Thai crown prince to succeed King Bhumibol
BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday the appointment of a successor to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died earlier in the day, would be made later.
Reuters reported Prayuth as saying that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn ( pix), who has agreed to succeed his father, had asked for time to mourn with the rest of the country.
Prayuth also said Thailand would hold a one-year mourning period while all entertainment functions must be “toned down” for 30 days, reported AFP.
Vajiralongkorn was for years known for his colourful private life and frequent trips overseas, but as his father’s health declined, he adopted a more prominent public role in the politically febrile kingdom.
He inherits one of the world’s richest monarchies, protected by harsh royal defamation laws that carry up to 15 in years in jail on each count of defaming the king, queen, heir or regent.
But the thrice-divorced prince will also sit as the constitutional head of a deeply polarised nation, which is trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of coups, protests and bouts of political violence.
Unlike his father, Vajiralongkorn’s ability to operate as a unifying force ostensibly above the political fray is untested.
The prince has not publicly backed any side in the bitter politics that have engulfed his country in recent years.
Experts say Thailand’s political turmoil is driven by concerns among competing elites over their stakes in the future of the kingdom after Bhumibol’s death.
Born on July 28, 1952, Vajiralongkorn completed his secondary education in Britain before training at Australia’s Royal Military college and joining the Thai military.
He developed a passion for flying after learning the skill in the United States, piloting fighter jets in Thailand and steering planes for national carrier Thai Airways.
But little is reported about the only son of Thailand’s deceased king, due to the strict lese majeste laws. Experts say his stand on enforcing such laws will say much about his vision for the monarchy.