Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Royal Archives’

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.

Advertisements

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.

Thai princess’ political bid sunk by her brother, the king

February 08, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s chaotic politics took two astonishing turns Friday when the sister of the king made a historic bid to become prime minister, only to have him shut down her effort as “inappropriate” because it violated tradition and the constitution, which keep the monarchy from getting involved in politics.

The royal order from King Maha Vajiralongkorn was read on national television late Friday night, effectively scuttling the move by his older sister, Princess Ubolratana Mahidol, to become a candidate for the prime minister’s office after parliamentary elections scheduled for March 24.

It was the latest event to roil Thailand, which has been buffeted by coups, political comebacks and street violence for more than a decade. Ubolratana’s registration as a candidate was a stunning move, not only because it would have broken a taboo on a senior royal running for public office, but also because it would have allied her with the Thai Raksa Chart Party, considered by many royalists to be unsympathetic to the monarchy.

It is one of several parties linked to the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecommunications billionaire who roared to power in 2001 with populist policies that made him practically unbeatable. The army eventually ousted him from the prime minister’s office in a 2006 coup.

The turnaround in Ubolratana’s fortunes was also seen as startling because the siblings are thought to be close and it was considered unthinkable that Ubolratana would make her move without her brother’s permission. What actually had happened behind the scenes is unlikely to become public, because the Thai royal family’s private affairs are almost never leaked.

Vajiralongkorn tried to soften the blow by acknowledging that his 67-year-old sister has already relinquished her formal royal titles, and he praised her for conducting charity work and otherwise earning the love of her family and the Thai people.

But his order stressed that Thailand’s constitution insists that the king and those around him stay above politics, and the principles of democratic government also put politics off-limits. “Even though she relinquished her title according to royal laws … she still retains her status and position as a member of the Chakri dynasty,” the king’s order said.

“Bringing high-ranking royal family members to be involved in the political system, in any way, is an act that is against the ancient royal protocol and national custom and culture, and is seen as a highly inappropriate act,” the statement added.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the preferred candidate of the military, is considered to be indelibly loyal to the monarchy. He led the 2014 military coup that ousted Thailand’s last elected government, which had been backed by Thaksin.

Prayuth had been considered the front-runner for the March election because changes in the constitution and election rules implemented by his government make it difficult for political parties without military backing to capture the prime minister’s post.

Thailand also has a draconian lese majeste law which punishes defamation of the immediate royal family with up to 15 years in prison. While it does not technically apply to Ubolratana, who lost her highest royal titles when she married an American more than four decades ago, its scope has been widened in recent years to almost anything that sullies the royal institution, making criticism of the princess highly problematical.

Before the king’s statement, Ubolratana had issued a statement on Instagram saying she has “no special privileges above the Thai people under the constitution.” “This act of mine, I have done out of sincerity and intention to sacrifice in this request to lead the country to prosperity,” she said.

Parliament has had members who were distant relatives of the monarch. Ubolratana falls into a gray area, since she is commonly called a princess and treated as such, despite losing the royal designations after her marriage.

Hours after she was registered as a candidate, a political party supporting Prayuth filed an objection with the Election Commission, arguing that the action broke rules banning the use of the royal institution as part of a political campaign. Several other complaints followed, mostly from conservative royalists, exposing a possible vulnerability in her plans.

Ubolratana is the first-born of four children of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, with the current king the second-born. She was virtually disowned by her father in 1972 when she married American Peter Jensen, who was a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They settled in the United States where they had three children. They later divorced and she moved back permanently to Thailand in 2001.

Since then she has thrown herself into charity work, especially her “To Be No. 1” foundation to fight youth drug abuse. She also frequently promotes Thai tourism and movies at international forums. In general, like most of the royal family, she publicly kept herself aloof from Thailand’s recent political turmoil.

For most of Bhumibol’s reign from 1946 to his death in 2016, the revered and humble monarch was a stabilizing force in Thai politics. But the election of Thaksin in 2001 was transformative for Thailand.

His populist policies delivered unmatchable electoral majorities, but he was resented by the traditional ruling class, including royalists and the military. Violent street protests and two military coups have marked the years since. Thaksin went in exile in 2008 to avoid serving jail time on a corruption conviction he insists was politically motivated.

His well-funded political machine returned his allies to power twice, and his maneuvering was seen as the key element in arranging for Ubolratana’s selection by a Thaksin-affiliated party. Most political observers agree that Thaksin aggressively pursued good relations with the current king and friendship with the princess herself. These links were formed as royalists and others loyal to Bhumibol accused Thaksin of showing disrespect for the throne, and even of harboring secret republican tendencies.

When Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne, conventional wisdom saw him as tightening his grip on power by allying himself closely with the military. The surprise move by his sister into politics — assumed to be with the king’s approval — raised questions about whether the long-lasting partnership of the palace with the army is in jeopardy.

Associated Press writer Kaweewit Kaewjinda contributed.

Tag Cloud