In baby-blue caps and yellow scout scarves, an army of royal volunteers is sprucing up Thailand before this weekend’s coronation — a projection of unity and loyalty to the unassailable crown in a divided kingdom that remains locked in political crisis. The “Jit Arsa” programme — or Spirit Volunteers — has billowed out across Thailand since it was founded in 2017 by Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn ahead of the cremation of his late father Bhumibol Adulyadej. From planting mangroves in southern Trang to scrubbing pavements in northern Tak, or hanging miles of orchid garlands in historic Bangkok, the mass mobilisation is coming to a head with the May 4-6 coronation just days away. The corps, now at least five million strong, has evolved as a way for many Thais to conduct acts of civic service in the new king’s name. It is also a way for a monarch who spends much of his time overseas to connect with his subjects in a kingdom where royalism leans heavily on ritual, symbols and mass demonstrations of fealty. Bhumibol, who died in 2016 after a reign spanning seven tumultuous decades, was revered by most Thais, and his image remains omnipresent in many homes… Read full this story
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