14 Sep 2006

Coffin for Tonga's King to be carried by a thousand pallbearers

7:50 pm on 14 September 2006

A thousand pallbearers are expected to carry the coffin of the late Tongan King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV during the royal funeral next week.

Meanwhile huge crowds are offering traditional gifts to the Royal Palace, where the King is lying in state.

Parliament has gone into recess and pop music has been banned.

Lopeti Senituli, an advisor to the Tongan prime minister, says nightly vigils are being held at the palace.

"We have allocated time for villages and for the various denominations to visit the palace and to hold a religious service and that runs from 8 to 12 every evening. At the same time the staying of traditional obligations and tributes is ongoing."

Mr Senituli says traditonal offerings to the royal household include pigs, yams, root crops, mats, tapa and ornaments.

The royal household then redistributes them to the community.