King and Queen led the ceremonies and again came out to meet enthusiastic well-wishers near the Grand Palace in the evening. It was the first time the new King and Queen had presided over the event which is very popular with the public in Thailand.
The Thai public rallied in support of the monarchy on Saturday as thousands wearing yellow came out to meet the King and Queen and pay their respects to his father, who passed away in 2016, on the anniversary of his birthday.
There was a strong and emotional turnout in Bangkok on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of Thailand’s former monarch, the still remembered and revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great on the day that Thais regard as Fathers Day.
The ceremony, this year, took on added significance given the months of strife in Thailand’s capital city with ongoing student protests and amid the Covid 19 crisis which sees Thailand confronting a threat to public health and a damaged economy.
Thais are yearning for unity at this time and this has always been the role of the country’s leading institution.
Ceremony organised by the government
Saturday’s ceremony was organised by the government and the public were invited to an area adjacent to the Royal Palace, Sanam Luang, to meet 68-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida. The time set for the ceremony was 7.19 pm.
The current Thai King ascended to the throne in 2016 on the death of his father but was not crowned until May 2019.
This year was the first time the current King has presided over this very popular public event which, also, never fails to generate a festive atmosphere.
Large turnout shows Thais want unity
The turnout on Saturday was quite large and follows enthusiastic support for the Thai King and Queen in recent months as they have toured the country, at the same time, as ongoing student-led protests which persist in calls for more constitutional oversight of the monarchy and the scrapping of the Lèse-majesté law which severely criminalises negative commentary on the institution.
A poll, conducted in October, showed nearly 60% of the Thai public feel strongly that the monarchy should not be linked or involved with politics while in early November, another, alarming poll showed well over 80% of Thai people suspected third party interests outside of the country or a foreign power, of stirring up the current wave of protests.
Divide between the younger and older generation but all political groups support the monarchy
Many of these are older people who regard the monarchy as the lynchpin of Thai society while the young and particularly the educated younger generation, want to see Thailand modernising although all groups support the retention of the monarchy as the key pillar of the nation.
On Saturday night, 65-year-old Wanchote Kunprasert told news agency Reuters: ‘The king has always been there to take care of people’s happiness, and without the king, there would be chaos’, while 63-year-old Sirinan Jungwatmunee had the same sentiments: ‘The monarchy has been with us for centuries, how can you change that by just a few months of protests.’
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.
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