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Today is Coronation Day (วันฉัตรมงคล – wan chàt-mong-kon) in Thailand, a public holiday that commemorates the day current King Bhumibol Adulyadej (ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช) had his coronation ceremony back in 1950. This came four years after he was crowned as the ninth monarch of the Chakri Dynasty when his elder brother died. On that day 65 years ago, Bhumibol took the traditional oath of ascension – “We shall reign with righteousness for the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people.” He is currently the longest-serving head of state in the world, and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history.
A short news clip about the ceremony from 2014.
Coronation ceremonies began in Thailand with the rule of Rama IV in 1851; prior to that power was transferred in a private ceremony with only high-ranking officials. Based on ancient royal traditions from India, the five principal royal regalia are presented to the monarch – the royal crown, sword, staff, the ancient fan, and a pair of royal shoes.
The current king is deeply admired and revered in Thailand – his face adorns every coin and bank note, portraits of him can be seen just about everywhere, and everyone stands when the Royal Anthem is played before movies. Called Sansoen Phra Barami (สรรเสริญพระบารมี – săn-sĕrn prá baa-rá-mee), it was written in 1913 and remains an important part of Thai culture. Here are the lyrics, both in Thai and English:
|ข้าวรพุทธเจ้า||Kha Wora Phuttha Chao|
|เอามโนและศิระกราน||Ao Mano Lae Sira Kran|
|นบพระภูมิบาล บุญดิเรก||Nop Phra Phummi Ban Bunya Direk|
|เอกบรมจักริน||Ek Boromma Chakkrin|
|พระยศยิ่งยง||Phra Yotsa Ying Yong|
|เย็นศิระเพราะพระบริบาล||Yen Sira Phro Phra Bori Ban|
|ผลพระคุณ ธ รักษา||Phon Phra Khun Tha Raksa|
|ปวงประชาเป็นศุขสานต์||Puang Pracha Pen Sukkha San|
|ธ ประสงค์ใด||Tha Prasong Dai|
|จงสฤษดิ์ดัง||Chong Sarit Dang|
|หวังวรหฤทัย||Wang Wora Haruethai|
|ดุจถวายชัย ชโย||Dutcha Thawai Chai Chayo|
The Thai Royal Anthem.
Not standing for the Royal Anthem can actually get you thrown in jail in Thailand, where lèse majesté (violating majesty) is a crime. According to Thai criminal law, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” If you’re used to openly disparaging your government (as we Americans have become experts at), leave that habit back at home when traveling to Thailand and remember what your mom always told you when talking about the king – “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Unfortunately, the 87-year old monarch isn’t in the best of health at the moment. He’s been in the hospital since October when he had his gallbladder removed, and he very rarely makes public appearances these days. There’s much speculation about Thailand’s future after Bhumibol, as his son (the crown prince) is not quite as revered amongst the Thai people. He did however make a surprise appearance today for the ceremony, greeted by throngs of loyal supporters and chants of “Long live the king!” (ทรงพระเจริญ – song prá jà-rern). Despite his deteriorating health, it’s clear that King Bhumibol still has some gas left in the tank on the 65h anniversary of his coronation, and he’s still very much in the hearts and minds of the Thai people.