Late Thai king’s con­fi­dant con­firmed temp re­gent

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A 96-year-old con­fi­dant of late King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej has been for­mally con­firmed as the re­gent to man­age the throne in the place of the crown prince and heir ap­par­ent, but it wasn’t clear how long the care­taker ar­range­ment would last. In a speech late Satur­day, Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha said that Crown Prince Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn in­vited him and re­gent Prem Tin­su­lanonda for an au­di­ence to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion “as his royal high­ness was deeply con­cerned for the Thai peo­ple dur­ing this time of na­tional be­reave­ment.”

Prem heads the Privy Coun­cil, a body of ad­vis­ers to the monar­chy, and was the clos­est ad­viser of Bhu­mi­bol. He is also known to be close to Bhu­mi­bol’s highly pop­u­lar daugh­ter Maha Chakri Sirind­horn. Va­ji­ra­longkorn, who should have as­cended the throne, has asked for more time to grieve along with the na­tion be­fore tak­ing over the monar­chy. The con­sti­tu­tion dic­tates that the Privy Coun­cil head be the re­gent in such a sit­u­a­tion.

“His High­ness’s only wish is to not let the peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence con­fu­sion or worry about the ser­vice of the land or even the as­cen­sion to the throne be­cause this is­sue has the con­sti­tu­tion, the royal laws and royal tra­di­tions to dic­tate it,” Prayuth said in his mes­sage broadcast on television. The 64-year-old crown prince im­plores ev­ery­one to help each other get through the grief first be­fore think­ing of his as­cen­sion to the throne, Prayuth said. “Once merit-mak­ing and the cre­ma­tion has passed ...then it should be the right time to pro­ceed. This pro­ce­dure should not im­pact the work plan or any steps,” he said.

The uni­fy­ing glue

No date has been set for the cre­ma­tion, which in royal fam­i­lies is usu­ally months if not years later. Of­fi­cials have sug­gested it would be at least a year. Bud­dhist fu­neral cer­e­monies have al­ready be­gun at the Grand Palace com­plex in Bangkok’s his­toric cen­ter where Bhu­mi­bol’s body is kept in an or­nate hall for the royal fam­ily mem­bers to pay re­spects. The hall will be opened to the pub­lic on Oct 28. An­a­lysts say the ques­tion of suc­ces­sion is im­por­tant be­cause the late king had been the uni­fy­ing glue that had held Thai­land’s of­ten frac­tious pol­i­tics to­gether, and dif­fused ten­sions dur­ing crises when the dom­i­nant mil­i­tary was pit­ted against the civil so­ci­ety. While the in­sti­tu­tion of monar­chy is gen­er­ally revered and re­spected in Thai­land, it is more so be­cause of Bhu­mi­bol’s pop­u­lar­ity that no other royal mem­ber com­mands.

“His death means that the Thai po­lit­i­cal sys­tem must find an al­ter­na­tive fo­cal point around which to unite the coun­try’s fac­tion­al­ized pop­u­la­tion,” said Tom Pepin­sky, a Southeast Asia ex­pert at Cor­nell Univer­sity. For or­di­nary Thais, suc­ces­sion was not par­tic­u­larly top on their minds for now as they were con­sumed by grief at the loss of a man many saw as their fa­ther and a demigod. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple are throng­ing at the palace com­plex to pay their last re­spects to a beloved monarch who dom­i­nated the memories of gen­er­a­tions of Thais. Au­thor­i­ties have al­lowed peo­ple to enter the com­plex for a limited time, and only to sign con­do­lence books in an­other hall.

Bhu­mi­bol’s death after 70 years on the throne was a mo­men­tous event in Thai­land, where the monarch has been glo­ri­fied as an an­chor for a frac­tious so­ci­ety that for decades has been turned on its head by fre­quent coups. Over the past 10 years, Thai­land has suf­fered par­tic­u­larly in­tense po­lit­i­cal tur­moil pit­ting arch-roy­al­ists against those seek­ing a re­dis­tri­bu­tion of eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal power, al­lied with Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra, a pop­ulist prime min­is­ter ousted in a 2006 coup. But in re­cent years, Bhu­mi­bol had suf­fered from a va­ri­ety of ill­nesses and seemed far re­moved from the upheavals of Thai pol­i­tics, in­clud­ing the 2014 coup that brought cur­rent prime min­is­ter, an army gen­eral, to power. — AP


BANGKOK: A Bud­dhist monk walks past a large crowd clad in black gath­ered to pray for the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej out­side the Grand Palace.

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