BANGKOK – Thailand celebrated on Friday the 65th birthday of new King Vajiralongkorn, who ascended to the throne in December 2016, with religious ceremonies, merit-making and charity events throughout the country.
Thai Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, led a group of ministers and senior government officials in an alms-giving act with 650 Buddhist monks in Bangkok, an event aimed at making merit in honor of the King.
Similar ceremonies were organized by government agencies, provincial administrations and district offices in other parts of the country, while hospitals such as Chiang Mai Hospital in northern Thailand organized a blood donation event.
Other merit-making acts such as releasing fish and turtles back into the wild were carried out by his well-wishers days before the King’s birthday.
The Thai government, led by a military junta who took power after a coup d’etat in 2014, called on people to decorate their homes with the national flag during the King’s birthday, which is a public holiday in the country.
Vajiralongkorn, who has lived much of his life abroad, was proclaimed King of Thailand on Dec. 1, 2016 following the death of his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, in October of the same year.
However, he will not be officially crowned until after the cremation ceremony scheduled for Oct. 26, 2017.
Since ascending to the throne, Vajiralongkorn has presided over several legal reforms that, among others, have brought crown assets and royal state agencies responsible for his security under his sole control.
The monarchy is a highly sensitive issue in Thailand because of the lèse-majesté law, which can lead to prison sentences of between three and 15 years for those found guilty of disseminating messages deemed offensive to the royal family.