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Royal Visit

Excitement builds in Ayutthaya

Excitement is mounting across the country in anticipation of His Majesty's first trip outside of Greater Bangkok in recent years. The much-beloved monarch is set to visit Ayutthaya on Friday.

The King's trip will also be special because he has rarely left Siriraj Hospital since he was admitted for medical treatment in 2009.

"It's a big honour and an extreme delight for Ayutthaya residents," Ayutthaya Governor Wittaya Phiewpong said yesterday.

His Majesty will visit Thung Makham Yong in Ayutthaya's Muang district and pay respect to the statue of Queen Suriyothai there. Thung Makham Yong was where Suriyothai climbed aboard an elephant in battle against an invading army and sacrificed her life to defend her king in 1549.

Under an initiative of His Majesty, Thung Makham Yong is also a "monkey cheeks" area for water retention during the flood season. According to Wittaya, it has saved a number of people from floods each year.

During the dry season, Thung Makham Young is a public park that can accommodate a huge number of people.

Wittaya said the park has been spruced up in preparation for the royal visit, which will not only include the King but Her Majesty the Queen. The pageantry will include an elephant parade. And a procession of boats, to replicate an old-time floating market, is also planned.

Rehearsals took place yesterday and will be repeated today.

Phranakhon Si Ayutthaya Rajabhat University has been preparing 2,500 decorative krathong floats for the King's visit.

His Majesty, who will turn 85 this year, commands much love and respect from his people, having reigned in Thailand for more than six decades. When his health was better, he travelled extensively to reach out and extend help to his people, especially those in remote areas.

On May 14, 1996, His Majesty visited Thung Makham Yong and personally laboured to harvest a rice crop there.

Wittaya said he plans to ask the King's permission to use the actual sickle from 1996 on a statue that commemorates that rice harvest. The sculpture stands at Thung Hantra in Ayutthaya, but the sickle is a replica.

The authentic sickle has a pearl handle and it features the emblem marking His Majesty's Golden Jubilee, as well as the name of Ayutthaya province.

Wittaya said after the statue was cast the provincial government launched a project to encourage residents to grow rice for consumption themselves.

"The project has already kicked off in two districts," Wittaya said. "In August, the locals will be able to harvest the rice." He said the programme would be expanded to 14 other districts.

Ayutthaya Rice Research Centre director Apichart Lawanprasert said His Majesty was the "King of Agriculture".

"He's my inspiration. His Majesty has done so many things for the country's agricultural sector. He has provided many solutions to farmers," Apichart said.

The area at the monument can accommodate 20,000 visitors and residents, who can wait for and watch the royal motorcade as it passes along the route, said Dissathorn Watcharothai, deputy secretary-general of the Royal Household Bureau. There are 10,000 sets of documents about the royal visit that will be given away, he said. He added that a grand rehearsal of the ceremonies will be held tomorrow - the eve of the royal visit.

His Majesty's public appearance has always brought much happiness to his people. The upcoming trip will be particularly special because he has rarely left the Siriraj Hospital since he was admitted for medical treatment in 2009.

"It's the big honour and extreme delight for Ayutthaya residents," Ayutthaya Governor Wittaya Phiewpong said about the king's upcoming visit.

His Majesty will visit Thung Makhamyong in Ayutthaya's Mueang district and pay respect to the statue of Queen Suriyothai there on May 25. Thung Makham Yong was where the late queen fought against an invading army and sacrificed her life in defending the Kingdom during the Ayutthaya Period.

Thung Makham Yong, according to Wittaya, has also been an area earmarked as "monkey's cheek" or an area that will serve water-retention purpose during flood season under a His Majesty's initiative. This monkey cheek has saved a number of people from floods before.

During the dry season, Thung Makham Young is a public park that can accommodate a huge number of people.

Wittaya disclosed that his authority had already revamped the park in preparations for the king's visit. Her Majesty the Queen is expected to accompany him too. Grand performances including an elephant parade and a procession of boats to replicate a floating market in the good old days are also planned.

Performance rehearsals took place yesterday and will also repeat today.

Phranakhon Si Ayutthaya Rajabhat has been preparing 2,500 decorative floats or Krathong for their beautiful procession during the king's visit too.

His Majesty, who will turn 85 later this year, has commanded much love and respect from his people. Reigning Thailand for more than six decades, he had traveled extensively to reach out and extend help to his people especially those in remote areas when his health still allowed him to.

On May 14 1996, His Majesty visited Thung Makham Yong and harvested rice crop by himself there.

Wittaya yesterday said he planned to ask for His Majesty's permission to place the sickle that he used in 1996 in the hands of his rice-harvesting statue. Cast to highlight His Majesty's attention to paddy fields, the statue has now stood at the Thung Hantra in Ayutthaya but with a sickle replica.

The authentic sickle has a pearl handle and it features the emblem marking His Majesty's 50th Golden Jubilee. The name of Ayutthaya's province has appeared on this sickle too.

Wittaya said after the statue was cast, his provincial government also launched a project to encourage Ayutthaya people to grow rice for consumption themselves.

"The project has already kicked off in two districts. In August, the locals will be able to harvest the rice," the Ayutthaya governor said, adding that locals in 14 other districts will also follow suit.

Ayutthaya Rice Research Centre director Apichart Lawanprasert said His Majesty was the King of Agriculture.

"He's my inspiration. His Majesty has done so many things for the country's agricultural sector. He has provided many solutions to farmers," Apichart said.


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