BANGKOK: Thailand’s newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn made a spectacular public appearance in front of his countrymen Sunday, carried atop a golden palanquin by soldiers in ancient fighting uniforms in a procession through Bangkok’s historic quarter, reports AP.
Soldiers marched in front, behind and alongside the palanquin in scorching heat as the procession set off from Bangkok’s Grand Palace just after 5 p.m. as a marching band set the pace. 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.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, Vajiralongkorn had already been serving as king since the October 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was on the throne for seven decades.
Though Thailand has had a constitutional monarchy since 1932, when a revolution ended absolute rule by kings, the country’s monarchs are regarded as almost divine and have been seen as a unifying presence in a country that has seen regular bouts of political instability as it rotates between elected governments and military rule.
Vajiralongkorn since taking the throne has tightened control over royal institutions and acted to increase his influence in his country’s administration. Like kings before him, he is protected by one of the world’s strictest lese majeste laws, which makes criticism of him and other top royals punishable by up to 15 years in prison and has dampened open debate about the monarchy’s role in society.
Onlookers who crowded the sidewalks Sunday along the 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) parade route were almost all wearing yellow shirts, a color closely associated with the monarchy. The 66-year-old king 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 cellphones. When Vajiralongkorn passed by, there were shouts of “Long Love the King.” The 109-member marching band played tunes composed by his father, who was an enthusiastic musician.“I love and respect the monarchy,” said Sujitra Bokularb, a 43-year-old business woman who left home 4 a.m. 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. I think the new king will continue his legacy.”
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.
The march was expected to be completed in about five hours.