Thai king weds days before coronation

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This screengrab from Thai TV Pool video taken on May 1, 2019 shows a ceremony in which Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn “legally married” Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya in Bangkok. Thailand announced on May 1, 2019 that King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s long-time consort had become his fourth wife, bestowed with the title Queen Suthida - a surprise move just days before his coronation. AFP

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Just days before his official coronation, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Wednesday married the deputy head of his personal guard force and gave her the title Queen Suthida.

The surprise announcement was carried in the Royal Gazette, and footage from Wednesday’s wedding ceremony was later shown on the nightly Royal News segment aired on all Thai television channels.

Vajiralongkorn, 66, also known by the title King Rama X, became constitutional monarch after the death of his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in October 2016, after 70 years on the throne.

He is due to be officially crowned in elaborate Buddhist and Brahmin ceremonies on Saturday, followed by a procession through Bangkok the next day.

In 2014, Vajiralongkorn appointed Suthida Tidjai, a former flight attendant for Thai Airways, as a deputy commander of his bodyguard unit.

Some royal observers and foreign media had linked Suthida romantically with the king, but the palace had previously never acknowledged a relationship between them.

The king made Suthida a full general in the Royal Thai Army in December 2016, and the deputy commander of the king’s personal guard in 2017. He also made her a Thanpuying, a royal title meaning Lady.

Among the dignitaries at the wedding were Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the military junta that has run Thailand since a 2014 army coup, as well as other members of the royal family and palace advisers, the wedding footage showed.

Vajiralongkorn has previously been married and divorced three times and has seven children.

While the king took the throne after the death of his father, his formal coronation follows a mourning period for King Bhumibol, whose royal cremation was held a year after his death.

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