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Thailand earmarks $9 mln for princess's funeral

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand plans to spend at least 300 million baht ($9 million) of taxpayers' money on the funeral of Princess Galyani Vadhana, elder sister of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the government said on Tuesday.

Much of the funeral budget will be spent on an enormous pyre, which will take as many as four months to build.

"The cabinet has approved an initial budget of 300 million baht for the royal cremation rite," Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who chairs a 39-member funerary panel, told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

A man shops next to portraits of late Princess Galyani Vadhana, elder sister of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at a shop in Bangkok January 7, 2008. (REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom)

The 84-year-old princess, a French-speaking patron of the arts, died on Jan. 2 after six months in hospital receiving treatment for abdominal cancer.

The government declared 15 days of mourning, ordering flags to be flown at half-mast and asked Thailand's 66 million people to wear black or white and refrain from entertainment.

Major sporting events, including the Asia versus Europe Royal Trophy golf tournament, were postponed or cancelled out of respect.

According to royal tradition, Galyani's cremation can be held after the end of a 100-day mourning period, although no date has been set.

The 80-year-old king, who spent three weeks in the same hospital as his sister in October with a blood clot, also declared 100 days of mourning in Bangkok's glittering Grand Palace.

Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, is held in almost semi-divine regard by many Thais after more than 60 years on the throne, during which time he has been a pillar of stability during 18 military coups.

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