Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 8 December 2019

Thai king celebrates coronation with spectacular parade

An elaborate set of Buddhist and Hindu rituals established the new king's status

Thailand's newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn made a spectacular public appearance on Sunday, carried on top of a golden palanquin by soldiers in ancient uniforms during a procession through Bangkok's historic quarter.

Soldiers marched in front, behind and alongside the palanquin in scorching heat as the procession set off from Bangkok's Grand Palace just after 5pm local time.

Also taking part in the slow march were the prime minister and other senior officials in the military government as well as the king's wife, Queen Suthida, and one of his daughters, Princess Bajrakitiyabha.

King Vajiralongkorn on Saturday took part in an elaborate set of Buddhist and Hindu rituals that established his status as a full-fledged monarch with complete regal powers.

Also known as King Rama X, the 10th king of the Chakri dynasty, King Vajiralongkorn had already been ruling since the October 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was on the throne for seven decades.

Although Thailand has had a constitutional monarchy since 1932, kings are regarded as almost divine and have been seen as a unifying presence in a country that has experienced regular bouts of political instability.

Since taking the throne, King Vajiralongkorn has tightened control over royal institutions and acted to increase his influence. Like kings before him, he is protected by one of the world's strictest lèse-majesté laws, which make criticism of him and other top royals punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Onlookers who crowded the route along Sunday's seven kilometre parade route were almost all wearing yellow shirts, a color closely associated with the monarchy. The king, 66, wore heavy, gold-embroidered vestments and a soft, wide-brimmed hat.

Some of those watching the parade clasped their hands in reverence; others took photos with their phones. When King Vajiralongkorn passed by, there were shouts of "long live the king". A 109-strong marching band played tunes composed by his father, who was an enthusiastic musician.

"I love and respect the monarchy," said Sujitra Bokularb, 43, a businesswoman who left home 4am to reach the parade. "We have been shown the importance of this institution since we were young and how much the previous king had done for us.," she said. "I think the new king will continue his legacy."

King Vajiralongkorn was shielded from some of the fading sun by an ochre umbrella. After slightly more than an hour of marching, the king reached Wat Bovoranives, the first of three temples where he was scheduled to stop and pay homage to his royal ancestors.

Earlier on Sunday, the king began his second day of coronation activities by granting new titles to members of the royal family in front of an audience of dignitaries including top government officials and senior Buddhist monks.

He launched the Sunday morning event in a hall at the Grand Palace by paying respects in front of portraits of his late father and his mother, who has been ill for an extended period. His mother, known as Queen Sirikit, 86, was granted a new official title of Queen Mother.

King Vajiralongkorn's son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, was one of the family members granted a new title. He turned 14 on April 29 and is the heir presumptive.

Although Saturday's ceremonies were solemn and heavily tinged with age-old rites, including the prominent presence of Brahmin priests, Sunday morning's event was slightly more relaxed, though also steeped with traditional royal and Buddhist gestures.

Live television coverage showed some glimpses of informality: Queen Suthida exchanging a brief aside with King Vajiralongkorn and two of his daughters in a warm hug after the second one returned from receiving her new title.

On Monday, the king will greet the public from the balcony of the Grand Palace in the late afternoon and then hold a reception for the diplomatic corps.

Updated: May 5, 2019 07:39 PM

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