Elephants kneel in ritual tribute to Thailand's new king

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BANGKOK (AP) — Eleven white-painted elephants, their tusks garlanded, gathered with their handlers before Bangkok’s Grand Palace on Tuesday to pay respects to Thailand’s newly crowned king.

Hundreds of mahouts, or handlers, dressed in royal yellow sang the royal anthem and kneeled with their elephants before a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The ceremony followed a celebration a day earlier in which thousands of Thais watched and cheered as the king and his family waved from a palace balcony.

The elephants, which came from across the country, trumpeted at the end of the ceremony. They also posed for group photos.

“I am delighted for His Majesty that everyone shows their respect to him, even the elephants showed their respect for him. And they did it so well,” said Phuraporn Gorgerd, one of those attending the event.

Thais consider white elephants a sacred symbol of royal power, and an elephant adorned the national flag until 1917. The elephants are not entirely white, and are sometimes painted to look lighter colored than their natural patchy color.

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Vajiralongkorn took the throne after the 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades.

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