‘I shall reign with righteousness’: Thailand crowns king in ornate ceremonies

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In this image made from video, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn is transported on the royal palanquin by royal bearers during his visit to the Temple of the Emerald Buddhism, Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Thai TV/AP)
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Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn attends his crowning ceremony in Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, May 4, 2019 in this still image taken from TV footage. (Thai TV/Reuters)
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Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida attend his coronation in Bangkok, Thailand, May 4, 2019 in this still image taken from TV footage. (Thai TV/Reuters)
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Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn is crowned during his coronation in Bangkok, Thailand, May 4, 2019 in this still image taken from TV footage. (Thai TV/Reuters)
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This screengrab from Thai TV Pool video taken on May 4, 2019 shows Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn (L) attending the royal purification ceremony during his coronation in Bangkok. (AFP/Thai TV)
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This screengrab from Thai TV Pool video taken on May 3, 2019 shows Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn (front L) hugging his sister Princess Ubolratana as members of the royal family look on during a ceremony in the Grand Palace in Bangkok, ahead of his royal coronation. (AFP/Thai TV)
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Royal Guards fire cannons in honour of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP)
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Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn is crowned during his coronation in Bangkok, Thailand, May 4, 2019 in this still image taken from TV footage. (Thai TV/Reuters)
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In this image made from video, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn lights candle as he visits the throne hall at the Grand Palace Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Thai TV/AP)
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In this image made from video, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn sits on the throne in front of Queen Suthida as he is officially crowned king at the Grand Palace, Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Thai TV/AP)
Updated 04 May 2019

‘I shall reign with righteousness’: Thailand crowns king in ornate ceremonies

  • King Vajiralongkorn crowned after purification
  • Coronation is the first in nearly 70 years in Thailand

BANGKOK: Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Saturday completed Buddhist and Brahmin rituals to symbolically transform him into a living god as the Southeast Asian nation crowned its first monarch in nearly seven decades.
The coronation of King Vajiralongkorn, 66, took place inside the Grand Palace throne hall in Bangkok after a period of official mourning for his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016 having reigned for 70 years.
The king sat on a golden throne under a nine-tiered umbrella to receive royal regalia including a gold-enameled, diamond-tipped crown in ceremonies that mixed glittering pomp with solemn religious rites.
The monarch was joined by new Queen Suthida after a surprise announcement three days before the coronation that the thrice-divorced monarch had married for a fourth time.
His coronation comes amid the uncertainty of an unresolved election battle between the current military junta chief and a “democratic front” trying to push the army out of politics.
“I shall continue, preserve, and build upon the royal legacy and shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the people forever,” the king said in his first royal command.


