Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Royal Archives’

Prince Harry walks through Angola mine field, echoing Diana

September 27, 2019

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A body armor-wearing Prince Harry on Friday followed in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons.

The prince walked through a dusty mine field marked with skull-and-crossbones warning signs, and was visiting the spot where Diana was famously photographed on a similar walk during her own Africa visit in 1997. That field in Huambo is now a busy street. The southern African nation is now years past a grinding civil war and hopes to be land mine-free by 2025, a goal of scores of countries around the world.

“Land mines are an unhealed scar of war,” Harry said in the town of Dirico. “By clearing the land mines we can help this community find peace, and with peace comes opportunity.” He said retracing his mother’s path was “quite emotional.”

Diana’s visit is still very much discussed today in Huambo after people were struck by her warmth and willingness to acknowledge their country’s devastating 27-year conflict, the Angola country director for mine-clearing organization The HALO Trust said.

“The main impact of Diana’s walk in 1997 was the level of global exposure it provided for land mines not only in Angola but the world,” Ralph Legg said. She was a great advocate for a land mine ban, and “her willingness to visit an actual mine field, to place herself right in that context, provided great impetus and gave it a great boost.”

The international ban on anti-personnel mines was signed that year and entered into force two years later. So far 164 countries have signed on. “More than 48 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed and 31 countries have been completely cleared of land mines,” The HALO Trust said, while production of the weapons has almost dried up.

Harry on his visit also remotely detonated a decades-old mine, met with mine-clearing teams and was visiting the orthopedic hospital his mother visited for her meetings with mine victims. “I think that will be a very poignant moment of coming full circle,” Legg said. “Very striking once people compare those images from the two visits to see how far Angola has come.”

The world, however, is hardly free of mines, and the prince said Angola itself still has more than 1,000 mine fields left to clear, 22 years after his mother’s visit. “I wonder if she was still alive whether that would still be the case,” Harry said. “I’m pretty sure she would have seen it through.”

Other countries that remain heavily mined include Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, and Afghanistan led the world with at least 2,300 casualties in 2017, according to the Landmine Monitor 2018 report.

“Myanmar was the only known instance of government forces actively planting the weapons” in the year-long period between October 2017 and 2018, the report said. “A staggering 60 million people around the world still live in fear and risk of land mines. We cannot turn our backs on them and leave a job half done,” Harry said.

Angola, which has committed a new $60 million for mine clearance, now hopes to turn some of its mine-free areas into sites for wildlife conservation and ecotourism. The prince was unveiling a project meant to protect wildlife corridors near the sprawling Okavango Delta, a rare inland delta in neighboring Botswana that doesn’t flow into a sea or ocean and is home to several endangered species.

Harry called on for international effort to help clear mines from the Okavango watershed in Angola. “Everyone who recognizes the priceless importance of safeguarding Africa’s most intact natural landscape should commit fully to this mission,” he said.

His first official family tour with his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and their baby, Archie, will continue with stops in Malawi and further events in South Africa with a focus on issues including mental health and women’s empowerment.

Emperor performs ritual to report abdication to Shinto gods

April 18, 2019

TOKYO (AP) — Emperor Akihito prayed at a Japanese shrine Thursday in a ritual to report his upcoming abdication to the Shinto gods. The 85-year-old emperor will retire on April 30 in the first abdication in 200 years and a rarity in Japan’s ancient imperial history.

Crown Prince Naruhito will succeed to the Chrysanthemum throne May 1. Akihito performed the “Shinetsu no Gi” ritual at Ise Shrine in western Japan as part of the succession process. Akihito in a tuxedo headed into the shrine, with palace officials holding up two imperial treasures — sword and jewel. The third, a mirror, is kept at the shrine. The treasures were brought from the palace in Tokyo and traveled with the emperor. The regalia, or three treasures, will be handed to Naruhito after his succession.

His daughter and head shrine priest, Sayako Kuroda, also attended. Ise Shrine was a center of Japan’s wartime emperor worship that still attracts political and business leaders today. Japanese emperors were once believed to be direct descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu, who is enshrined at Ise and who sits at the top of “yaoyorozu,” or 8 million gods of all things in Shinto. Rituals at Ise Shrine are intended for the imperial family, and the emperor was the head priest until 1945 while Shinto was the state religion and the emperor was said to be a living god.

Shinto, a religion perhaps as old as Japan itself, is a rich blend of folklore, reverence for all things natural and the Japanese nation.

Newly crowned Thai king begins 2nd day of coronation events

May 05, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has launched the second day of coronation activities with a ceremony to grant new titles to members of the royal family. Vajiralongkorn on Saturday took part in an elaborate set of rituals, a mix of Buddhist and Hindu Brahmanic traditions, which established his status as a full-fledged monarch with complete regal powers. He had already been serving as king since the October 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The 66-year-old Vajiralongkorn began Sunday morning’s event before dignitaries in a hall at Bangkok’s Grand Palace by paying respects in front of portraits of his late father and mother, who has been hospitalized for an extended period. His mother, who was Bhumibol’s queen, was granted a new official title of Queen Mother.

As coronation begins, Thai king’s future role still unclear

May 03, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — Three days of elaborate centuries-old ceremonies begin Saturday for the formal coronation of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who has been on the throne for more than two years. What Vajiralongkorn — also known as King Rama X, the 10th king of the Chakri dynasty — will do with the power and influence the venerated status confers is still not clear.

The 66-year-old monarch has sent mixed signals. Bursts of assertiveness alternate with a seemingly hands off approach in other matters — a perception girded by the amount of time he spends at a large residence in Germany.

On Wednesday, he suddenly announced his fourth marriage, to a former flight attendant who is a commander of his security detail, and appointed her Queen Suthida. The timing of the announcement, just ahead of his coronation, suggests a new commitment to his royal duties.

But he is likely to remain burdened by old gossip about his personal life that has dogged him since returning from his education in England and Australia. Many Thais are familiar with tales about his alleged exploits while he was crown prince, even though harsh laws mandate a prison term of three to 15 years for anyone found guilty of insulting the monarchy.

Vajiralongkorn early on was pinned with the reputation of a playboy, a trait that even his own mother acknowledged. He has gone through bitter divorces with three women who have borne him seven children.

His father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej — the only monarch most Thais had known when he died in October 2016 after seven decades on the throne — won most of his countrymen’s deep love and respect as an exemplar of rectitude and an avid cheerleader for his country’s economic development. His three sisters are frequently engaged in public service.

“The defining years saw King Bhumibol spending large amounts of time in provincial Thailand, visiting ordinary people,” said Michael Montesano, coordinator of the Thailand Studies Program at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. “We have yet to see similar behavior on the part of his heir.”

Paul Chambers, a political scientist at Naraesuan University in northern Thailand, finds Vajiralongkorn’s style “more hands off,” even as he has brought more of Thailand’s administration directly under the palace.

Vajiralongkorn’s early actions as king included replacing his late father’s loyalists with his own in key palace posts. Some of those he fired were called lazy, or arrogant, and in some cases, guilty of “extremely evil behavior.”

“The new king is a very decisive man, and he’s a very daring man, unlike his father,” asserts Sulak Sivaraksa, a conservative social critic. “His father was on the whole, a very quiet person, and he ‘suffered fools (gladly)’ around him. He knew (if) somebody cheated him and so, but he was very tolerant.”

There have been suggestions that the new king’s purges amount to an anti-corruption campaign. Such a case can be made, acknowledges Montesano. “But the same actions also appear to bespeak an interest in gaining or exerting greater control over certain institutions,” Montesano said. “That possible motive must be kept in mind.”

There is little question that Vajiralongkorn has tightened control over royal institutions and what amounts to political privileges. He surprised the country’s ruling junta when, “to ensure his royal powers,” he requested changes to a new constitution that had already been approved in a referendum. They acquiesced.

The powers he acquired centralize royal authority in his hands and make explicit his right to intervene in government affairs, especially in times of political crisis. Vajiralongkorn has also sought to shore up the palace’s finances, previously controlled by a vast and somewhat creaky bureaucracy. The palace’s fortune, estimated by sources such as Forbes magazine to be in the neighborhood of $30 billion, is largely controlled by the Crown Property Bureau, a professionally managed holding company with large stakes in real estate, banking and industry.

Vajiralongkorn instituted changes giving him tighter control to personally manage the bureau and its holdings. Vajiralongkorn’s greatest challenge is likely to be sorting out the palace’s relationship with the military.

His father Bhumibol and the army worked out a delicate balance of power, with the palace arguably holding the stronger hand, especially after a 1973 pro-democracy uprising temporarily discredited military rule. The army’s declared mission of protecting the monarchy became its shield against criticism.

But as Bhumibol’s health declined in the last decade and a half of his life, that balance began to shift. Now, with the army entrenched in government for five years after staging a coup in 2014, things seem to have shifted more in the military’s favor.

Vajiralongkorn has supporters in the military. He was educated at military academies, took part in 1970s counterinsurgency action against the Communist Party of Thailand, and is a qualified pilot in the air force, the service he is closest to.

