Serafimerringningen provides closure for Thais in Sweden

Serafimerringningen provides closure for Thais in Sweden

Swedes hold ceremony to honour late King Bhumibol Adulyadej

royal links: The Thai Pavilion in Utanede in northern Sweden was built to honour King Rama V when he visited the town in 1897.
royal links: The Thai Pavilion in Utanede in northern Sweden was built to honour King Rama V when he visited the town in 1897.

Attended by thousands of people, the Serafimerringningen ceremony provided closure for the many Thais living in Sweden and surrounding areas who were unable to attend the grand royal cremation in Bangkok on Thursday.

The ceremony was held in Stockholm on Thursday -- the same day as the royal cremation ceremony in Thailand -- to honour the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who received the Knight of the Swedish Royal Order of the Seraphim on April 5, 1950.

Kiattikhun Chartprasert, the ambassador to the Royal Thai Embassy in Stockholm, gave an exclusive interview to the Bangkok Post after the Serafimerringningen ceremony was over.

The Seraphim Coat of Arms is given to selected heads of state by the King of Sweden. Besides monarchs from European countries, the Seraphim Coat of Arms were also given to country leaders.

While most of the Seraphim Coat of Arms are conferred on European royalty and other heads of state, kings of Thailand remain one of the two Asian royalties, along with emperors of Japan, knighted by the King of Sweden.

The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was not the first Thai monarch to be awarded with a Seraphim Coat of Arms.

Prior to him, King Rama V or King Chulalongkorn was knighted in 1887, HRH Crown Prince Vajiravudh (later King Rama VI) was knighted in 1897, HRH Prince Svasti Sobohn received the honour in 1897, HRH Prince Chakrabongse received his knighthood in 1911, and King Rama VII or King Prajadhipok was knighted in 1932.

A decade after the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej received his knighthood, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit was knighted in 1960.

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun was knighted in 2003 when he was the Crown Prince.

Meanwhile, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and HRH Princess Chulabhorn were also knighted in the same year.

The Seraphim Coat of Arms given to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is distinguished from the ones given to other Thai royalty since he was given the collar of the knight.

It is has 11 golden seraphim with 11 blue Patriarchal Crosses set in gold joint with gold links. The Star with a white Maltese Cross set in gold joints with gold links and the Badge with a Maltese Cross of silver are also part of the coat of arms.

"When I first heard that the Swedish Royal Court was going to hold a ceremony to honour the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, I was so glad to learn that they planned to honour the late King with a street procession," Mr Kiattikhun said.

"I told them I had to attend in full ceremonial dress since the ceremony concerns the late King and I have to represent my country. They normally wear black suits during the Serafimerringningen ceremony, but they said they would dress up in the traditional way to honour the late King as well.

"They confirmed that the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's coat of arms had hung in the Stockholm Royal Palace for a longer period -- 66 years -- than other coats of arms for other heads of state," Mr Kiattikhun added.

Other Serafimerringningen ceremonies held in the past were small and attended by small groups of people.

The ceremony on Thursday was the largest they have ever held, with thousands of people attending and it lasted for more than an hour.

The ceremony was also attended by Sweden's chief of honorary guard, chief of guard and major from the guard of duty.

The Swedish King only awards the full set of coat of arms to those who are on official state visits.

In the past, only King Chulalongkorn and the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej were on state visits and they were awarded Sweden's highest order.

"Our monarchs have a really strong relationship with Sweden's royalty. The relationship started in 1897 when King Rama V visited Stockholm by boat after his meeting with the Czar of Russia in St Petersburg. Then he visited Sweden again 10 years later on a state visit," Mr Kiattikhun said.

"When he was here in Sweden in 1897, he went to visit a small town in the north of the country called Utanede, which is now under the administration of Ragunda Municipality.

"He travelled by train and continued his journey on a small local road to the pier where he continued his journey to the destination by boat. Local people started to call the short distance from the train track to the pier 'Chulalongkorn Vag', which means 'Chulalongkorn Road' in Swedish," he added.

One hundred years later, the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Building was raised in order to honour and remember the Thai monarch. It is one of many things that confirm the strong relationship between the two countries.

Inside the pavilion, there is a statue of King Rama V as well as a painting of King Oscar of Sweden on the wall.

"Despite the political changes we have gone through, the relationship between the monarchs of the two countries still remains strong. Thailand is a popular destination among Swedish holidaymakers, with some 350,000–400,000 Swedes visiting the Land of Smiles every year," said the Thai ambassador.

The Thai community in Sweden is quite large. There are at least 70,000–80,000 Thais living in different parts of the country. The vast majority of them are women married to Swedish men as well as their family members.

sombre occasion: Clad in ceremonial uniform, Thai ambassador Kiattikhun Chartprasert, centre, takes part in the procession honouring the late King.

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