AFP: Awestruck crowds greet Thai king on his 80th birthday

 AFP

 

BANGKOK (AFP) — More than 100,000 people lined the streets around Bangkok’s glittering Grand Palace Wednesday to cheer Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he celebrated his 80th birthday.

The crowds dressed in yellow shirts and waving flags emblazoned with a royal emblem lined the broad tree-lined avenues leading to the palace, as the king drove by in a pale yellow Rolls Royce.

Yellow is the colour that Thais associate with Mondays, the day of the week when the king was born.

Millions of people across the country have worn yellow shirts every Monday since last year, when the king marked his 60th year on the throne as the world’s longest-serving monarch.

Many people on the streets also wore pink to symbolise their wish for the king’s good health, inspired by a pink blazer worn by the king as he was discharged from a hospital last month after nearly four weeks in bed to treat problems with the blood flow to his brain.

The king’s motorcade drove him through a five-kilometre (three-mile) stretch of Bangkok’s historic district to the Grand Palace, a sprawling compound of gilded castles and temples on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.

Police said more than 100,000 people lined the streets, while 20,000 of the nation’s elite gathered inside the palace compound where the king sat on the balcony of his throne hall, dressed in full regalia, before members of his family, senior government officials and all of the military’s top brass.

After a 21-gun salute, the nation’s top government officials and the king’s only son Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn delivered speeches praising the monarch’s work to develop the country.

In brief remarks to the crowd, the king read prepared remarks to thank his supporters and to call for national unity in the wake of last year’s military coup, which toppled the elected government of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“I am delighted, and I appreciate that all of you have come to wish me happy birthday. I thank you all for your well-intended birthday wishes,” he said.

“Our country will be peaceful and stable, with all key institutions working harmoniously and complementing each other, with full awareness of their duty to each individual person,” he said.

“Then our country will become prosperous, stable and developed,” he said, echoing remarks he made in a speech to the nation the night before.

The prince and heir apparent, who was once described by the queen as “a bit of a Don Juan,” told his father that he would walk a narrow path and fulfill his duties.

“I would like to make an oath, in all sincerity, to promise that I will be honest, restrained and determined to carry out my duties,” he said.

“I will refrain from things that should be avoided,” he added.

King Bhumibol is the only monarch most Thais can remember, making him a rare figure of unity in a nation that has seen 20 prime ministers, 16 constitutions and more than a dozen coups during his reign.

Students are taught that respect for the king, patriotism and religious devotion are closely intertwined, giving him an almost divine status in Thai society.

People began filling the sidewalks before dawn to stake out choice positions to catch a glimpse of the king as he passed in his motorcade.

A group of about 1,000 Myanmar migrant workers were among them, travelling from a border province in hopes of seeing the king.

“I am glad to be here so I can pay respect to him. I love the king, too,” said Ying Yawadi, one of the workers.

Dee Thuanmuanwai, a 72-year-old from the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, travelled through the night to claim a spot on the sidewalk at 5:00 am.

“I am so overwhelmed to see him. My days are numbered, with not much time left in life, but I wish him a long life,” Dee said.

Many in the crowd were awestruck as the motorcade passed.

“This is my first time to see him. I am speechless. As Thai national, I wish him a long life,” said Janthana Uthaipibool, a 35-year-old from the outskirts of Bangkok.

The Associated Press

Thai King Calls for Unity Ahead of Vote

By AMBIKA AHUJA

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thailand’s revered king pleaded for unity among his people in his annual birthday speech Tuesday, less than a month before the first general elections since a coup toppled an elected government last year.

Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-serving monarch, turns 80 on Wednesday, and there are widespread concerns about his health. He was recently hospitalized for symptoms of a stroke.

Bhumibol likened the country’s situation to his recent difficulties walking.

“Whether soldiers or civilians, (we) must be united, like our legs must be united — which means one goes forward and one pushes back before moving forward,” he said. “Without unity, the country will face disaster.”

The more than hour-long speech was broadcast live on national radio, and later on television.

The Dec. 23 election will be the first since Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a September 2006 coup preceded by massive demonstrations demanding his resignation over alleged corruption and abuse of power.

The king had criticized Thaksin in previous birthday speeches, and some experts on Thai politics believe pressure from royal advisers was behind the prime minister’s ouster.

The military-installed regime that replaced Thaksin has failed to restore public confidence in the government.

Polls show that allies of Thaksin, who is in self-imposed exile, are among the election’s front-runners.

The king, a constitutional monarch since 1946 with no formal political role, did not comment on the coming election in his speech.

But in remarks apparently intended to be supportive of the military, he said that if there was the money to spend, the country should buy “planes, submarines, tanks.” The military has received a huge increase in its budget since the coup, drawing criticism from the press and public.

 

Thailand dresses up in yellow to celebrate beloved king’s 80th
International Herald Tribune, France
AP BANGKOK, Thailand: Thailand celebrated King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 80th birthday Wednesday with festivities, prayers and a nationwide effort to wear yellow
Thai king urges unity at 80th birthday celebrations
Reuters UK, UK –
By Viparat Jantraprap BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej called for national unity on Wednesday at joyous celebrations on the
Thais dress in yellow for king
CNN International –
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thailand celebrated King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 80th birthday Wednesday with festivities and prayers, and by wearing yellow — the
Awestruck crowds greet Thai king on his 80th birthday
AFP –
BANGKOK (AFP) — More than 100000 people lined the streets around Bangkok’s glittering Grand Palace Wednesday to cheer Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol
Thais mark king’s 80th birthday
BBC News, UK –
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The Associated Press –
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Xinhua, China –
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Pravda, Russia –
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