Thailand Set for First Coronation in Nearly 7 Decades

BenarNews staff
190502-TH-king-homage-1000.jpg Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn (center) and Queen Suthida pay respects at King Rama V monument in Bangkok, May 2, 2019.

Thailand finally crowns its new king this weekend, two-and-a-half years after the death of a revered former monarch and almost 70 years since the kingdom’s last coronation.

The lavish three-day ceremony formally instituting the reign of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, or King Rama X, comes as Thais await results of a recent election and their next prime minister.

The gap between the start of the new king’s reign and his coronation was due in part to a long period of mourning for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej after his seven-decade reign, authorities had said. His son and heir, Vajiralongkorn, paid homage at monuments to former Thai rulers Thursday, in preparation for ceremonies to mark his crowning.

The coronation and associated events since early April will cost the government at least 1 billion baht (U.S. $31.2 million), officials said.

Thais say they are excited to witness the first coronation in decades, but are unlikely to voice many opinions about their new monarch, due to the kingdom’s strict Lese-Majeste law that criminalizes royal defamation.

The junta that has ruled Thailand for five years has aggressively enforced that law, which makes it a crime to insult the king or the royal family.

The May 2014 coup was launched in part to ensure a smooth royal succession in the fading years of the late king’s reign, according to analysts. The junta has prosecuted about 100 people on charges of violating Lese-Majeste, rights groups say.

Now, Thailand is ready to hold its first coronation since King Bhumibol Adulyadej officially took the throne 69 years ago, on May 5, 1950.

Accompanied by newly appointed Queen Suthida, Vajiralongkorn lit candles and joss-sticks late Thursday afternoon before presenting a flower offering to the spirit of King Chulalongkorn, his great-grandfather, in front of the Dusit Palace, their residence in Bangkok.

Later, the king and queen paid homage to King Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok, the founder of the Chakri Dynasty who established Bangkok as the capital of the then-Kingdom of Siam in April 1782. Vajiralongkorn is the 10th monarch in the Chakri line.

Thais young and old expressed interest in the pageantry of the coronation.

“I feel excited because I have a chance to watch a broadcast to see such an amazing national-level ceremony,” said Nang Ekkachote, 89, a native of Mahasarakan province in northeast Thailand. “During the coronation of King Bhumibol, we had no TV so I learned about it only from words of others.”

A young woman in Bangkok said she too was eager to observe the historic ceremony.

“I really want to know what the ceremony looks like. I only know it is a tradition people talk about a lot,” said Fa Jamraswej, 23. “I will try to observe the event myself along Rajadamnoen Street, to be part of the history.”

Sacred water

Vajiralongkorn, 66, ascended the throne after Bhumibol died at the age of 88 on Oct. 13, 2016.

On Wednesday, the king announced his marriage – his fourth – and the appointment of the new queen. He has seven children from his first three wives.

In 2017, the government passed a law giving Vajiralongkorn sole authority over the Crown Property Bureau, which oversees the monarchy’s lands and assets believed to be worth as much as U.S. $30 billion, according to Forbes magazine in 2011. Business Insider magazine described him as the world’s richest monarch.

Events leading up to the coronation, which starts on Saturday, began on April 6 as water was collected from 108 places across the nation and blessed by Buddhist monks in each of its 76 provinces.

On Friday, the day before the coronation ceremony, the government will hold a procession delivering the king’s royal emblem and other paraphernalia to the Grand Palace.

Vajiralongkorn will worship before the Emerald Buddha image and the ashes of ancestral royals inside the vast compound. The Grand Palace, used for ceremonial events, is seen as an icon of the royal dynasty.

The actual coronation commences on Saturday when the king will be purified with sacred waters collected across the nation.

Later, the king will have water poured into his palms in an anointment ceremony while seated on the Octagonal Throne in the Grand Palace’s Phaisan Thaksin Throne Hall. He will move to the Bhadarabhit Throne to be crowned.

He will travel to Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram Temple and announce that he is the patron of Buddhism, worship the spirits of his ancestors, announce new ranks for members of the royalty and appear before the public.

Events during Sunday’s program include a procession to three temples to pay respects to the Buddha and the king’s ancestors’ ashes. Thousands of people clad in yellow shirts, the symbol of supporters of the royalists, are expected line the route to observe the king pass by.

The government will have medical teams on standby to treat heat-related illnesses and other injuries. Accuweather predicted a high temperature of 96 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) on Sunday.

On Monday, the king will meet with religious leaders at Sudhai Sawan Hall, have an audience with foreign envoys at the Chakri Pavilion and then travel around Old Bangkok to meet citizens.


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