BANGKOK • Thailand marked King Maha Vajiralongkorn's 65th birthday yesterday with major religious ceremonies and public displays of loyalty around the country.
Government officials led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gave alms to 651 Buddhist monks in the morning at the Royal Plaza in the capital Bangkok, while royal guards carried out a gun salute in Sanam Luang.
In other parts of the capital, local businesses erected portraits of the new King while well-wishers lined up to get special edition postage stamps of the monarch.
"The first day of the sales of the first stamp in the reign of King Rama X (Vajiralongkorn)... was met with huge public interest," Thailand's postal service said in a statement.
Provincial halls around the country and Thai embassies around the world also hosted mass alms-offerings to mark King Vajiralongkorn's birthday, which has been made a public holiday for the first time this year.
Government offices and private organisations have been hosting various events and religious ceremonies to celebrate the occasion since Wednesday.
The Thai government is officially in a year-long period of mourning following the death last October of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the father of King Vajiralongkorn, which means government officials have to wear black clothes or official uniforms.
But the government instructed officials and members of the public to wear white clothes yesterday to celebrate King Vajiralongkorn's birthday. The king's birthday has always been an important date in Thailand, a country where the monarchy is held in high regard by the vast majority of people.
King Bhumibol, who ruled for seven decades and was widely regarded as the nation's moral compass, traditionally marked his birthday with a series of public appearances as well as a speech to the nation which revealed his thoughts on current affairs of the country.
But this year there were no scheduled public appearances or speech by King Vajiralongkorn.
The new King, who has yet to command the popularity that his father enjoyed, has been consolidating his power since taking the throne in December. He has taken direct control of five state agencies overseeing palace affairs and security that were previously run by the government or military. He has also been granted power to appoint all members of a body that oversees the palace's multi-billion dollar financial portfolio.
King Vajiralongkorn spent much of the last few years abroad and has continued to do so since he took the throne. He owns a home in Munich, where his son is at school.
His coronation is expected to take place sometime after his father's funeral and cremation in October.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE