Thailand has crowned King Maja Vajiralongkorn as Rama X, celebrating its first new monarch in nearly 70 years. In his first royal command, the 66-year-old king pledged to "reign with righteousness."
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn officially took on his father's crown on Saturday as part of a three-day ritual, composed of ancient Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies, which aims to symbolically transform the 66-year-old ruler into a living god.
"I shall continue, preserve and build upon the royal legacy and shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the people forever," the new king said in his first royal command.
Vajiralongkorn was presented with the "Great Crown of Victory," said to date from 1782. It is 66 centimeters (26 inches) high, and weighs 7.3 kilograms (16 pounds).
The king, who also took on the name of Rama X of the Chakri dynasty as one of his many official titles, ascended the throne in 2016 upon the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in October of that year. The coronation comes following a period of mourning for the late king, who reigned in the Southeast Asian country for almost 70 years.
Events marking the coronation included a purification ritual with consecrated water, a crowning ceremony, a parade, and an appearance by the monarch on a balcony of the Grand Palace in the Thai capital, Bangkok, on Monday.
The total cost is expected to reach $31 million (around €27.7 million).
On Saturday, the king also held an audience for royal family members, the Privy Council and top government officials, who paid their respects and pledged allegiance to king and country.
The king was then carried on an ornately decorated palanquin to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha where he pledged to defend the Buddhist faith.
Surprise marriage announcement
The king was accompanied by new Queen Suthida, the thrice-divorced monarch's fourth wife. Their marriage was announced just three days before the coronation.
Thailand is known among other things for its harsh lese-majeste laws, under which negative public comments about the monarchy are subject to severe penalties.
During his short reign so far, King Vajiralongkorn has gained the explicit right to intervene in political affairs, especially in times of political crisis.
The country has been run by an arch-royalist junta since 2014. Critics say that an election held in March was rigged to favor the military and its preferred candidate, Prayuth Chan-Ocha. He led the coup that saw the powerful army entrenched in government and has led the junta since then.
Efforts by a "democratic front" are currently underway to remove the army from politics.
The king's elder sister, Princess Ubolratana also attended the Saturday proceedings. She sparked surprise in February by announcing she would run in an election on behalf of an anti-junta party, but her brother quickly shot down the plan with a royal decree.
tj, dj/rc (AFP, Reuters, AP)