Visitors stealing bits off royal crematorium

Visitors walk towards the royal crematorium at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on Thursday, when it was first opened to the public. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Some inconsiderate visitors have made off with “mementoes” from the royal crematorium of King Rama IX at Sanam Luang, forcing authorities to declare parts of the site off-limits just a day after the one-month viewing period began.

Stricter rules are now being imposed and access to the royal crematorium will be more limited than originally intended, army chief Chalermchai Sittisad said on Friday.

“We need public cooperation. Initially some visitors felt they wanted souvenirs in accordance with their beliefs. That caused damage to some parts,” said Gen Chalermchai, who is in charge of keeping order in the vicinity of the Grand Palace.

After the royal cremation on Oct 26, the government opened the beautifully built royal crematorium, and its associated exhibition, to the public, from Nov 2 to 30.

Initially visitors were allowed to enter the crematorium and go up to the second floor. Unfortunately, some of them stole bits as as keepsakes, and the damage prompted the government to keep visitors outside the crematorium.

“Initially the royal crematorium was opened through to the second floor because the problem was unexpected,” Gen Chalermchai said. “I must admit that people have different thoughts, beliefs and attitudes.”

About 29,000 people visited the royal crematorium on Thursday. The site can accommodate as many as 56,000 people per day, with 4,000 people at a time allowed to tour the area for 45 minutes. The figures are based on opening hours from 7am to 9pm daily.

Stricter regulations are solving the problem of tampering b y inconsiderate visitors. Officials from the various agencies are now telling visitors, as politely and patiently as possible, what they can and cannot do, the army chief said.

He also gave an assurance that no VIPs would be allowed to jump queues ahead of visitors at the crematorium. All visitors must wait their turn in orderly queues.

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