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Thailand crowns its new King Maha Vajiralongkorn

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn is crowned during his coronation in Bangkok, Thailand, May 4, 2019 AFP / Thai TV Pool via REUTERS

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn officially completed the traditional Buddhist and Brahmin rituals on Saturday that symbolically transform him into a living god as the nation assumes its first crowned monarch in nearly seven decades.

His father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej reined over the country for nearly seventy years and died on 13 October 2016. He was largely seen as a figure of unity in the often politically chaotic kingdom.

Although Thailand ended absolute rule by its kings in 1932, its monarchy remains highly revered as the divine symbol and protector of the country and the Buddhist religion.

Crowning ritual

Prior to Saturday’s ceremony, the King had received the royal golden plaque containing his name and title, the royal horoscope and the royal seal, all which were made during a three-hour ritual last week.

Thai soldiers dressed in traditional costumes transfer The Royal Golden Plaque of the official title of His Majesty the King, the Royal Golden Plaque of His Majesty's horoscope, and the Royal Seal of State at the Grand Palace in Bangkok The Committee on Public Relations of the Coronation of King Rama

During the coronation, 66-year-old King Vajiralongkorn put the impressively tall crown, which weighs 7.3 kg, on his head himself with the help of court officials.

The crown symbolizes the summit of Mount Meru, the Hindu god Indra’s heavenly abode.

Its weight represents the monarch’s royal burden.

Le roi de Thaïlande lors de son couronnement. AFP/Thai TV Pool

The Thai coronation rituals are a mix of Buddhist and Hindu Brahmin traditions that date back centuries.

One of the many official titles King Vajiralongkorn will take is Rama X, or the 10th king of the Chakri dynasty founded in 1782.

Later Saturday evening, he will proclaim himself the royal patron of Buddhism and perform a private housewarming ritual at the royal residence where he will spend the night, just as his predecessors have done.

Political burden

His coronation comes at a time when the country is battling unresolved issues between the current military junta chief and a democratic front that this is trying see the army be squeezed out of politics.

The first royal command following a King’s coronation typically serves to capture the essence of his reign.

“I shall continue, preserve and build upon the royal legacy and shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the people forever” King Vajiralongkorn stated following his ceremony on Saturday while sitting under a nine-tiered umbrella in full royal attire.

During his 18 months of reign so far, King Vajiralongkorn has already moved to consolidate the authority of the monarchy including taking more direct control of the crown’s wealth with the help of the country’s military government.

Public figure

While his father Bhumibol was seen as a figure of political unity, Vajiralongkorn is less known to the Thai people.

He has spent much of his time overseas and has rarely addressed his subjects.

He is known to be fiercely private and has been married three times.

But just three days prior to his coronation, he was joined by a new Queen Suthida after a surprise announcement that the King had married a fourth time.

He also granted Queen Suthida, a former Thai Airways flight attendant and head of his personal bodyguard regiment, her full royal title.

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida during their mariage. Handout / Thai Royal Household Bureau / AFP

Fiercely private and now four times married, he has inherited one of the world's richest monarchies and a kingdom submerged by political crisis.