The new Thai king has already won praise since he came to the throne in 2018. This weekend will see him take on a new status or reverence in the role as he is anointed according to ancient Buddhist and Brahmin rituals with a series of coronation ceremonies. To many Thai people, the events of the weekend inspire confidence, pride and an added sense of protection or security that Thais derive from the institution which is at the apex of Thai society.
The new Thai king will take on the ancient religious and spiritual mantle of King of Thailand over the weekend having reigned as constitutional monarch since 2018. The importance of the monarchy to Thailand and the role of its new monarch, King Vajiralongkorn or Rama X cannot be underestimated. He has already, in a short time, won praise and inspired confidence by his decisive nature and his pursuit of the legacy and philosophies of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In keeping with that legacy, the new king surprised Thailand and the world this week when he married his consort, a move which will see him crown Thailand’s new queen over the weekend just as his father did in 1950 shortly after marrying his bride Queen Sirikit.
This weekend sees the Thai nation gather to witness the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn or Rama X, the tenth of the Chakri dynasty of Thai rulers which began in 1782. On Thursday, the new Thai king and his new queen paid their respects to the first Chakri King, Rama I, in advance of their coronation over the weekend.
A milestone in Thai history
The coronation comes in the aftermath of the March 24th election in Thailand for which formal results are expected on Wednesday, May 9th. It is a welcome opportunity for Thailand to enjoy a few days where the nation is focused on one event with a sense of unity. For many Thai people, the coronation of Rama X this month marks the beginning of a new era and milestone in the history of the country.
A powerful religious and spiritual ceremony that will see Rama X assume a new status
The new King’s father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IX, passed away on October 2018. It was an emotional time. Many Thai people had clung on in hope as the old king battled a protracted illness. The new King was formally acclaimed by the Thai parliament or legislature some months later after taking some time to mourn his father. He has been the constitutional monarch since then. His coronation, this month, will be the first in nearly 70 years since May 5th 1950 when Rama IX was installed in similar ceremonies. The coronation of the new king holds immense traditional, religious and indeed spiritual value for Thai people.
Ancient Buddhist and Brahmin rituals to anoint the new king and show reverence
The three-day coronation ceremonies will see the Thai king take on the mantle and reverence of a deity, according to ancient Thai culture and tradition. The spectacular ceremonies in Bangkok over the 3-day coronation have already been rehearsed for many months by Royal Thai forces, palace officials and religious orders taking part. The Thai government has approved a budget of ฿100 million ($30 million) for the occasion. The new King will be installed with a series of ancient ceremonies linked to Buddhist religious tradition as well as Brahmin rituals.
Thai people have been buying yellow clothes for months, portraits of the new king are everywhere
For foreigners outside of Thailand and some expats, it is difficult to appreciate the importance of the coronation to the Thai public including the young but particularly the older people. The monarchy is at the apex of a nation that is united by traditional and spiritual bonds as well as laws and customs. For months now, Thai people have been busy buying outfits and combinations of clothing in yellow in deference to the monarchy. Advertising billboards on the motorways and shrines erected with huge portraits of the new king are seen everywhere. As any visitor to Thailand will know, even without a coronation, the sight of large pictures or portraits of the Thai King and his family are everywhere from buildings to photos or paintings in every shop and government building. For the coronation, this visibility has been augmented to a higher level.
New king offers a sense of pride and protection to Thai people who identify with the monarchy
Speaking to the UK newspaper The Guardian this week, 63-year-old Thai woman Pearl Arunchot was visibly enthusiastic about the coronation. She runs a picture framing business in Bangkok. A great source of trade in Thailand for such outlets is the need for nearly every business or household to have a picture of the king or former kings of the Chakri line. It is quite common to find pictures of the current monarch or older monarchs displayed in homes and businesses in Thailand. Many Thai people believe it brings good fortune and protection while for others it is a source of pride or inspiration. One particular favourite is Thai King Chulalongkorn or Rama V who presided over Thailand’s uniquely important Victorian era and is still revered and indeed loved in the kingdom. Pearl explained it like this: ‘This is history for Thailand. I believe King Vajiralongkorn will look after and protect the Thai people just as his father King Bhumibol did.’
