Coronation ceremony for Thai King: Latest updates

9:52 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

Our live coverage of the Thai King's coronation has now ended. Read about what happened here, check out photos from first day of the three-day coronation here, and find out more about all the extravagant artifacts involved in today's ceremonies here.

6:22 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

In photos: Thailand crowns its new King

The first day in Thailand's three-day coronation was full of elaborate outfits, ancient rituals and glittering objects.

Thailand's new King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the country's 10th king, underwent a royal purification ceremony with holy waters from around the country, received the symbolic nine-tiered umbrella, and rode on a golden palanquin.

Check out all the photos from the lavish celebrations here.

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn during the royal purification abbot as part of the the coronation ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 4, 2019.
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn during the royal purification abbot as part of the the coronation ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 4, 2019. Public Relations Department, Thailand/Getty Images

5:57 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

The King rides on a royal palanquin to his final event of the day

King Maha Vajiralongkorn is riding on a golden royal palanquin carried by men in orange outfits and golden helmets towards the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.

Soldiers in white and red uniforms are marching alongside the procession.

At the elaborate gold Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, King Vajiralongkorn is expected to proclaim himself the Royal Patron of Buddhism.

It's his last event on Saturday, the first day in his lavish three-day coronation.

The Thai King rides on the royal palanquin as part of his final event of the day.
The Thai King rides on the royal palanquin as part of his final event of the day. Thailand’s Public Relations Department

4:50 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

Who was Thailand's late King?

King Vajiralongkorn, 66, replaces his late father King Bhumibol, who died in 2016 after 70 years on the throne. At the time of his death, he was the world's longest reigning monarch.

King Bhumibol was widely loved and revered in Thailand where he was seen as a unifying force as the country lurched between political crises and military coups.

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit wave to thousands of people waiting outside the Royal Plaza to pay tribute to him on June 9, 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand, as the country began a five-day celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne.
Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit wave to thousands of people waiting outside the Royal Plaza to pay tribute to him on June 9, 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand, as the country began a five-day celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne. Pool-Getty images

In 1973, the King helped steer the country out of violent clashes between student demonstrators and military rulers.

In May 1992, amid violence between pro-democracy campaigners and the army, the King summoned the two leaders of the rival camps. His actions, which helped calm tensions and stop the violence, were seen as bolstering the King's moral authority.

But the twilight years of his reign were marred by political conflict, with the then-Prime Minister Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra deposed in a military coup in 2006, which was followed by another coup in 2014. Since then, the military junta has passed two constitutions shoring up its power and weakening its rivals. 

Check out more images from King Bhumibol's life here.

4:30 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

Lese majeste: Thailand's most controversial law, explained

The crime of lese majeste -- insulting the royal family -- is a law enforced by monarchies around the globe. But few are stricter than Thailand.

Thailand stipulates harsh punishments for defaming or insulting the king or senior royals, and critics say it has stifled much-needed debate over the country's future.

Even someone in whose name it's invoked in has questioned it. The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej said in 2005 that "if the King can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him, because the King is not being treated as a human being."

But that hasn't stopped there from being a huge spike in prosecutions in the last decade, with more than 400 cases in 2010 alone, according to Human Rights Watch.

Read more about Thailand's lese majeste rules here.

4:19 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

Dressed all in gold, the King grants an audience from a giant gilded throne

In a gold robe, gold embroidered pants, and a gold 7.3-kilogram (16-pound) crown, King Maha Vajiralongkorn is granting an audience to key Thai leaders.

Officials are offering their best wishes as the newly crowned King sits elevated on his ornate gold throne, flanked by men holding gilded fans.

Members of the Royal Family, the Privy Council, and the Cabinet, as well as senior officials, have all gathered in the lavish Amarindra Vinicchaya Throne Hall at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

King Vajiralongkorn at Amarindra Vinicchaya Throne Hall
King Vajiralongkorn at Amarindra Vinicchaya Throne Hall Thailand’s Public Relations Department

3:56 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

Why Thailand's King is only just getting crowned

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne after his father's death in 2016 -- so why is he only just getting crowned?

The almost three-year gap between the late King's death and the coronation ceremony isn't unusual, said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a Thai political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. King Vajiralongkorn needed time to grieve his father and prepare for the event.

"The official enthronement will solidify kingship and enhance his aura as the new king," said Thitinan.

The coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950
The coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950 Fair use

King Vajiralongkorn won't get any significant additional powers, but he will now be seen as a fully-fledged King.

Prior to his coronation, King Vajiralongkorn sat on a throne beneath a seven-tiered umbrella, but he's now become the only person in Thailand permitted to sit on a on a throne beneath a sacred nine-tiered umbrella, which represents the King's connection with heaven.

3:39 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

Who is Thailand's new King?

Thailand's 66-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn became Crown Prince and heir apparent to his father King Bhumibol on December 28, 1972, when Vajiralongkorn was 20.

The new King studied in Australia and the United Kingdom and has fathered two daughters and five sons.

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn presides over the annual royal plowing ceremony outside Bangkok's royal palace on May 14, 2018. 
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn presides over the annual royal plowing ceremony outside Bangkok's royal palace on May 14, 2018.  PANUPONG CHANGCHAI/AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday, mere days before the coronation began, King Vajiralongkorn announced he had married his fourth wife, General Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya.

Although King Vajiralongkorn has already ruled for over two years since his father's death, the coronation ceremony solidifies his role as a fully-fledged monarch.

Since he became King, billions of dollars worth of assets held by the Thai Crown have been transferred to Vajiralongkorn, vastly increasing his personal wealth.

Earlier this year, he spoke out about the importance of the royal family staying "above politics" after his 67-year-old sister Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya announced she would stand as the prime ministerial candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party (Thai Save The Nation, or TSN). The party was aligned with populist former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in a 2006 coup.

King Vajiralongkorn called the move "extremely inappropriate," and in March, the country's Constitutional Court dissolved TSN ahead of elections and ruled that nominating the princess was "hostile to the monarchy institution."

Check out more images from his life here.

3:32 a.m. ET, May 4, 2019

Thai royal fans brave sickness and heat to watch King get crowned

It's 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Thai capital Bangkok today, but there are still small crowds braving the heat to watch the country's first coronation in 69 years.

Many watched on large screens around the Grand Palace.

Chalermpan Rangsriman, a 62-year-old retiree, arrived outside the Grand Palace early in the morning, despite being feeling ill.

“I am happy to see this event. Now we have a full King the country will be better. This ceremony is an auspicious thing to see. I am so proud of it," he told CNN.

"That's why I am here, even though it's extremely hot and I'm not feeling well."

Chalermpan Rangsriman
Chalermpan Rangsriman CNN

Jinthanart Unjai, 66, arrived at around 11 a.m. in the morning. She says she almost cried, as the event reminded her of the King's late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was widely beloved and revered.

“I am still thinking of the late king. I’m so proud of our tradition," she told CNN. “This is the first time in my life to see (this). I am so excited.”

Jinthanart Unjai, right, arrived to watch the ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.
Jinthanart Unjai, right, arrived to watch the ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday morning. CNN

Marn Thongkum, a 44-year-old civil servant from northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima Province, came to Bangkok last night especially to see the event.

“This is an important day. I had to come see,” he said. “I feel so happy. I am grateful to have new king now.”

Like many others in Thailand, it was Marn's first time seeing a coronation.

“This is Thailand," he said. "We need to have king.”

Marn Thongkum
Marn Thongkum CNN