Thailand is poised to enter a new era of national history by observing the ongoing celebration of the coronation of the new King Rama X. Consisting of a full month of traditional procedures, the official series of ceremonies to crown His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkunruns from April 6 – May 6 2019. The program of events culminates on May 5th at 09:00 AM local time in Thailand with the Royal Coronation Ceremony. The coronation will be attended by important foreign representatives and will be held at the Grand Palace, the former residence of the royal family in Bangkok.
The Coronation Ceremony
For many Thais, this coronation will be the first one witnessed in their lifetime. The previous coronation was held 69 years ago to the day on the 5th of May 1950 for the current king’s father , the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. On 13 October 2016, the late king passed away and was succeeded by his son. A full year of mourning followed, and now the country is prepared to consecrate the new monarch.
After the May 5th consecration by anointment and crowning, His Majesty the King will ride in the Royal Palanquin (chariot) in the Royal Procession on Land to encircle the capital city of Bangkok, affording people the opportunity to attend and pay homage to their new King. Since its announcement, the international press has been clamoring for access cards in order to cover this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Importance of the Royal Family
The continuity of lineage is important to the Thai Royal Family. The king as the living patriarch of the country is a tradition stretching for over 230 years under the reign of the Chakri Dynasty in Thailand. Thai people see the king as the collective father of the country, evidenced by the tradition of observing the king’s birthday as the national Father’s Day celebration for all Thai people.
On Father’s Day, loyalists to the crown wear the color yellow symbolizing Monday, the day of the week that the current king and late king were both born on. The day of the week a person is born on is seen as an important characteristic in Thai cultural tradition as well as in Theraveda Buddhism, which is practiced by 94% of the Thai population. Throughout the late king’s reign, the color yellow has come to symbolize Thai royalty and devotion to the crown. In official pictures, His Majesty the King is depicted wearing a yellow robe, golden accoutrement, and portraits of the king are often accompanied by yellow frames, ribbons, and other decorations.
Thailand and the Crown
Though the Thai monarchy evolved in political structure to form a constitutional monarchy in 1932, a deep respect for the crown remains. This devotion has grown over the decades thanks to activities aimed at bringing the late king into contact with the common people and royal initiatives focused on improving the lives of the Thai people. Royal projects over the last century have included everything from agricultural production, land development plans, industrial improvements, disaster preparedness, social welfare projects, and real estate projects. In one sense, the activities of the former king ushered Thailand into modernity.
Continuity from the New King
The people of Thailand expect the new monarch to continue in this tradition set in motion by his late father. His Majesty the King has already shown a similar focus by giving support to projects such as rural hospital development in the way of site visits and encouraging relevant agencies to provide programmatic support. The importance of Thai Royalty to national culture is reinforced in the minds of the people through ceremonies and everyday life such as the royal video that plays in Thai movie theaters before a film.
Information for Tourists visiting Thailand
The first coronation ceremony in seven decades is sure to be an auspicious and exciting event for people around the world to watch. Tourists in Thailand during the coronation are welcomed to observe alongside Thai people in the capital city. Beginning on May 2nd and lasting for 5 days, several roads in Bangkok will be closed as part of the ceremonies. There is likely to be extensive television coverage as well. According to English-language news outlet KhaoSodEnglish, the road closures in Bangkok will include major routes near the Grand Palace such as Sanam Chai, Maharat, Chatuphon, Si Ayutthaya, and Ratchadamnoen Nok. Public transportation will be available during the week of the coronation. There are likely to be other local closures such as shops and restaurants as the general population takes to the streets in hopes of a personal glimpse of the ceremonies.
For travelers that miss out on the main event, consider planning a trip to Thailand for later this year, when the King will conclude the coronation with a final procession on the Royal Barge along the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun or the Temple of the Dawn.
To learn more about the history of the coronation and the program of events, visit the English-language site of the Thai Government’s Public Relations Department here. For more information on the status of events and attractions during the coronation period, visit the Tourism Authority of Thailand News here and here.