Traditionally uttered after a king is crowned, the king’s first command serves to capture the essence of his reign. The king’s command was similar to that of his father’s.
Late in the afternoon, the king was carried in a royal palanquin in a procession from the Grand Palace to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where yellow-clad Thais awaited his arrival, repeatedly chanting, “Long live the king.”
After 80 Buddhist monks chanted, the king proclaimed himself the Royal Patron of Buddhism: “I will rightfully protect Buddhism forever.”
Later, King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida will perform a private housewarming ritual at the royal residence in the Grand Palace where they will stay the night, as previous kings have done, ending the first of the three-day coronation ceremonies.
In his first speech earlier on Saturday to members of the royal family, the Privy Council, and top government officials, among others, the king called for national unity.
“I invite everyone here and all Thai people to share my determination and work together, each according to his status and duty, with the nation’s prosperity and the people’s happiness as the ultimate goals,” he said.
Military junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, the speaker of the army-appointed parliament and the chairman of the Supreme Court — representing the three branches of government — also spoke to express “gratitude” to the king.
Prayuth is seeking to stay on as an elected prime minister after the first elections since the military seized power five years ago. Final results of the March 24 vote will be announced after the coronation.
Thai coronation rituals are a mixture of Buddhist and Hindu Brahmin traditions dating 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.
Saturday’s rituals were about transforming him into a “Devaraja,” or a divine embodiment of the gods.
The king received the royal golden plaque containing his name and title, the royal horoscope, and the royal seal, which were made in a three-hour ritual last week.
He also received and put on five articles of the royal regalia from the chief Brahmin.
The high-reaching crown, which weighs 7.3 kg (16 lb) symbolizes the summit of Mount Meru, the Hindu god Indra’s heavenly abode, and its weight represents the monarch’s royal burden.
King Vajiralongkorn put the crown on his head himself with the help of court officials, and adjusted it several times during the ceremony.
Before the crowning ritual, he appeared dressed in white robes as he underwent a purification ritual, sitting under a canopied fountain that poured consecrated waters over his head.
The country’s Buddhist Supreme Patriarch also poured sacred waters over the king, followed by Brahmin priests and royal family members. During the ceremonies, the king gave alms to saffron-robed, barefoot monks.
The monarch also granted Queen Suthida, a former Thai Airways flight attendant and head of his personal bodyguard regiment, her full royal title.
Outside the palace walls, people in yellow polo shirts sat on roadsides, holding up portraits of the king and the national flag as 19th-century cannons fired to announce the new reign.
Yellow is the color of Monday, the day the king was born, and the color of the sun, which represents the monarch in the cosmos, according to Thai culture.
One onlooker, Kanjana Malaithong, told local media she had traveled since 1 a.m. from northern Thailand to witness the ceremony, shown live on big screens outside the palace.
“I’m so overjoyed ... There’ll never be another chance like this, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” she said.
During 18 months of his reign so far, King Vajiralongkorn has moved to consolidate the authority of the monarchy, including taking more direct control of the crown’s vast wealth with the help of Thailand’s military government.
Thailand ended absolute rule by its kings in 1932, but the monarchy remains highly revered as the divine symbol and protector of the country and Buddhist religion.


US imposes visa rules for pregnant women on ‘birth tourism’

Updated 9 min 18 sec ago

US imposes visa rules for pregnant women on ‘birth tourism’

  • Applicants will be denied a tourist visa unless they can prove they must come to give birth for medical reasons and have money to pay for it
  • The practice of traveling to the US to give birth is fundamentally legal

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Thursday imposed new visa rules aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the United States to give birth so their children can have US citizenship.
Applicants will be denied a tourist visa unless they can prove they must come to the US to give birth for medical reasons and they have money to pay for it — not just because they want their child to have a passport.
“Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism. The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”
The practice of traveling to the US to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion. And women are often honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even show signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.
The State Department “does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining US citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States — an activity commonly referred to as ‘birth tourism’ — is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature,” according to the new rules, which were published Thursday in the Federal Register and take effect Friday.
While the new rules deal specifically with birth tourism aimed at wealthy immigrants coming largely from China and Russia, the Trump administration also has turned away pregnant women coming over the US-Mexico border as part of a broader immigration crackdown. Those women were initially part of a “vulnerable” group that included others like small children who were allowed in, while tens of thousands of other asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico to wait out their cases.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but Trump has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the US is considered a citizen, under the Constitution. The Republican president has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it’s not so easy to do.
Regulating tourist visas for pregnant women is one way to get at the issue, but it raises questions about how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant to begin with and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she may be just by looking at her.
And critics of the new policy say it could put pregnant women at risk.
Consular officers don’t have the right to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or intends to become so. But they would still have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the US primarily to give birth.
Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the US and abroad. Companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the US
The US has been cracking down on the practice since before Trump took office.
“An entire ‘birth tourism’ industry has evolved to assist pregnant women from other countries to come to the United States to obtain US citizenship for their children by giving birth in the United States, and thereby entitle their children to the benefits of US citizenship,” according to the State Department rules.
There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the US specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012 about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the US and then left the country.
“This rule will help eliminate the criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” according to the rules. “The recent federal indictments describe birth tourism schemes in which foreign nationals applied for visitor visas to come to the United States and lied to consular officers about the duration of their trips, where they would stay, and their purpose of travel.”