Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn bestows royal titles on family members ahead of grand procession

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun sitting on the throne during his coronation ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 4, 2019.
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun sitting on the throne during his coronation ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 4, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand's new King Maha Vajiralongkorn bestowed royal titles on family members early on Sunday (May 5), as part of a second day of coronation rituals which began on Saturday and will last until Monday.

As the family members crawled to his throne, Queen Suthida, the king's fourth wife, sat by his side during the ceremony while uniformed officials assisting the ceremony moved around on their knees.

The coronation that started on Saturday was the first in 69 years, a once-in-a-lifetime ceremony where King Vajiralongkorn was anointed with holy water and placed the tiered golden Great Crown of Victory on his head.

Thailand's monarchy is wrapped in ritual, protocol and hierarchy all orbiting around the king, who is viewed as a demigod.

The ceremonies have hewed close to traditions underpinning the Chakri dynasty, which has ruled since 1782.

But the coronation contained a few surprises, such as the investiture of Queen Suthida, whose unexpected marriage to King Vajiralongkorn was announced only days before.

The king and queen stayed the night in the royal residence, where a Siamese cat and chicken were placed on a pillow as part of housewarming rituals.

 
 
 
 

They moved to a throne hall on Sunday morning, where the king in white uniform bestowed the royal titles, including on 14-year-old Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, who knelt in front of his father as he was anointed with water.

The teenager is the king's son from his third marriage. He has six other children, including four sons from two previous wives.

In the afternoon, King Vajiralongkorn will emerge from the palace as soldiers in conical red hats carrying tiered umbrellas and royal standards flank an hours-long procession.

He will be carried on a golden palanquin through Bangkok's historic heart, which will bring the public up close to their powerful monarch.

"I will be here to save a spot at 5am," Madam Kanha Kitvej, 80, told AFP the day before, as she watched soldiers march by the royal palace.

But the scorching heat may keep others away. "I won't go today because I'm afraid that I will faint due to hot weather," said a woman in her mid-60s.

Roads in Bangkok's old quarter have been closed down for the 7km procession, when the king will pass by crowds dressed in yellow - the royal colour.

King Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne in 2016 after the death of his beloved father King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

For many Thais, the procession is a chance to see the king in a country where the wealthy monarchy is the focus of reverence and veneration.

Criticism of the royal family in Thailand is guarded by harsh lese majeste rules that carry up to 15 years in prison.

 
 
 

All media must self-censor and the country's lively social media platforms were subdued during the coronation.

Though present on day one, the king's older sister Princess Ubolratana did not participate.

The king thwarted the political ambitions of Princess Ubolratana in a royal command in February that torpedoed her attempt to run for prime minister with a party opposing Thailand's junta, which seized power in a 2014 coup.

Election results from the disputed March poll are expected to be announced this week.