Thai King Vajiralongkorn to be crowned in three-day ceremony

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (C) and his daughter Princess Bajrakitiyabha (L) are accompanied by royal guards during a royal ceremony to mark Chakri Memorial Day at the King Rama I Monument in Bangkok, Thailand, 06 April 2019.Image copyright Euoropean Photopres Agency
Image caption The king will receive the Royal Regalia, including The Great Crown of Victory

Thailand has begun three days of coronation ceremonies for King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

King Vajiralongkorn inherited the throne in 2016 when his long-reigning father Bhumibol Adulyadej died.

Days ago in a surprise announcement the palace said the king had married his long-term partner and royal consort who would now be Queen Suthida.

Thailand has a constitutional monarchy, but the royal family is highly revered by Thais and wields considerable power.

Thailand also has strict laws, called lese majeste, which ban criticism of the monarchy. The laws have shielded the royal family from public view and scrutiny.

The coronation comes at a time of political uncertainty. A general election was held on 24 March, the first since the army took control in a coup in 2014, but a new government has yet to be declared.

However, many Thais are excited to witness history, and will be keenly watching the first coronation in almost 70 years.

Who is the king?

King Vajiralongkorn, 66, is the second child, and first son, of Queen Sirikit and Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption King Vajiralongkorn’s father was the longest-reigning monarch in the world

He was educated in the UK and Australia and has been trained at the Royal Military College in Canberra. He went on to become an officer in the Thai armed forces and is a qualified civilian and fighter pilot.

He became crown prince and official heir to the throne in 1972.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Thai TV showed the wedding ceremony of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida

Queen Suthida, who is his fourth wife, is the deputy commander of his personal security unit. She was made a full general in the army in December 2016.

What are the coronation ceremonies going to be like?

The coronation begins on Saturday, when most of the main Brahmin and Buddhist rituals take place, and runs until Monday.

While King Vajiralongkorn has been on the throne since 2016, in Thai tradition he cannot be considered a divine representative on Earth nor the main patron of Buddhism until he is consecrated.

The king will go through purification and anointment ceremonies using sacred water that has been collected from more than 100 locations around the country.

He will also receive the five Royal Regalia – the symbols of kingship – which includes the Great Crown of Victory.

How are Thais marking the occasion?

On Sunday, King Vajiralongkorn will take part in a procession around the capital, Bangkok, giving people a chance to celebrate his consecration.

Large crowds are expected for this event as well as when he makes a public appearance on a balcony at the Grand Palace on Monday.

King Vajiralongkorn spends most of his time abroad and is not as well known to the public as his father.

But huge portraits of him can now be seen at many buildings after it was made mandatory for state offices to erect them in the weeks leading up to the celebration.

Civil servants were also asked to wear yellow – the colour associated with the king. Many ordinary Thais will also be wearing yellow to show their loyalty to the monarch.

Key events

Saturday 4 May

  • The Royal Purification and Anointment – sacred water is poured over the king
  • Royal Regalia – the king is presented with the crown, sword and other items
  • Temple of the Emerald Buddha – the king proclaims himself the Royal Patron of Buddhism
  • Assumption of the Royal Residence – he symbolically moves into the official residence with a housewarming ceremony

Sunday 5 May

  • Royal Procession on Land – the king rides the Royal Palanquin encircling the city allowing people to pay homage

Monday 6 May

  • The king grants a public audience on a balcony in the Grand Palace. Later he grants an audience to international diplomats.
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