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Sun, June 11, 2006 : Last updated 19:37 pm (Thai local time)

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King of Hearts

"Unity provides the basis for all Thais to preserve and increase long-term prosperity in the country. If Thais uphold these ethics, they will ensure Thailand stands firm." His Majesty the King

Yesterday was truly a day of yellow, the colour which has come to represent absolute loyalty. Several hundred thousand Thais, clad in yellow shirts and waving matching flags, packed the Royal Plaza to celebrate the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King's accession to the throne.

They struggled to hold back tears of joy as they saw their beloved monarch and Her Majesty the Queen appear at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall to preside over a regal and religious ceremony to pay homage to past Siamese kings. It gave a sense of fulfilment and joy to citizens, who braved the heat and gathered to express their everlasting loyalty to the monarch. They came from all walks of life, wearing matching shirts carrying the Royal Emblem, which rapidly sold out. The Commerce Ministry has ordered another 500,000 to meet demand.

Yellow is the colour of His Majesty, as he was born on a Monday.

Some slept in the plaza to guarantee a good view.

"I stayed here overnight near the Statue of King Chulalongkorn because I wanted the best view of the King," said 40-year-old Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn. "Some people camped out from 5pm and by 9pm I could see hundreds of people settling down."

The crowds began to swarm to the Royal Plaza at 7am, lining up along Rajdamnoen Avenue to the river, and proud to live under the Ninth Reign of the Chakri Dynasty.

Older Thais consider each reign an epoch and this attitude is reflected in a famous novel.

The late MR Kukrit Pramoj wrote "The Four Reigns" to depict the social and political changes witnessed through a protagonist called Mae Ploi during the reigns of King Chulalongkorn, King Vajiravudh, King Prajadipok and King Ananda. The Ninth Reign, which has already spanned 60 years, is a perfect continuation of "The Four Reigns" as it represents a new order.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I couldn't miss this," said 39-year-old Yoyot Riaproi. "I don't think I will have a chance to attend an event like this again."

At 10.11am, when the royal couple arrived at the Throne Hall along with their family, the crowd lowered their umbrellas, which had been protecting them from the scorching sun.

Then they waved national and yellow flags and greeted Their Majesties with a deafening cheer of "Long Live the King".

The Royal Family took part in ceremonies at a pavilion beside the Throne Hall to pay homage to past Siamese kings: Phokhunsri Indradit of Sukhothai, Somdej Phrachao U-thong of Ayutthaya, King Taksin the Great of Thon Buri through to King Yodfa, who founded Bangkok as the capital of the Chakri Dynasty.

The crowd erupted into cheers again when the King appeared at 11.24am on the balcony. This marked the third time during the Ninth Reign that the King had appeared at this spot to greet the people. The Royal Anthem was sung as the sun's intensity reduced. The King received blessings from HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who read a statement on behalf of the Royal Family. The prime minister, and the presidents of the Senate and the Supreme Court followed suit.

The Cabinet, diplomats, parliamentarians, senior civil servants and judges were also present.

Then the King made a brief speech calling for unity among his countrymen.

"Unity is the basis for all Thais to help preserve and bring prosperity to the country," he said.

The King then invited the Queen to the balcony and His Majesty spent about five minutes waving to the crowd, clearly happy.

The Royal Plaza erupted into chants of "Long live Your Majesty".

Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra led the crowd with further blessings and many people wept with joy.

Many kept their hands pressed together long after the Royal Family left the balcony.

The King spent a further hour in the Throne Hall but the crowd did not disperse until he left in his car, waving to people who lined the route.

One woman tried to chase the royal motorcade after breaking through a barrier, but was seized by police.

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