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Thailand to crown its newlywed king in elaborate ceremonies

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun with Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya at Ampornsan Throne Hall in Bangkok

King Vajiralongkorn, 66 - takes on the name Rama X of the Chakri dynasty as one of his many official titles - ascended the throne in 2016 upon the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in October of that year.

Maha Vajiralongkorn was officially crowned as king of Thailand on Saturday in a spectacular yet centuries-old coronation ceremony held at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

After the coronation of the king, a royal decree was read out on assigning the status of the crowned queen of Thailand to Rama X's wife Suthida Vajiralongkorn.

The document, which will take effect on Saturday, listed many criteria for prisoners who are eligible for the pardon, including those with disabilities, chronic or terminal diseases, or those with one year left to serve.

Varijiralongkorn was given a gold 7.3-kilogram crown and purified with sacred royal water as part of the ceremony.

Thailand ended the absolute rule of monarchs during a 1932 revolution, instituting a constitutional monarchy. Vajiralongkorn has now acquired the right to intervene in government affairs in times of political crisis. Outside the palace, artillery was sacked in a salute to the monarch.

Saturday's rituals gave him divine authority.

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn is bathed with sacred water from several holy rivers and ponds and other water sources in the country in a rite known as the Royal Ablution and Anointment ceremonies.

Later, King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida will perform a private housewarming ritual at the royal residence in the Grand Palace where they will stay the night, as previous kings have done, ending the first of the three-day coronation ceremonies.

On the eve of the coronation, the king also granted royal pardons to approximately 50,000 inmates across the country including prominent student activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa who was accused of defaming the king by sharing a controversial BBC article, according to local news website Khaosod English. Queen Suthida is the king's long-time partner, whom he married two days before the coronation.

In a later audience with royal family members and some of the most powerful people in the country, including junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha, he implored all to work for "the people's benefit with prosperity, national security, peacefulness and happiness of people as our highest goal".

"The coronation distracts from the popular indignation regarding election irregularities", said Thai politics expert Paul Chambers of Naresuan University.

Despite not being able to see the king in person, civil servants in uniform and members of the public wearing garb in the royal colour of yellow gathered outside the Grand Palace to pay their respects.

On Sunday, there will be a 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) royal procession involving 343 men, some of them carrying the king through old Bangkok in an ornately decorated palanquin, allowing Thais to pay homage to their new king.