BANGKOK – The funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the culmination of a year of mourning for a monarch who became a father figure for many Thais during his 70-year reign. The elaborate ceremonies spread over five days are a once-in-a-lifetime event for Thais. The government declared a national holiday Thursday and businesses across the kingdom have shuttered. Even the always-open convenience store chain 7-Eleven closed so its workers could join the throngs of black-clad mourners paying their respects at shrines across the capital and beyond. But for some, Thursday, while remarkable, was also another workday.
THE TAXI DRIVER
Sanhagod Sasomkongtham, 52, was listening to the proceedings on the radio in his taxi. He said he planned to go in the evening to offer sandalwood flowers at one of the mourning sites.
"I really want to go; it's an important event," he said. "I've never gone to the palace to pay my respects, but I've passed it many times. I feel that at least I have been able to be of service to His Majesty by sending people off to pay their respects. At least I have been able to serve His Majesty once in my life."
THE SECURITY GUARD
Nipol Yatkatsart, 53, said he asked his boss to cover his early morning shift so he could offer flowers at a mourning site before reporting to work as a security guard at a central Bangkok office building. He said his shifts normally end at midnight and over the past year of mourning he had traveled after work to the area near the Grand Palace several times.
"There's nothing going on there, but I would go just to be near the place and take in the atmosphere," he said.
He said he is happy he got the chance to offer flowers to the king and that he will honoring the king in the future by keeping up with his volunteer work.
"I'll continue to do good for Father," he said.
THE DRUG STORE OWNER
Sawang Jiravorapat, 60, was watching the morning's funeral ceremony on a TV inside the pharmacy he owns.
"Today the ceremony will end, but his goodness will forever be in our hearts, because there is so much goodness he has given us," Sawang said. "It is a great example to the coming generations for them to be vigorous and sustainable."
THE MAN WITH TWO JOBS
Thaweep Charoenpol, 48, said he works seven days a week in his two jobs: a motorcycle taxi driver by day and a security guard at night. He said he made time in the morning to offer flowers for the king.
"I haven't had time to go to Sanam Luang but I've sent people off there before. I can only do as much as I can," he said, using the name of the cremation grounds. "I can't stop working. I have three children and a wife —if I don't work, they don't get to eat."
THE FAST FOOD WORKER
Wasan Sirkosol, 32, said he would be working at his branch of KFC until 3 p.m., when the international restaurant chain would close so its workers could watch the evening ceremonies. He said he planned to visit a temple.
"I am following it on Facebook. I just scroll down my feed and there are many Facebook live broadcasts from the event being shared," he said. "I am still sad. It is a big important occasion."