Monarchy in Thailand was strengthened by the previous long reign of Rama XI
The new Thai king has already established himself even though he has only been king for less than three years. Although the Thai king and royal family is strictly above politics, the Thai monarchy has a huge amount of influence and power in Thailand. The success of the reign of Rama IX which lasted over 7o years has handed a role to his son that has been very much strengthened and commands immense respect.
Thai King will place the weighty Crown of Victory on his head just as Rama IX did in 1950
The coronation ceremonies over Saturday, Sunday and Monday will see the Thai king place the Great Crown of Victory on his head which reportedly weighs in excess of 7 kg. The new king will then participate in a parade near the old quarters of Bangkok and on Monday will grant an audience at the imposing Suddhaisavarya Prasad Hall in the Grand Palace just as his father did in 1950. It is not known whether he will use the occasion to make a pronouncement on his reign.
Beginning of a new Thai era this weekend
Just as we saw earlier in the week when a new emperor was crowned in Japan and a new age has begun, so too this marks a similar experience in Thailand. ‘The coronation is highly significant. Thailand is a country where historical periods are still thought of in terms of the reigns of monarchs,’ Dr Patrick Jory, a senior academic at the University of Queensland in Australia and expert on Southeast Asian history, explained to the UK media this week.
Crowds expected in Bangkok over three days to witness an event not seen for nearly 80 years
On Saturday, after being consecrated with blessed water collected from all of Thailand’s provinces, the new King will be crowned as part of ceremonies which will be carried on all Thai TV channels. This will be something different from 1950 which was filmed and carried live on the radio. Huge crowds are expected to attend the ceremonies over the three days in Bangkok with all civil servants taking part.
New King has already left his mark and won confidence among people in Thailand
The new king has already left his mark on Thailand’s history even in such a short time frame. His intervention on Friday, February 8th this year with a decisive late-night statement through the Royal Gazette pointing to the inappropriate nature of his older sister Princess Ubolratana being linked with politics will long be remembered. This happened after a later disbanded party earlier that day nominated the royal princess as their candidate for Prime Minister in the March 24th election. The move has raised confidence in the new king. The king is also reported to be anxious that Thailand returns to democratic rule but on the basis of long term stability. King Vajiralongkorn made a statement on the eve of the March 24th poll calling on the Thai people to elect ‘good people’ to public office which was thought to be influential. That move has also won him praise.
Thailand to have a new Queen this weekend as well as a new King in a similar fashion to 1950
On Wednesday, the King showed again his decisive nature when he married his longtime partner or consort at a ceremony attended by senior officials at the palace in Bangkok. A statement from the royal palace said that King Vajiralongkorn had ‘decided to promote General Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, his royal consort, to become Queen Suthida and she will hold royal title and status as part of the royal family.’ The announcement was made in the Royal Gazette and footage followed which was broadcast on all TV and media in Thailand. Indeed, the pictures of the event made international news headlines. It saw the Thai king elevate the woman, believed to have been by his side for a number of years, to be his fourth wife and to the status of queen. Queen Suthida will be crowned at the same ceremonies over the weekend just as his father and mother were married and subsequently crowned in 1950.
Photos of new Thai Queen being blessed by the King an international media hit
The footage and photos of the unique event, beamed around the world, have captured the imagination of many foreigners outside Thailand. Some photos show the new queen and others prostrated before the monarch. This is the custom in Thailand. The footage also showed the couple sitting together and signing the marriage registration documents. The event was reportedly attended by senior Thai government officials including Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha and members of the king’s close family. The new queen is 40 years of age. She became the commander of the then crown prince’s household guard in 2014 having joined the Royal Thai Army in 2010.