Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Crowds brave heat in Bangkok for first procession by the new king




Crowds brave heat in Bangkok for first procession by the new king

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida perform a ritual during his coronation in Bangkok on Saturday. THAI ROYAL HOUSEHOLD BUREAU/AFP

Crowds brave heat in Bangkok for first procession by the new king

Crowds of Thais eager to witness history filled roads around the Grand Palace on Sunday waiting under a scorching sun for newly-crowned King Rama X to emerge on a golden palanquin for a procession through Bangkok’s historic heart.

Wearing yellow shirts – the royal colour – and carrying hats and umbrellas to protect against temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius, they inched through security checkpoints, many clutching portraits of the king.

“It may be my first and last chance to see this,” 57-year-old Nattriya Siripattana said of the first ceremony of its kind in 69 years.

“I’m afraid of the heat but it won’t stop me.”

The three-day coronation, which started on Saturday, is the first since Vajiralongkorn’s adored and revered father was crowned in 1950 and most Thais have never seen the elaborate show of pageantry and ritual.

The highlight of Saturday’s sombre ceremonies was the King’s anointment with holy water, before he placed the 7.3kg (16lbs) golden tiered crown on his head.

Early on Sunday, the king bestowed royal titles on family members who crawled to his throne in a striking show of deference to the newly-crowned monarch as he sat next to his new Queen Suthida.

Thailand’s monarchy is swaddled in ritual, protocol and hierarchy all orbiting around the king, who is viewed as a demigod.

Later on Sunday, Vajiralongkorn was to be carried from the palace by groups of soldiers in round gold helmets, flanked by others bearing umbrellas, beating drums and holding royal standards along a seven kilometre procession.

Thais will have the opportunity to “pay homage” to the king who will also stop at several major temples to pray before large gilded Buddha images.

On the ground, authorities sprayed mists of water over the crowds whose numbers were bolstered by droves of “Jit Arsa” – or “Spirit Volunteers” – intended to project a show of devotion and fealty to the monarchy.

Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne in 2016 after the death of his father Bhumibol Adulyadej.

So far the coronation has brought a few surprises, such as the investiture of Queen Suthida, whose unexpected marriage to Vajiralongkorn was announced only days before.

The king and queen stayed the 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.

They moved to a throne hall on Sunday morning where the king in white uniform bestowed the royal titles, including on 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.

‘Focus on politics’

Criticism or in-depth discussion of the royal family in Thailand is guarded by harsh lese-majeste rules that carry up to 15 years in prison.

All media must self-censor and the country’s lively social media platforms have been subdued.

But the dazzling display of the primacy of the monarchy in Thai life belies a simmering political crisis held over from elections in March.

The junta that seized power in 2014 and has vowed to defend the monarchy is aiming to return to power through the ballot box.

Its proxy party has claimed the popular vote. But a coalition of anti-military parties says it has shored up a majority in the lower house.

Full results are not expected until May 9, a delay that has frustrated many Thais who cast votes almost two months earlier.

“When the event [coronation] is finished we will have to focus on politics,” said Titipol Phakdeewanich, a lecturer at Ubon Ratchathani University.

“The Election Commission has failed to provide sufficient information about the election results.”

Though the royal family is nominally above politics, the king issued an election-eve message calling on Thais to vote for “good people” against those who create “chaos”.

And in February, he scuttled the prime ministerial bid of his older sister Princess Ubolratana with an anti-junta party.

Though present on the first day in which she took selfies and hugged the king, Ubolratana was not included in second-day ceremonies where royal ranks were bestowed.

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,