By Bartholomew Madukwe
Barely 57 days to birthday of the King of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn, vast majority of Thais and people around the world are optimistic that this year’s celebrations abroad and at home would be high.
Last year, as part of events for the King’s birthday, Thailand embassies around the world hosted mass alms offerings, as Bangkok’s city hall hosted a mass alms-offering for more than 600 Buddhist monks attended by junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha at a public square in the city.
For the first time, last year’s July 28 was declared a public holiday in Thailand. He was born 28 July 1952 and has been King since 2016.
Vajiralongkorn is the only son of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. In 1972, at the age of 20, he was made crown prince by his father.
After his father’s death on 13 October 2016, he was expected to succeed to the throne of Thailand but asked for time to mourn before taking the throne.
The king, who turns 66 on July 28, has been putting an assertive stamp on his rule since he took the throne.
VAJIRALONGKORN’S ACCESSION TO THE THRONE
According to the 2007 Constitution, the cabinet instructed the president of the National Assembly to invite Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn to the throne. He became the first monarch to be born in Thailand since Prajadhipok. After his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, died on 13 October 2016, Vajiralongkorn succeeded to the throne of Thailand, after asking for time to mourn him.
On the night of 1 December 2016, the fiftieth day after the death of Bhumibol, Regent Prem Tinsulanonda, led the heads of the country’s three branches of government to an audience with Vajiralongkorn to invite him to ascend to the throne as the tenth king of the Chakri dynasty.
Vajiralongkorn accepted the invitation, saying in a televised statement: “I would like to accept in order to fulfil his majesty’s wishes and for the benefit of all Thais.”
The government retroactively declared Vajiralongkorn reign to have begun upon his father’s death, but it would not crown him formally until after the cremation of his father.
He maintained his residence at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall, where he was already living before his father’s death.
He accepted the throne on the night of 1 December 2016. His father was cremated on 26 October 2017.
Aged 64 at that time, Vajiralongkorn became the oldest Thai monarch to ascend to the throne.
The monarchy is held in high esteem by the vast majority of Thais and although the king is officially above politics, few would dare challenge his wishes. That gives him huge influence over politics.
Thailand had earlier amended a royal property law to formally give King Vajiralongkorn full control of the agency that manages the multi-billion dollar holdings of the monarchy.
That followed the transfer in April of various royal agencies from the government to the king’s supervision.
His father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as Rama IX, ruled for seven decades and was widely regarded as the nation’s moral compass. His December 5 birthday is a national holiday that was celebrated amid much pomp and ceremony.