My first experience of the Full Thai Funeral Process

Recently my Thai brother-in-law passed away after suffering a long period with cancer. May he rest in peace.

The Funeral process is very different to that in Europe and other countries, as Thailand is predominantly of Buddhist faith. Funerals are not such a sad occasion as they are in Europe and some other countries, and will last, usually for 7 days.

Thai people often take photos of themselves with the deceased after they have died and/or with the coffin.


The process starts on the day the individual passes away, they are returned to their home, and laid out on a bed and made to appear sleeping. Whilst this is happening, the funeral director will start putting up marquees for visitors to sit under, and pigs, and cattle will be killed ready to feed the visitors.

That same day, visitors (friends and family) often dressed in black or dark clothes will arrive to observe the deceased and pay their respects. They will also partake of the prepared food.

Later that evening, the Monks from the local temple come to deliver prayers. The vistors will file past the deceased and wash their hand with water, some will place coins in the deceased pockets.

Later the Monks will supervise the placing of the body into the coffin which will then be placed in a Marquee, with flowers and and offerings from friends and family. There will usually be some coloured flashing light garlands (Christmas tree type lights in Europe) draped around the coffin.

Music will often be playing, and sometimes a TV for the guests.

The next 6 days, food and drink will be offered to guests, who will often come several of the six days and the event is usually open all day and late into the night.

Each evening the Monks will come and offer up prayers for the deceased. The number of Monks that attend usually depends upon the rank of the deceased.

Everybody is chatting, even during the monk's prayers some are chatting. The atmosphere is not so sad, there are no loud tears. Family, relations, neighbours and even unknown people to the family can assist in those prayers. Sometimes an old and famous monk is present but doesn't take part in the ceremony. His presence indicates that the deceased person had a high rank.
During these days, guests will give the deceased's family an envelope containing cash to help pay for the funeral.

On the seventh day, the burning of the body will take place, usually in the afternoon. Guests will arrive at the house from early morning to chat, eat and drink.
The Monks will arrive and prayers will be said.

The coffin is then carried out a lorry and placed on the back, together with the flowers and gifts for the Temple. The close family of the deceased will then ride on the back of the lorry with the coffin.

Cloths will be placed either under the wipers, or round the door mirrors, of all the vehicles that will follow the coffin to the temple.

On arrival at the temple, the coffin is taken off and into one of the buildings, where the Monks will say prayers.

Guests will be offered water or other drinks. Guests will often be given a gift of some type, such as a glass, cup, Buddha ornament or the like, as a reminder of the occassion.

Guests will also be given a flower which they will bless and give to a member of the deceased's family, these will subsequently be burned with the deceased.

Following the prayers the coffin is carried to the 'furnace' building, a relatively small building with a very tall chimney.

The lid is removed from the coffin, and guest will often want their last look at the deceased.

Then the coffin is placed into the furnace, where oil is lit to commence the burning of the body, the door of the furnace is then closed.

Once the burning has started, the deceased's family will usually throw out 1 baht coins wrapped in coloured cellophane over the guests heads, which they will try and catch.

The top of the chimney of the furnace is then observed for the signs of the black smoke.

At this point many of the guests will start to leave.

Someone, however, will always stay until there is no more smoke coming from the chimney.

The photographs in this post are of my Brother-in-laws funeral, and are copyright © 2010. Please do not copy or re-produce them without specific authority from us. Thank you!


About steveriches

You have to dream, before your dreams can come true. ..................................... If all you own is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail. ..................................... If Life was easy, we would all live forever. .....................................
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