Sunday, August 24, 2008

Discipline demanded of royal chariot pullers

Discipline demanded of royal chariot pullers

Soldiers say funeral is serious business

By Wassana Nanuam

Expecting young men to abstain from partying for months at a time might sound like too much to ask, but it's serious business for the 221 soldiers selected to pull a royal chariot carrying the funeral urn of Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana. In the next three months, the soldiers from the army's Ordnance Department have been told to observe strict discipline.

They were chosen from more than 600 soldiers to pull the 14-tonne royal chariot on Nov 15 when the body of the late princess will be moved from the Grand Palace to the crematorium at Sanam Luang. The day before that, a royal merit-making ceremony will be held at the crematorium site.

The cremation itself will take place on Nov 16, with the ashes gathered the following day.

A royal merit-making ceremony will take place on Nov 18 for the ashes, which will be put in an urn the next day.

Chariot pullers are 170-177cm tall. They cannot be too tall or the procession will look out of sync. They all must be under 45 years old and physically fit.

Non-commissioned officer student Watchara Srichaiwan, 21, said he had no hesitation in accepting the mission.

''I want to be part of the historic ceremony and one day tell my children about my greatest honour. My family will be very proud of me,'' he said.

Col Arwut Aimwong, assistant to a chariot-pulling training director, said the selected soldiers will be booted off the team if they fail to turn up for any rehearsals or are found in bars.

''They have to take care of themselves and, most importantly, always stay fit,'' he said.

In addition to the 221 chariot pullers, 79 soldiers will pull another chariot carrying the Supreme Patriarch, 40 will lift the royal urn in an ancient elevator system and 34 will supervise the spare parts of the vehicles used in the procession.

More than 2,000 soldiers will march in the grand ceremonial procession.

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