BANGKOK – The last rituals to complete the official enthronement of Thailand’s king took place Thursday in the river that runs through the country’s capital, in a procession that attracted scores of followers to its banks.
The Royal Barge ceremony – which had been delayed since October – took place in Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River to officially conclude the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn as Rama X, a process that began in May.
The procession, a tradition extending 700 years and presided by Queen Suthida and royal family members, traveled 3.4 kilometers down the river and comprised 52 barges – of which four are considered the most important – operated by 2,399 oarsmen.
The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister and former coup-maker Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who saluted Rama X as the monarch walked to the 108-year-old Suphannahong, or Golden Swan, barge accompanied by the queen and Prince Dipangkorn after exiting his vehicle.
His arrival at the pier was marked by the firing of cannons as a band played the royal anthem.
The king’s barge, which featured a bow representing Hemsa, a Swan-like mythical creature, was among the four most prominent ones. The others were the Anantanakkharat, or Multi-headed Naga; the Narai Song Suban King Rama IX; and the Anekkachatphutchong, or Innumerable Naga Figures – where Princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari traveled.
In attendance were also 160 diplomatic corps representatives from 105 countries, according to the foreign ministry.
The procession follows months in which palace affairs have been turbulent, marked by the stripping of Niramon Ounprom, 34, as the king’s official consort Oct. 21 on accusations that she attempted to elevate herself to “the same state as the queen.”
Niramon was president of the Royal Volunteer Group, which was in charge of cleaning the areas around Chao Phraya River ahead of the Royal Barge ceremony.
The procession was originally scheduled for Oct. 24, but was postponed due to “weather and water current conditions.”
Niramon, known as Sineenat while she was Vajiralongkorn’s concubine, made headlines in July when she was given the title – the first time a king had taken an official consort since the 1920s before Thailand became a constitutional monarchy. Polygamy was previously common.
An announcement of the royal gazette said Niramon had engaged in “misbehavior and disloyalty against the monarch,” adding she had been disrespectful and disobedient.
The incident was the latest in a number of fallouts the king has had with his partners. Vajiralongkorn has disowned four of seven children he has from four marriages.
He had 14-year-old Dipangkorn – the only heir to the throne – with Srirasmi Suwadee, whom he divorced in 2014 and whose whereabouts are unknown.
Her parents were arrested and jailed on allegations of breaching the country’s draconian royal defamation laws, which punish any criticism of royalty with three to 15 years in prison.
Vajiralongkorn, 67, was proclaimed king in 2016 following the death of his father King Bhumibol, who was seen as a stabilizing figure amid Thailand’s turbulent political landscape and widely revered – a popularity level the current monarch hasn’t garnered.