On Wednesday 5th December 2012, there will be a rare chance to see His Majesty the King who will make a public appearance to mark the occasion of his 85th birthday. This will take place on the Mukkhadej balcony of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in the Royal Plaza. The last time that he did this was back in June 2006 when 100,000’s of people, wearing yellow shirts, came to see the King. Authorities are hoping to see a repeat of this on Wednesday. Yellow represents Monday, the birthday of His Majesty the King. His Majesty was born on 5th December 1927.
You don’t have to be a Thai person to go and watch but you will need a lot of patience. It is expected that Thais will head to the Royal Plaza before dawn in order to reserve a good spot. Some may even go the night before. The Royal Plaza is the large area in front of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall that surrounds the equestrian statue of King Rama V. The best views of the balcony will be from here though thousands of other people will be on Ratchdamnoen Nok Avenue. There will be giant screens set up along this road all the way to Sanam Luang. If you are in the Royal Plaza (northern end and western side) you will see the Trooping the Colour which involves 2,126 royal guards from the three armed forces. To see the balcony, you will probably need binoculars or a good zoom lens.
The Prime Minister and other dignitaries are expected to be in the garden at the foot of the Throne Hall by 9:30 a.m. at the latest. This is when the Trooping the Colour will begin with the soldiers marching out of the nearby barracks and onto the lawn in front of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. H.M The King is then due to leave Siriraj Hospital at 10 a.m. for the short journey to the Throne Hall. His convoy will approach from the north driving past Thai Parliament and Entrance 3 of Dusit Zoo. Royal Guards will line this route. It will take about 10-15 minutes for his Majesty to leave the car in his wheelchair and go up to the balcony. He is expected to make an appearance at 10:30 a.m.
The ceremony begins when His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn opens the conical cover of the flower container in the floral tribute and delivers a congratulatory statement on behalf of the Royal Family. The Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly, and the President of the Supreme Court perform the same gesture and deliver congratulatory statements on behalf of the Cabinet, government officials, and the general public, the legislature, and the judiciary, respectively. Then the Supreme Commander delivers a speech of tribute and leads the Royal Guards in taking the Oath of Allegiance. His Majesty the King then delivers a royal address in response to the grand assembly.
The event will be televised live on all Thai TV channels as well as shown on giant screens in Bangkok. It will obviously be easier to watch at home as you will get a better view. But you will miss out on the “once in a lifetime” experience. I took all of these pictures during the rehearsal on Sunday (see photo album). On the actual day there is no way that I will be able to get this close to the balcony. To get to the event won’t be easy. The five roads surrounding the Royal Plaza will be off-limits to traffic from Tuesday at 6pm until the end of the celebrations on Wednesday. Closed to traffic will be Uthong Nai Road to the Royal Plaza; Ratchadamnoen Avenue from Makkhawan Rangsan intersection to Misakawan intersection; Si Ayutthaya Road from Wat Benchamabophit to Phol 1 Ro Or intersection; Phitsanulok Road from Phanich intersection to Wang Daeng intersection; and Krung Kasem Road from Makkhawan Rangsan intersection to Pracha Kasem Road.
People travelling to the area to take part in the celebrations at the Royal Plaza are urged to use public transport. Nine temporary parking lots will be set up for people going to the Royal Plaza. These are at Kamphaeng Phet Fifth Road with 100 spaces, Tao Poon cement plant complex with 100, Kamphaeng Phet Second Road with 150, Provincial Police Region 1 compound with 120, Kamphaeng Phet Sixth Road with 700, Buddha Monthol First Road with 550, Ratchaphruek Road with 500, Buddha Monthol Second Road with 700 and Kanchanaphisek Road with 600. Motorists can also park their cars and ride special city buses to the Royal Plaza at three locations – Rama VIII bridge and bus #700, Pinklao bridge and bus #650, and Yommaraj and Uruphong expressway exit. There will be spaces for 1,650 cars combined.
In the evening, many people will return to Ratchdamnoen Nok Avenue to see the lights and also the exhibitions about the King. There will also be free performances around Sanam Luang for the public. The beautiful lights can be seen all the way from the Royal Plaza to Sanam Luang. The roads will be open to cars but there will be traffic jams for sure. At 7:19 p.m. the Prime Minister will preside over a candlelight ceremony at Sanam Luang in front of the Grand Palace. This will be followed by fireworks here and in every province around Thailand. On Wednesday you will probably see many firework shows. All of these details are of course subject to change. I will post on Twitter @RichardBarrow any updates that I find.