Royals gather for Thai king's diamond jubilee party
By Sebastien Berger in Bangkok
An emperor, six kings and members of almost every reigning royal family in the world lined up in Bangkok yesterday to fete the veteran King of Thailand, the world's longest reigning monarch.
The biggest reunion of royal heads of state for decades marked the 60th anniversary of Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne, and represented a rare celebration of the divine right of kings.
|The 60th anniversary of Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne [enlargement]|
One by one the monarchs and dignitaries entered the Ananda Samakhom throne hall in the Thai capital, and under its immense dome bowed or shook hands with their host.
Most were dressed in military uniform dripping with glittering decorations, but among the heavy epaulettes were flowing Arab robes and a splendidly embroidered hat that was worn by the king of Malaysia.
Addressing the group, Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's prime minister, called the occasion "one of the most important milestones in our nation's history. Indeed its significance cannot be lost on those outside the kingdom as they witness the entire nation uniting in homage to its beloved sovereign."
King Bhumibol, who is deeply and genuinely loved by his people, said: "As a Thai, I have the same duty as all the people of this country.
"Thus I wish to thank you all who have made every effort to do their best according to their own abilities in order to co-operate and support me in various activities throughout the years."
|Prince Andrew [right] talks with King Bhumibol|
Pride of place at King Bhumibol's right hand was given to the Sultan of Brunei, who was the next longest-reigning of the monarchs present.
The most senior title in the room was that of the Emperor of Japan, and among the world's 28 reigning royal houses only those of Nepal and Saudi Arabia were not represented in person.
The Duke of York, who was seen chatting animatedly to Thailand's crown princess, Maha Sirindhorn, attended on behalf of the Queen, the world's second-longest--reigning monarch after her accession 54 years ago.
At twilight, hundreds of thousands of Thais lined the banks of the Chao Phraya to watch a royal barge procession in honour of their king. The term "barge" does not do justice to the 52 intricately carved golden craft that paraded on the river, in places five abreast and with the haunting chants of more than 2,000 oarsmen echoing around them. One lyric ran: "When calamity and crisis befall the Thai people, leaving them on the verge of chaos and confusion, His Majesty can set us upright again and restore our despondent hearts."
As a form of government, monarchy has been in decline for centuries but Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, suggested that those left could endure, particularly a ''hard core'' that included Thailand. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/06/13/wthai13.xml