Thailand Marks First Birthday of New King Since He Took The Throne

BenarNews staff
170728-TH-monks-1000.jpg Buddhist monks walk past a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in front of Dusit Palace in Bangkok to take alms from people celebrating the monarch’s 65th birthday, July 28, 2017.

Thais participated in merit-making ceremonies Friday to mark the first birthday for King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X) since he ascended to the throne in December 2016 following the death of his father two months earlier.

In front of Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Dusit Palace in Bangkok, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha presided over a ceremony to wish the new  king a long life. Thousands of civil servants and ordinary people offered alms to 651 Buddhist monks, an auspicious number for the monarch’s 65th birthday.

The military set off a 21-gun salute and other agencies held merit-making ceremonies. Earlier, Thais released 1,066 turtles as a tribute.

Merit-making ceremonies are a Buddhist tradition contributing to a person’s growth toward prosperity.

But the king did not appear on television or at any of his Thai palaces, leading news services and others to question whether he was in the country. His father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on Oct. 13, often appeared in public to celebrate his birthday with his countrymen during his seven-decade reign.

The Straits Times reported the king drew a set of cartoons that appeared on the cover of a booklet for a religious ceremony on Thursday.

“Happiness starts from our mind and a good attitude toward others,” said one of his handwritten messages, printed alongside a depiction of a smiling family standing by a car, a house and pet dogs, according to the report. “If one is happy to devote oneself to the public, it makes others, and the public, happy.”

Increasing power

Vajiralongkorn spent much of his adult life in Germany but returned to Thailand last year when his father’s health failed. In April, he signed a new Constitution after the government agreed to amendments allowing him to rule his kingdom while traveling abroad.

Since then, he was given control of five agencies overseeing palace security and management. Those agencies are the Royal Household Bureau, Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department, Office of Royal Court Security Police and Royal Security Command.

Earlier this month, a new law gave him the power to control the Crown Property Bureau, which oversees the monarchy’s land holdings and assets. Back in 1932, the People’s Party took the bureau away from King Rama VII, when a revolution in Thailand ended an absolute monarchy and replaced it with a constitutional one. In 2011, Forbes magazine estimated the Royal Family’s net worth at $30 billion.

The new constitution and other changes are seen as efforts to increase the king’s power with the support of a junta led by Prayuth, who toppled the government of Yingluck Shinawatra in a military coup in May 2014.

Since seizing power, the junta has cracked down on Thais violating Lese-Majeste, the country’s strict royal defamation law. One man faces 35 years in prison and at least 82 others have been charged. Many of those cases stem from social media postings.

People in Narathiwat province in southern Thailand give alms to monks for Buddhist merit-making to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, and to celebrate King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s 65th birthday, July 28, 2017. [BenarNews]


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