Thais honor late King’s birthday, world leaders hail new King

 king2Millions of Thais across the nation turned out last week to honor the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the 89th anniversary of his birth, the first since his passing in October, as monarchs and heads of government from several nations sent congratulatory messages to new King Maha Vajiralongkorn following his acceptance of the crown.

More than 30,000 people gathered to catch a glimpse of King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday during his first trip to the provinces as King. The monarch visited the southern province of Krabi to preside over the opening of a new provincial hall. In the provincial capital local people presented him with fruits and other tokens of their esteem, and thousands more lined the road from the airport to show their respect.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s late father King Bhumibol Adulyadej earned the love and devotion of the people by traveling to the countryside for eight months every year to learn about the conditions of the people and launch royal development projects to meet their needs. Those trips ended some years ago, however, when the late King’s health began to decline.

Last Monday was the first birthday anniversary of King Bhumibol following his passing at the age of 88 on October 13. Thais also celebrate the day as Father’s Day because the late King was regarded as the father of the nation. All across the kingdom, Thais gathered in public places and conducted ceremonies to honor King Bhumibol, with over 50,000 converging on the Bhumibol 1 bridge in Bangkok.

On behalf of President Barack Obama, United States Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement honoring the memory of King Bhumibol on his birthday anniversary and also congratulating King Maha Vajiralongkorn on his ascension to the throne. “We remember His Majesty for the great vision and dedication with which he led Thailand,’’ Kerry wrote.

Many other world leaders also sent congratulatory messages to the new King. They included President Angela Merkel of Germany, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. King Maha Vajiralongkorn also received messages from his fellow monarchs around the world, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden, King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.