Thailand Royal Fair: Visitors celebrate their monarchy after mourning
In Thailand, much of the past year was spent in mourning for King Bhumibol, who was cremated last October. But earlier this month, a fair in Bangkok directed by the new monarch, provided people a chance to celebrate their relationship with the royal, after a long period of sadness. Tony Cheng reports.
Soldiers put the finishing touches to exhibits ahead of the opening of Bangkok's Royal fair.
The fair, opened at the instigation of Thailand's new King, celebrates the links between the Royal family and their subjects. And in the modern era, two monarchs are given particular prominence. The first, King Chulalongkorn, is revered as a modernizer and a reformer, who saw a future in the technological advancements of the West a century ago. The other is the father of current monarch, King Bhumibol, who died in 2016, plunging the kingdom into a year of mourning.
TONY CHENG BANGKOK "Many of the exhibits here hark back to a simpler time 100 years ago when Thailand was far more advanced than its SE Asian neighbors but also life was much simpler. The political landscape wasn't complicated by battling politicians and the people relied only on a kind and benevolent monarch."
Debate about the role of monarchy is complicated in Thailand however. Historian Sulak Sivaraksa found himself on charges of offending the monarchy when he suggested a 400 year old battle between the Thai and Burmese monarchs had not been as successful as the history books record.
He avoided a potential sentence of 30 years when the charges were dropped but he still feels Thai society and the monarchy would be better served with a more open minded view of history.
SULAK SIVARAKSA HISTORIAN "In every institution, including all the universities, you are told to look up to the top, and you're never told to look down to the bottom, and for me, any country, if it wants to progress must be bottom up, not top down."
Back at the fair, it isn't only the exhibits that are a blast from the past. Visitors dressing up in period costume too, knickerbockers and lace a change from the funereal black of the past year.
CHALITA CHANCHAENG VISITOR "I want to travel back to the old days like other people. I think it's good. That's why I've come."
SIRIJIT BOONTHAM VISITOR "I feel refreshed and it looks like everyone is happy after we were very sad last year. And we have these flowers and people to make us happy."
The theme of this fair may focus more on the past than the future. But after a long and painful farewell to their beloved King Bhumibol, it is an opportunity for Thai's to celebrate their monarchy once again, Tony Cheng, CGTN, Bangkok.