Thailand crowns a new King
A new era dawned in Thailand on Saturday as King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun formally became the 10th King of the Chakri Dynasty in a ceremony that adhered to ancient traditions and followed by three-days of events in which millions of Thais at home and abroad celebrated the new reign with demonstrations of unity and devotion.
A constitutional monarch, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 66, assumed the role and responsibilities of King following the death of his father His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016. King Bhumibol had reined for 70 years making him the world’s longest-reigning monarch at the time of his passing. Most living Thais had never witnessed the opulent pageantry, rites, and rituals of a coronation.
The Chakri Dynasty was founded in 1782 and became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. Modern Thai kings remain above politics but engage in development work and serve as a unifying symbol of the nation, and that tradition continued as Thais put aside their differences in shows of unity during the coronation. More than ever, the Thai people appreciate the monarchy’s cultural and religious heritage as an anchor and a defining element of their national identity in the face of a world marked by jarring change and disruptions.
The rituals, symbolism, and pageantry of the coronation, presided over by Buddhist and Brahmin clergy and supported by Royal Guards garbed in Siamese uniforms from centuries ago, were a living embodiment of traditional Thainess.
In a speech to over a hundred of thousand Thais who willingly braved 100-degree heat outside the Grand Palace, His Majesty King Rama X said he was determined to continue the legacy of his father and his forebears, and dedicate his life to uplifting and bettering the lives of the Thai people. He vowed to serve with righteousness and for the benefit of all those living within the Kingdom.
The new King, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua, then donated over $75 million to 27 hospitals for medical equipment and modern facilities in keeping with the tradition of his grandparents who were medical professionals and instrumental in founding Thailand’s public health system. As Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn he had established a foundation that built and funded 21 community hospitals in remote and more impoverished regions of the Kingdom.
Across the Kingdom and in foreign countries, Thais organized and participated in ceremonies to celebrate the dawn of a new era. They volunteered their time and effort to perform good deeds and public works and freely made donations to good causes to show their unity and demonstrate their allegiance.
Prior to the official ceremony, King Maha Vajiralongkorn pardoned thousands of prisoners in a show of mercy and forgiveness. He then officially married his consort and designated her as Queen Suthida. Before accessing the throne the King, dressed in white robes, partook in Buddhist and Brahmin ritual purification rites in which priests anointed him with sacred waters from Thailand’s rivers.
The King then donned the ceremonial golden and bejeweled robes, the crown of victory, golden slippers, sword, and other regalia, and took his place on a golden throne topped with a nine-tiered umbrella and carved in the shape of a sacred mountain to symbolize the Buddhist cosmology. Outside the palace, the Royal Guards fired a 21-gun salute.
The King then granted audiences to members of the royal family, privy councilors, government leaders, and foreign dignitaries. Then he proceeded to pay his respects at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred religious site in the Kingdom.
The streets along the route from the palace to the temple, and the large royal field called Sanam Luang, were a crush of Thais joyously cheering as the new King made his way to the various ceremonies and appearances that continued through the three-day event that included a spectacular flotilla of royal barges on the Chao Phraya River.
Chants of “Trong Phra Charoen,” the equivalent of “long live the King” rose up from the throngs as the monarch and his Queen passed by, smiling and waving at their subjects.
Governments and leaders from around the world sent congratulations and best wishes to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua and the people of Thailand.
“The American and Thai community of the United States Mission to the Kingdom of Thailand join the people of the Kingdom of Thailand in extending our warmest congratulations to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun on the auspicious occasion of His Majesty’s coronation as King of the Kingdom of Thailand,” the United States Embassy said on its website.
“We wish His Majesty continued health, success, and prosperity. His Majesty’s gracious opening of the ‘Great and Good Friends’ exhibition last year was a true testament to the strength of our 200-year friendship. The United States remains committed to strengthening the alliance between our two nations, and to promoting the mutual prosperity of both our peoples,” the U.S. said.