Coronation of Thai King Vajiralongkorn set for May
BANGKOK, Thailand (UPDATED) – An elaborate 3-day coronation ceremony for Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn will be held May 4 to 6, the palace announced Tuesday, January 1, nearly two and half years after the death of his revered father Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The 66-year-old ascended the throne following his father's death in October 2016, which ended a tumultuous 7-decade reign over the Southeast Asian kingdom marked by coups and rounds of violent street protests.
Maha Vajiralongkorn, formally known as Rama X of the Chakri dynasty, has since dramatically reorganised palace affairs.
He has bolstered his own security detail and granted himself personal stewardship of the crown's multi-billion dollar assets, which include swathes of prime real estate and major investments in banks and companies.
Thailand's monarchy, one of the world's richest, is shielded from criticism by a harsh royal defamation law punishing any transgressors with up to 15 years per charge. (READ: Thai charged in first royal slur case under new king)
In a televised announcement, the Royal Household Bureau said the coronation will take place between May 4 and 6.
"It's suitable time to hold the coronation in accordance to the tradition and for national celebration and joy of the people," the bureau said.
The "coronation ceremony" will be held on May 4 with an audience granted to "the royal family, privy councillors and cabinet members," it explained.
The following day a ceremony will "bestow the royal name" according to traditions governing the monarchy, then on May 6 the king will hold a "grand audience" with members of the public and diplomats.
Thais to vote
This year is poised to be pivotal for Thailand.
The country is also set to hold elections, with the junta teasing the date of Febuary 24.
If polls are held then, it would be just shy of five years since the junta – led by army chief turned premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha – seized power from the elected civilian government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The junta, which portrays itself as the defender of the monarchy, says it toppled her government to end corruption under successive civilian administrations.
Its critics say it acted only to push out the Shinawatra clan, led by Yingluck's older brother, the billionaire and ex-premier Thaksin, and uproot their political networks.
Despite two coups and multiple legal challenges the family and its affiliates have won every Thai general election since 2001, relying on support from the poor but populous north and northeast.
It is not clear whether the Shinawatras' support is still as strong as it was, with the military-linked parties successfully luring over some their erstwhile allies.
Thaksin, booted from office by 2006 coup, has lived in self-exile for a decade over a corruption conviction.
Yingluck joined her brother in self-exile in 2017 to avoid jail for criminal negligence linked to a rice subsidy scheme aimed at her base.
The military has written a new constitution that experts say dilutes the power of elected governments and embeds its role in politics and policy for the next 20 years.
A fully-appointed senate and a reduction in the number of lower house seats is expected to offset any strong electoral showing by the Shinawatras and their allies.
Prayut is widely tipped to return as the country's next premier.
He needs the endorsement of just 126 lower house legislators plus the junta-appointed senate.
Frank discussion of Thailand's monarchy is off-limits in Thailand, where all Thai-based media must self-censor to avoid falling foul of the broadly interpreted lese majeste laws.
Convictions under the law soared during the initial years of military rule but have eased since Maha Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne, with charges in several high-profile cases also dropped.– Rappler.com