After two months of an enduring flood disaster which affected almost 5 million people, all Thais will rejoice today and celebrate His Majesty the King's 84th birthday.
Alight in the darkness A large boat adorned with His Majesty the King’s portrait, giant lotus lanterns and lighting decorations is lit up in the middle of the Chao Phraya River in Pathum Thani province. Launched by the local administration as part of the King’s birthday celebrations, the boat also serves as a stage forkhon performances and visitors are allowed on board to take pictures. PONGPATWONGYALA
Hundreds of thousands of well-wishers are expected to converge at Siriraj Hospital, Sanam Luang and the Grand Palace to show their love and respect for the King. Today His Majesty will travel from Siriraj Hospital to the Grand Palace and appear at the balcony of Chakri Throne Hall at 10.30am to greet his subjects.
This year, Dec 5 is even more auspicious as it also marks the seventh-cycle anniversary of His Majesty.
The monarch has rarely made public appearances following his admission to Siriraj Hospital due to fever, fatigue and lost of appetite on Sept 19, 2009.
Despite his ailments, the King has never stopped working over the past two years. He granted audiences to state officials to give advice on many issues, especially water management.
When the flood disaster struck the central provinces two months ago, His Majesty closely monitored the situation every day.
Earlier last month, the King suffered a stomach bleed which doctors suspect was caused by the stress of continuously following the flood news.
On Nov 19, royal physicians reported that His Majesty was diagnosed with inflammation of the diverticulum of the large intestine, a common condition among the elderly.
The King's birthday appearance today will not only provide a healing force for his subjects in these hard times of flooding, but also ease the people's concern over his health.
Many streets in the capital as lit up, particularly in the Rattanakosin Island and Ratchadamnoen (above) areas.
The government is organising a week-long celebration for this auspicious occasion running until Friday.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday that she would refrain from talking politics during this period as the nation celebrates.
The red and yellow camps will also suspend their usual political activities and join the nationwide celebration. Over 1,000 red shirts, led by United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Kwanchai Praipana, will travel from Udon Thani to join the celebrations at Sanam Luang today, while the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy will replace their political talkshow on the ASTV channel with documentaries to promote royal projects.
Celebrations for His Majesty the King's birthday, which also marks Father's Day, begins with a private holy water ceremony at 7am at the Grand Palace.
At 10am, the King will depart from Siriraj Hospital to the historic Chakri Throne Hall.
Although His Majesty's journey will be broadcast live, hundreds of thousands of well-wishers are expected to turn out to greet the King along the way, on roads that have been decorated with national and royal flags.
Large screens will be installed at many places along the route from the hospital to Wiset Chaisi Gate near Sanam Luang to allow people to better observe their beloved monarch.
Around 8,000 honorary guests of the state as well as 10,000 members of the public and 480 royal guards will wait in front of the Chakri Throne Hall for the King's appearance on the balcony.
At 7.19pm, Ms Yingluck will preside over a candle-lit ceremony at Sanam Luang to pray for His Majesty's longevity and happiness.
Private and public sector offices will also joined forces to organise a wide variety of projects and activities throughout the Kingdom to express their gratitude for His Majesty's tireless dedication to improving people's living conditions throughout his reign.
On Saturday, the Office of the Royal Household and the government launched a 3D panoramic multimedia presentation called the Illusion Live Wall on a 200m stretch of the Grand Palace's wall on Na Phra Lan Road.
The 20-minute show is about the peace and prosperity of the Kingdom under His Majesty's reign. Traditional khon dancing involving over 150 performers will also be held live on stage at Sanam Luang for 90 minutes every day throughout the week-long celebrations, said Rattanawut Watcharothai, director of public relations and promotions at the Office of the Royal Household.
As part of the celebrations, people will also be allowed for the first time to enjoy the majesty of the Grand Palace at night.
Visitors will be able enter the inner area of the palace and take photos from today until Friday from 7pm to midnight.
World honours our King
Many of the world's prominent figures and royals have sent their best wishes to His Majesty the King on his 84th birthday today.
In a birthday message, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom wrote: "It gives me great pleasure to offer my warmest congratulations to Your Majesty as you celebrate the auspicious occasion of your 84th birthday."
The 85-year-old Queen Elizabeth, who has been on the throne for 59 years, revealed that she had been following the reports of the floods in Thailand with concern and would like to offer condolences to His Majesty and to the Thai people in this time of tragedy.
Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands also sent a birthday message to the King, wishing for the well-being of His Majesty and of the Thai people. Pope Benedict XVI extended cordial greetings to His Majesty, the royal family and to the Thai people on the occasion of His Majesty's birthday.
"Aware of the tragic floods that have affected your country, I assure Your Majesty of my solidarity and that of the Catholic Church," the Pope said in the message.
Chinese President Hu Jintao conveyed his sincere congratulations and best wishes to the King and to all Thai people on the auspicious occasion of His Majesty's birthday.
"As a deeply loved and esteemed King, Your Majesty has made remarkable contributions to economic and social growth of Thailand as well as your people's well-being for a long time," President Hu said in his message. "I wish Your Majesty longevity, your country prosperity and your people happiness."
US President Barack Obama said he hoped this joyous occasion would promote healing and a resolve among Thais to rebuild as the country recovers from the floods.
The birthday celebrations for the monarch include this fabulous display of light at Wat Phra Kaew (The Grand Palace) near the river.