January 8, 2018 / 9:23 AM / a year ago

Thai king orders history-themed festival paying homage to past monarchs

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has ordered a history-themed festival for the public, a government spokesman said on Monday, as the Southeast Asian nation emerges from a year of mourning for his revered father.

FILE PHOTO: Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn marches during a procession to transfer the royal relics and ashes of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej from the crematorium to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 27, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

The king’s father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose reign spanned seven decades, was cremated in Bangkok in October.

The late king, who died in October 2016, commanded the devotion of millions and helped shape Thailand for decades after World War Two. King Vajiralongkorn does not have the same level of devotion.

The festival, which will take place at the Royal Plaza, a public square in Bangkok, from February 8 to March 11, will feature exhibitions showcasing the life and work of his late father King Bhumibol and his great grandfather, King Chulalongkorn, who reigned from 1868 to 1910.

The festival will include gardens, fountains, and historic-looking structures.

“The king wants Thai people to be happy by reminiscing about the past, that’s why the festival has a historical theme,” government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told Reuters on Monday.

He added that the public will be encouraged to wear traditional Thai clothes and 19th century Thai fashions.

King Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the throne after his father’s death, quickly asserted his authority by requiring changes to a new constitution to make his powers clear and he also set about reorganising the palace.

He has issued a number of royal decrees in recent months pertaining to the promotion and dismissal of palace officials.

He has also been given full control of the agency that manages the multi-billion dollar holdings of the monarchy.

Outside of the palace, the king has ordered the organisation of public events such as weekend music concerts aimed at “bringing happiness to the people”.

King Vajiralongkorn’s formal coronation is expected to take place later this year and could signal the start of politics following a year of mourning and the late king’s funeral.

Thai laws protecting members of the royal family from insult limit what all news organisations, including Reuters, can report from Thailand.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Neil Fullick

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