There are special army units directly under the palace’s command, and Vajiralongkorn has augmented their strength. “He has sought to bring more army units under his personal control,” said Chambers. “Prior to his father’s death, the junta leaders seemed to have acted for the ailing and aged king but they were becoming too big for their britches, so to speak. Hence the new sovereign wanted to ensure personalized monarchical control over the military.”

Vajiralongkorn’s actions help restore the balance of palace-barracks relations and “reflect a diminution of the army’s own influence,” agrees Montesano. The relationship, however, is a two-way street. An election held under the junta in March has been widely seen as rigged to favor the military and its preferred candidate, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup and has headed the government since then.

When Vajiralongkorn’s older sister, Princess Ubolratana, lent her support to Prayuth’s opponents by agreeing to be their candidate for prime minister, the king immediately clamped down, declaring the action unconstitutional. He also issued a statement on the eve of the election saying that people should support “good people” to prevent “bad people” from gaining power and causing chaos, words that seemed to echo the junta’s justification for taking power following years of political tensions and occasional violence.

He is likely to be embroiled in the political battle again just a few days after his coronation, when election results are supposed to be certified and will almost certainly be challenged by the losers.

The Thai people, said Sulak, will probably be peaceful and “full of joy” during the coronation ceremony period. “But I’m not sure afterwards,” he said.

Thai king appoints consort as queen ahead of coronation

May 02, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has appointed his consort as the country’s queen ahead of his official coronation on Saturday. An announcement Wednesday in the Royal Gazette said Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya is legally married to the 66-year-old king, and is now Queen Suthida.

Although she has been in the public eye for about three years, there has been little official information released about her and the news was a surprise to many Thais. She is reported to be 40 years old and to have previously worked as a flight attendant for Thai Airways International. The two reportedly met on a flight.

Suthida joined the palace guard in 2013 and became commander of the king’s security unit, currently holding a general’s rank. The new queen also has several top royal decorations. Vajiralongkorn has had three previous marriages and divorced his previous wife, with whom he has a son, in 2014. He became king after the death in October 2016 of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thai television, which broadcast the royal order Wednesday evening, showed a video of Suthida prostrating herself before the king. According to the announcer, she presented the king with a tray of flowers and joss sticks, and in return was bestowed traditional gifts associated with royal power.

TV showed the king in a white uniform and his bride in a pink silk traditional dress formally registering their marriage on Wednesday in his palace residence in Bangkok. The couple was seen signing a marriage certificate book, which was also signed by the king’s sister, Princess Sirindhorn, and Privy Council head Prem Tinsulanonda as witnesses. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and other senior officials were also in attendance.

Prince William meets New Zealand mosque attack responders

April 25, 2019

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Britain’s Prince William on Thursday met with some of the police officers and medics who were the first to respond to last month’s mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Duke of Cambridge arrived in Christchurch in the afternoon after earlier attending an Anzac Day service in Auckland alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. At the service, the prince laid a wreath of red and white flowers on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

William is on a two-day trip to New Zealand and plans to meet later with survivors of the mosque attacks in which 50 people were killed and 50 others wounded. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters after the meeting with first responders that the prince had been very supportive and had wanted to make sure the officers and medics were looking after themselves.

Bush said the prince told staff that “A good friend doesn’t pick up the phone when people are in need. You travel to their place and you put your arms around them.” Anzac Day is a memorial holiday on the anniversary of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, known as Anzacs, landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. More than 10,000 soldiers from the two countries were killed during that World War I campaign in what is now Turkey.

On Friday, William will visit the two mosques where the massacres took place March 15.

Thai polls regulator heeds king, blocks princess’ candidacy

February 11, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s Election Commission on Monday disqualified the sister of the country’s king from becoming a candidate for prime minister in next month’s general election, saying all royals have to be above politics and the monarchy must remain politically neutral.

The commission’s decision came after her brother issued an order describing Princess Ubolratana Mahidol’s political bid as inappropriate and unconstitutional. The Thai Raksa Chart Party last Friday registered Ubolratana as its candidate, defying precedent against royal involvement in politics.

Her choice of party was notable because the party is associated with the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup after being accused of abuse of power and disrespect for the monarchy.

A royal order late Friday night from King Maha Vajiralongkorn said tradition and law barred the princess from politics. Ubolratana’s involvement was seen as a challenge to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a 2014 military coup and is favored to win the March 24 election, which 55 parties are contesting. The military, a bitter foe of the exiled Thaksin, is closely allied to the palace.

Thai Raksa Chart on Saturday hastily issued a statement declaring its loyalty to the king and acceptance of his order, though it was technically too late to withdraw Ubolratana’s candidacy.

Tag Cloud