Grand audience by King for the people

All eyes will be focussed on the balcony of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall on Wednesday morning when His Majesty the King appears for a historic grand audience to mark his 85th birthday.

His Majesty's public appearance at the throne hall has been scheduled for 10.30am, following his arrival from his royal suite at Siriraj Hospital by royal motorcade.

Police anticipate at least 200,000 well-wishers will be at the Royal Plaza, nearby areas and lining the route of  the royal motorcade. The crowd chant "Song Phra Charoen'', Long Live the King, will follow his journey.

Officials put the final touches on preparations for the King's grand audience on the balcony of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

The Metropolitan Police Bureau is deploying 2,500 policemen to help people witness this historic moment.  Areas around the Royal Plaza were closed to traffic at 6pm Tuesday.

Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, chief of the Police Traffic Division, on Tuesday urged people to leave their cars at the designated parking lots in the suburbs and travel to the area by free public buses.

Many Thais had already gathered at the Royal Plaza on Tuesday, planning to camp there overnight and make sure they get the best view possible of the King when he appears on the balcony to greet his people.

Her Majesty the Queen will not accompany the King for the grand audience on the advice of her doctors.

The Royal Household Bureau issued the announcement on Tuesday, with an update on HM the Queen's health problems. She is staying at Siriraj.

The latest statement reported that HM the Queen's condition has improved continuously and she has successfully been undergoing physical therapy.

However, the Queen is not yet fully recovered, according to the announcement.

Therefore, the team of treating doctors has suggested that Her Majesty should refrain from attending the ceremony, as it could put a strain on her health and disrupt the overall recovery progress.

The King will observe the oath of allegiance ceremony by the armed forces on Wednesday, but has ordered the 12 battalions of the royal guards to line up inside the Throne Hall grounds instead of in the plaza to clear space for his well-wishers, Maj Gen Wara Boonyasit, the commander of the 1st Division, King's Guards, said.

Piyanart Boochalerm camps out at the Royal Plaza since Monday to make sure she will get the best view possible of the King on Wednesday. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

The King's appearance on Wednesday will be His Majesty's 10th grand audience, and the first time at Ananta Samakom since June 9, 2006, the diamond jubilee marking the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne.

The previous two grand audiences were on Dec 5, 2007 and again last year at the Chakri Throne Hall.

Hundreds of thousands of people, in a sea of yellow and yellow flags, turned out for the audience in 2006, when the King told his people to pay attention to the importance to the country of unity, compassion and moral integrity.

"Everyone should think and act with honesty while staying true to the rules and respecting equality,'' the King said at the time.

A sea of yellow will certainly be there again on Wednesday, with the government and officials strongly encouraging all Thais to dress in the colour representing his birthday.

Yellow shirts have been selling quickly in the provinces, notably Phitsanulok and Nakhon Ratchasima.

"I am very delighted to have a chance to wear a yellow T-shirt again for the King,'' said Thavorn Nu-oud, proudly  showing her purchase in Phitsanulok.

Vendor Chutima Theeradeechakit said she told more than 500 yellow T-shirts at her shop in Nakhon Ratchasima since Dec 1.

Other provinces will also hold a ceremony for the King on Wednesday.

Permanent secretary for interior Wibul Sanguanpong on Tuesday confirmed that people and government agencies nationwide are allowed to set off fireworks displays to mark His Majesty's 85th birthday, while advising them to use pyrotechnics safely.

In an Oct 30 letter he  asked provincial governors nationwide to hold celebrations to bless the King in a manner that follows the style of activities in Bangkok, but to refrain from letting off fireworks.

"A lack of a fireworks would not mean disloyalty. It is the resolution of the [organising] committee,'' Mr Wibun said on Monday. 

However, Mr Wibun abruptly changed his position on the issue, saying letters had been sent to provincial governors again yesterday to explain that his agency did not order a ban on fireworks displays, but only urged all concerned to consider the propriety of using them for safety reasons.

Charin Chakkaphak, deputy interior permanent secretary, said the Interior Ministry had “asked for cooperation” from provincial governors in the Oct 30 letter, and had not issued an order.   

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