BANGKOK: Thailand’s newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn was carried by soldiers on a gilded palanquin through the streets of Bangkok Sunday (May 5), in front of crowds who craned to witness the historic event.
“Long live the king!” shouted well-wishers who lined the roads for hours for a glimpse of the constitutional monarch who is revered in Thai culture as a living deity.
The king, Rama X of the Chakri dynasty, wore a bejewelled robe and broad-brimmed hat with a feather on the second of three days of pageantry and royal splendour.
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The 7km procession brings the public into close proximity with the 66-year-old monarch for the first time, two years after he ascended the throne in an increasingly assertive reign.
It started around 5pm local time at the grand palace in Bangkok’s old quarter as trumpets blared, soldiers shouted commands and cannons fired a 21-gun salute.
It was a test of patience and loyalty for many Thais as temperature climbed to nearly 40 degrees Celsius.
Still, crowds of people from across the country flocked to the Rattanakosin island in Bangkok’s old quarter to witness the rare and picturesque event.
Hours prior to the historic occurrence, Thais clad in yellow – a colour commonly associated with royalty in the Southeast Asian kingdom – had already seated themselves along the route, sitting on the roads under the scorching sun. Many people had been waiting since 10am.
“This is a historic event. I have never seen it during the reign of the late King Bhumibol. Now is a great opportunity to witness it. I have been sitting here for hours but I feel just fine. I don’t look at the time, really. I’m enjoying the experience,” said Bangkok resident Somjit Poljamjumroon, 59.
Like other spectators, Somjit came prepared with an umbrella, water bottles and small Thai flags to wave when the king eventually passes through Tanao Road before paying homage to the main Buddha image at royal Buddhist temple Bovoranives Vihara.
The Thai government, which is spending 1 billion baht (US$31.4 million) on the weekend’s coronation ceremonies, has said crowds of at least 200,000 people were expected.
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The procession is part of his coronation ceremony, a three-day event that completes his kingship.
The highlight of Saturday’s sombre ceremonies was the King’s anointment with holy water, before he placed the 7.3kg golden tiered crown on his head.
Early Sunday, the king bestowed royal titles on family members who crawled to his throne in a striking show of deference to the monarch, who was joined by his new Queen Suthida.
The queen, 40, was deputy commander of the king’s royal guard before her marriage to King Vajiralongkorn, which was announced days before the coronation.
During the procession, she marched in red and black uniform next to the palanquin.
ENCIRCLING THE CITY
Known in Thai as Liap Phranakon, meaning to encircle the city, the royal land procession of King Vajiralongkorn started from the Grand Palace and proceed to the temple of Bovoranives Vihara before continuing to Rajbopidh Temple and Phra Chetuphon Temple, and returning to the Grand Palace.
The king was carried through the streets on a gilded palanquin borne by 16 men walking at about 75 steps per minute and stopping to swap out personnel every 500m, according to the palace.
More than 1,300 personnel are in the procession.
During the hours-long procession, Thais will have the opportunity to “pay homage” to the king.
King Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne after his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away on Oct 13, 2016. His coronation did not begin until May 4 due to a period of mourning and the royal cremation. The current king is the tenth monarch of Thailand’s Chakri dynasty and is thus also known as King Rama X.
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The elaborate coronation ceremonies have been broadcast on live television and include a network of the powerful and influential in Thailand.
Junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who seized power in a 2014 coup, took part in many of the key rituals, including the procession.
The king and queen stayed the previous night in the royal residence, where a Siamese cat and a white rooster were placed on a pillow as part of housewarming rituals intended to bring good tidings.
One of the family members to receive royal titles was 14-year-old Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, who knelt and prostrated in front of his father as he was anointed with water.
The teenager is the king’s son from his third marriage. He has six other children, including four sons from two previous wives.
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On Monday, the king will give a public audience from a balcony of Suddhaisavarya Hall inside the Grand Palace before meeting international dignitaries.
His enthronement will be complete with the royal barge procession in October, when he travels along the Chao Phraya River to the Temple of Dawn to present robes to Buddhist monks. About 2,300 oarsmen will be involved in this rare, rhythmic spectacle to row more than 50 royal barges along the 4km route.
With additional reporting by agencies.