History repeated itself yesterday at Thung Makham Yong when His Majesty the King made a momentous return to a royally initiated paddy field where he harvested rice 16 years ago.
His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn arrive at Thung Makham Yong. THITI WANNAMONTHA
The visit by His Majesty was his first outside of Greater Bangkok in nearly three years. The King, who turned 84 on Dec 5 last year, has resided at Siriraj Hospital since Sept 2009, when he was admitted for lung inflammation.
Massive crowds could be seen at both Siriraj and along the route to Ayutthaya with citizens hoping for a glimpse of their revered monarch. Cheers of "Long Live the King" could be heard reverberating across the plain as soon as the door of the royal van opened, chanted by adoring crowds clad in the royal colours of pink and yellow and waving flags of the country and crown.
The King, wearing a green military uniform, arrived at Thung Makham Yong about 6pm, accompanied by Her Majesty the Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
The monarch paid homage to the memorial of Queen Sri Suriyothai from the royal vehicle before moving on to an exhibition centre where he was greeted by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Ayutthaya governor Witthaya Piewpong and other senior officials.
Ms Yingluck said His Majesty's visit has brought great joy to the people of Ayutthaya and neighbouring provinces.
"We are all deeply gratified to see His Majesty strong," she said.
Flag-waving well-wishers fill Thung Makham Yong for the royal visit to Ayutthaya. PATTARACHAI PEECHAPANICH
Thung Makham Yong has an important place in Thai history as it showcases the royally initiated kaem ling (monkey cheek) project to store water for use in the dry season and ease flood problems in the rainy season, the premier said.
Ms Yingluck also presented the title deed of a 7-rai, 3-ngan land plot at Thung Makham Yong field which she and her family donated to the King.
The plot is the paddy field where the King came to harvest rice 16 years ago on May 14, 1996.
"My family and I would like to donate this land to His Majesty for use at your discretion," Ms Yingluck said.
Mr Witthaya then reported to His Majesty the King about the Thung Makham Yong development, and also presented a donation of 9,999,999 baht from state officials and Ayutthaya residents.
About 6.35pm, the King went to a pond pavilion to watch traditional performances, including boat songs.
At 7.20pm, the prime minister presided over a candle-lit ceremony to ask for blessings for His Majesty's good health and happiness. The King left at 7.30pm.
Mr Witthaya said Ms Yingluck decided to buy the land plot from its previous owners just two days ago.
"I think Prime Minister Yingluck wants to keep the land as a historic site. Here is the place where our King developed an irrigation project and once harvested rice," said the governor.
La-or Manorom, a 44-year-old worker from eastern Rayong, said she went to Prachuap Khiri Khan province to collect her family and then travelled with them all the way to Ayutthaya to pay respect to the King.
"Once in my life, I want to see the King. What I did today means nothing, compared with what the King has done for the country for more than 60 years. He is the best teacher for how to make life happy based on his sufficiency economy philosophy," she said.
Songserm Isarakankul, the owner of a green-bean noodle plant in Kanchanaburi, said he had brought more than 20 kilogrammes of the noodles to Ayutthaya to present to the King.
Mr Songserm said his family has presented the noodles they make to the King for 40 years whenever they had a chance to do so. Mr Songserm said his own mother once had the chance to present the noodles to His Majesty when the King visited a temple in Kanchanaburi where he had asked about how it was produced.
Foreigners also joined Thai people in soaking up the joyous atmosphere.
Michelle Reedy, a 45-year-old Australian who now works as a mahout at Ayutthaya Elephant Kraal, said the elephant keepers put in their utmost efforts in training 11 elephants to take part in the special occasion to welcome the King and the royal family.
"I feel good to do this for His Majesty the King," she said.
Nantiya Patthong, 48, from Bangkok said this was a great opportunity to see His Majesty the King.
"I'm very glad to see the large number of people turning up. It is a good sign that most people still love him. Nothing in the world is enough to thank him for what he has done for us except to show we still love and respect him," she said.