Entrance limit set at 10,000
Mourners complain as new queue card system implemented, leaving people confused and unable to enter Sala Sahathai Samakhom
FROM Saturday, the number of mourners allowed to pay respects to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej before the Royal Urn inside the Grand Palace will be limited to 10,000 a day.
Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) spokesperson Threedow Aphaiwongs Sukhum said yesterday the number of people allowed into the Palace throne hall each day could be adjusted based on situations in the future.
She spoke at a press conference held after a daily meeting of a newly formed Joint Safety Command Centre, which oversees the massive gathering at Sanam Luang and areas adjacent to the Grand Palace.
The areas have become crowded with mourners waiting to enter the Grand Palace complex to pay respects to the late King.
The spokeswoman said an average of 30,000 to 40,000 people had entered the Sala Sahathai Samakhom in the Grand Palace since October 15 to sign messages of condolence in tribute to the late King. His Majesty, who was in his 89th year, passed away on October 13.
Starting this Saturday, only about 10,000 people will be allowed to enter the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall in the Grand Palace to prostrate themselves in front of the Royal Urn and the King’s body.
“The throne hall is relatively small and many royal ceremonies are held there. So fewer people can get inside,” Threedow said.
She said management of the queue to enter the Palace and facilities such as tents and toilet buses had been boosted to cope with the large influx in mourners expected from Saturday.
All mourners who wish to enter the Grand Palace complex are required to receive queue cards, whether they want to sign the condolence book or also pay respects in front of the Royal Urn and the King’s body.
There is only one point providing cards for the queue, at a tent behind the entrance to Sanam Luang, adjacent to a T-junction of Phrachan Road, on a corner of Thammasat University’s Tha Phrachan campus. People can get the numbered cards starting at 5.30am until the quota runs out.
Many disappointed mourners said they had only learned that they needed a queue card after already waiting in long queues.
“I did not know I needed a queue card to enter the Grand Palace. I waited in a very long queue in the burning sun for over half an hour until an official told me to step out of the line and go get such a card. I do not know if today I will have a chance to pay homage to the King,” Chanya Poleait said.
The 47-year-old from Samut Prakan, who was joined by her mother and sister, had arrived at Sanam Luang, the field in front of the Grand Palace, at 11am.
At 2.30pm, the trio were hungry but had been unable to have lunch. Chanya said she was willing to get the queue cards and waited for more hours for her turn. But she asked why officials did not publicly announce or let the public know they were required to undergo such a queue system.
A military official arranging the queue system, who did not want to be named, said many mourners in the lines were upset when people without queue cards cut in front of them. Officials had to patrol the two-kilometre-long line to ensure that all people waiting in the queue had the required cards.
“The queue cards will be distributed to people. When the quota runs out, we will stop distributing them and let all people with the cards enter the Grand Palace. This coming Saturday, there is a quota for 10,000 people. If the 10,000 queue cards run out, those people who do not get a card can return home without wasting their time waiting in long lines,” the source said.
“This is to ensure that all waiting people have a chance to enter,” he said.
Yesterday afternoon, more than 7,000 people waited in long lines on the field in the scorching sun, he said.
Bangkok officials also planned to set up two more tents for those waiting for queue cards with a combined capacity for 1,800 people, in addition to the 13 small tents with a capacity for 1,300 people, Threedow said.
A mourner suggested that the authorities make it clear to people who are waiting that they need queue cards to enter the Grand Palace.
“It is good that the queue |management has been implemented to prevent a mess among the crowds. However, the authorities should put more effort on public relations to let the people know they need to undergo the queue system. Otherwise, they will come here and return home desperately upset,” 34-year-old businessman Thanapol Wola said.
Thanapol had waited in a long line for five hours before being able to enter the Grand Palace.