam Villa, Phuket

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was just finishing a meeting in Phuket with a few foreigners, all of us were shocked. I remember there were so many rumours a few days before, so when it actually happened I thought it was just another rumour, until I turned on the television.

What did you do after you found out?

There wasn't much to do, I called my mother and she was crying.

What have your learned from His Majesty's passing?

Be happy with what you have, don't rely on others. It's a way of living.

What object do you associate with the late king?

An alto saxophone.

Describe His Majesty in one word.

Father.

Which of the king's projects first comes to your mind?

The Chitralada milk candy.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

Love At Sundown.


Chutima Uchida, 37 Thai staff at the Royal Thai Embassy in Tokyo

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was on a subway in Tokyo, heading home. There were rumours a few days before Oct 13. But on that particular day, I received photos of people crying via LINE. The embassy was also preparing to lower the flag. So I checked with friends and it was no longer just a rumour.

What did you do after you found out?

I burst into tears but had to take care of my son. So I had to suppress the grief.

What object first comes to mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

His car. When I was a Chulalongkorn University freshman, we got a chance to welcome the King Bhumibol. His car went past me.

Which of the king's projects first come to your mind?

The rain-making project.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

The Royal Anthem.


Kane Kasemchainan Thai student in Sydney

Where were you when you heard the king had died?

I was at university. My father called to tell me the news, and Australian television had a report.

What have you learned from the event?

I see how Thais can be united through their love of the king.

Describe His Majesty in one word.

Father.

What project by His Majesty first comes to your mind?

The rain-making project.

What song reminds you of the late king?

The Royal Anthem.

Where do you plan to be on Oct 26?

There will be a ceremony organised by the Thai community in Sydney, but I'll have to be at school.


Songkiat Udompornwattana, 38 Paediatrician at Buddhachinaraj Hospital, Phitsanulok

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016, and how did you learn of the king's passing?

I was examining patients at the hospital. I heard about the bad news by word of mouth in the afternoon, but I didn't believe it until the official announcement came on the television in the evening.

What did you do after you found out?

I went away to cry secretly, and I got back to work.

How did you deal with your feelings?

I told myself this is the law of nature, the cycle of birth and death.

Describe His Majesty in one word.

The Giver.

Which of the king's projects first comes to mind?

The philosophy of sufficiency economy.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

Roop Thee Mee Thook Ban.

What are your plans for this Oct 26, when the royal funeral takes place?

I'll be a volunteer at the province's official ceremony.


Kusuma Yodhasmutr, 52 TV journalist/host

Where were you and what were you doing on Oct 13?

I was out for shopping with no clue of what's going, until I found out on TV late in the evening.

What did you do after that?

I cried silently and called relatives I thought might not yet know.

How did you deal with your feelings?

It was just like losing a member of my family, so it was exceptionally hard to deal with my emotions.

What have you learned from the king's passing?

As a Thai Muslim, what I learned most was probably to not allow the differences we see among us to cloud our better judgement. Through his actions, he united the people.

Describe His Majesty in one word.

Two words: unique and caring.

Which of the king's projects first comes to your mind?

The dairy project at Chitralada Palace.


Sorasak Keeratichokechaikul, 50 President of the Thai Business Association of Myanmar

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was at work in my office in Yangon. My wife informed me about the king's passing.

How did you deal with your feelings?

I stopped working immediately. I wanted to return to my house to see the official announcement by the prime minister. Along the way home, the image of the late king flashed through my head and I wept. It was hard to go to sleep that night.

What have you learned from the event?

I think the most important thing the king wanted to see is our unity.

What object first comes to your mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

The Chai Pattana aerator. I was amazed at the invention.

Describe His Majesty in one word.

Father.

Which of His Majesty's projects first comes to your mind?

The rain-making project because it benefits farmers, who are the majority of the country.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

Klai Rung (Near Dawn), because my mum always played this song when I was young.


Nat Yontararak, 63 Pianist and composer, Bangkok

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was at home working, as usual. On Oct 14 my family was supposed to have lunch with Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, and the day before we had heard so many rumours. We didn't believe it yet, because if it was true, Gen Prem would have had to cancel the lunch. On the morning of the 14th, he did cancel the lunch (and I knew it then).

What did you do after you found out?

I had to collect my emotions to accept that the day has finally come.

What have your learned from His Majesty's passing?

In your life, if you have the chance to do good, do it as quickly as you can, before you don't have the opportunity to do it any more.

What object first comes to your mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

Water.

What word would you use to describe King Rama IX?

Father.

Which of the king's projects first comes to mind?

The sufficiency economy.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

Falling Rain.


Patha Thongpan Freelance film/TV director, Bangkok

Where were you on Oct 13 of last year?

I was on set shooting a music video. I remember being sceptical when I first heard, as their had been a string of rumours. There were no TV or radio signals available at the production location, so the crew and I got the news online from LINE and Facebook. So I tried to soldier through, but I could tell that the crew was affected.

What did you do after you found out?

I was mainly focused on the shoot. The crew, meanwhile, was visibly struggling to focus, so we took a break to process the news before returning to the shoot.

What insights have you gained in the year since His Majesty's passing?

I feel like Thais have collectively matured in a way as a result, judging from the way everyone came together to help each other get on with their normal lives.

What object first comes to your mind at the mention of His Majesty's name?

Maps.

Describe His Majesty in one word.

Genius.

Which of the king's many royal initiatives do you most clearly remember?

The royal rain-making initiative.


Sumitra Phongsathorn, 67 Administrator of Mater Dei School in Bangkok

Where were you on Oct 13, 2016?

I was at home at that time. I heard earlier that an important announcement would be made so I had the radio and television on.

What happened after you found out?

I cried uncontrollably.

What have your learned from the event of the king's passing?

Although he died, he is living. His spirit will be with us forever.

What object first comes to your mind at the mention of King Rama IX?

The pictures of him at different times and places.

Describe him in one word.

A saint.

Which of the king's projects first come to your mind?

The philosophy of sufficiency economy.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

Sai Fon (Falling Rain).


Thanawan Rochanavedya Sydney, Australia

Where were you and what were you doing on Oct 13?

I was driving and listening to the radio. Then I got message from a friend in Thailand. The sadness was inexplicable.

What happened after you found out?

I tried to convince myself it wasn't true. Then I cried.

Describe him in one word.

Father.

Which of the king's projects first come to your mind?

Kaem Ling (Monkey's Cheek) water conservation project.

What song makes you think of King Rama IX?

The king's composition Arthit Ab Saeng (Blue Day).

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