Thousands of supporters greet Thailand’s monarch as he leads birthday celebrations for late father

Thousands of yellow-clad supporters greet Thailand’s monarch amid shouts of ‘long live the king’ as he leads birthday commemorations for his late father who died four years ago

  •  King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida led a vigil for his late-father King Bhumibhol Adulyadej
  • Although his father died four years ago, his birthday remains on the national calendar as Fathers’ Day
  •  Since his death in 2016 the monarchy’s standing has been under threat, with dissent on the rise

Advertisement

Thailand’s king held birthday celebrations for his late father as thousands of supporters arrived to greet him, amid unprecedented challenges to the monarchy from student-led protesters.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida waved as they arrived at Bangkok’s Sanam Luang ceremonial ground. Supporters of the monarchy held Thai and yellow royal flags to welcome them, with some cheering ‘Long live the king.’

The crowd also wore yellow shirts, which is the colour associated with the royal institution.

The king led the crowd in a candlelit tribute to his late father, whose giant image was at the centre of the stage set up outside the ornate Grand Palace.

Although King Bhumibhol Adulyadej died four years ago, his birthday remains on the national calendar as Fathers’ Day.

Supporters of the monarchy held Thai and yellow royal flags to welcome them, with some cheering ‘Long live the king’

Thai well-wishers wait for the start of the ceremony for King Bhumibol who died at the age of 88 on 13 October 2016

Thai well-wishers wait for the start of the ceremony for King Bhumibol who died at the age of 88 on 13 October 2016

Although King Bhumibhol Adulyadej died four years ago, his birthday remains on the national calendar as Fathers' Day

Although King Bhumibhol Adulyadej died four years ago, his birthday remains on the national calendar as Fathers’ Day

Vajiralongkorn (pictured) has undertaken a wave of public appearances that have served as rallying points for thousands of conservative Thais outraged at the challenge to traditional norms and determined to defend them

Vajiralongkorn (pictured) has undertaken a wave of public appearances that have served as rallying points for thousands of conservative Thais outraged at the challenge to traditional norms and determined to defend them

Supporters of Thai monarch display images the royal family to show their support for the royal family amid student-led revolt

Supporters of Thai monarch display images the royal family to show their support for the royal family amid student-led revolt

Thai Queen Suthida (left) and Thai Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana (right) wave at well-wishers as the Royal motorcade carrying the Thai Royal family arrives before the start of the ceremony

Thai Queen Suthida (left) and Thai Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana (right) wave at well-wishers as the Royal motorcade carrying the Thai Royal family arrives before the start of the ceremony

Thai Royal Guards at the ceremony at Sanam Luang ceremonial ground for the deceased monarch who reigned for 70 years

Thai Royal Guards at the ceremony at Sanam Luang ceremonial ground for the deceased monarch who reigned for 70 years

He reigned for 70 years, acquiring a reputation for selfless work in the service of his country, an image endlessly propagated by newspapers and state media.

The late monarch was widely respected, a status reinforced by strict lese majeste laws that can bring jail terms of up to 15 years for any comment or action deemed defamatory toward the monarchy.

But since his death in 2016, and the accession of Vajiralongkorn, the monarchy’s standing has been under threat, with dissent on the rise.

In August this year, pro-democracy students smashed the taboo on public criticism by unveiling a 10-point demand for sweeping reform to make the powerful and wealthy institution more transparent and accountable.

Support for the move has swelled, with thousands embracing the call at a series of mass rallies, alongside demands for a new constitution and the resignation of the prime minister.

King Bhumibhol Adulyadej's giant image was at the centre of the stage set up outside the ornate Grand Palace for the vigil which was attended by thousands of yellow-clad supporters

King Bhumibhol Adulyadej’s giant image was at the centre of the stage set up outside the ornate Grand Palace for the vigil which was attended by thousands of yellow-clad supporters

Thailand's Queen Suthida greets royalists ahead of the ceremony which had an impressive turnout

Thailand’s Queen Suthida greets royalists ahead of the ceremony which had an impressive turnout

The support for the monarchy comes amid turmoil in Thailand with at least 12 protest leaders being charged with royal defamation

The support for the monarchy comes amid turmoil in Thailand with at least 12 protest leaders being charged with royal defamation

In apparent response, Vajiralongkorn has undertaken a wave of public appearances that have served as rallying points for thousands of conservative Thais outraged at the challenge to traditional norms and determined to defend them.

In contrast to his usual stern demeanour, the king has been more relaxed at the events, presenting a softer persona, while also thanking and encouraging those who have stood up for him.

At one royal walkabout in November, he appeared to hint that there could be compromises with those demanding reform, but protest leaders have dismissed that as meaningless.

In recent days, at least 12 protest leaders have been charged with royal defamation under the lese majeste laws.

The laws had been suspended for the past three years after Vajiralongkorn told the government he did not want to see them used.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *