Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has been proclaimed the country’s new king, succeeding his much-revered late father King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The prince accepted the throne in a TV broadcast following an invitation from parliament, formalizing his accession.
King Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, died on October 13.
The late king was widely seen as a pillar of stability during seven decades of political turmoil in Thailand.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn had been expected to become the next king the day after his father’s death, but PM Prayuth Chan-ocha at the time said that he had asked to delay the official proclamation so he could mourn.
Instead, the prince was anointed in a special ceremony 50 days after the death of his father.
The crown prince becomes King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, the 10th monarch of the Chakri dynasty, but will also be known as Rama X.
“I would like to accept in order to fulfill his majesty’s wishes and for the benefit of all Thais,” he said in a TV statement.
Image source Wikimedia
The broadcast showed one official shuffling on his knees to hand a microphone to the new king in the ceremony at the palace in Bangkok.
Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was among top government figures attending, said the new king would become the “heart and soul” of the nation.
Maha Vajiralongkorn was given the title of crown prince, making him the official heir, in 1972.
He is yet to enjoy the same level of popularity as his father, and spends much of his time abroad.
The prince’s accession to the throne ends a period of uncertainty during which Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, a 96-year-old former prime minister, has been serving as regent.
Thailand’s monarchy is protected from criticism by tough lèse-majesté laws, which restrict media discussion about the royal family’s role, including in the international press.
Most ordinary Thais know only a few details about who the crown prince is and how he lives his life.
In recent years he has tried to improve his profile – important because the king is traditionally seen as a guiding force in Thai politics, which is highly polarized.
Maha Vajiralongkorn’s coronation will not happen until after King Bhumibol’s cremation, expected next year.
Bhumibol’s own coronation took place four years after his brother King Ananda Mahidol died of gunshot wounds in mysterious circumstances.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand has made a rare public appearance, amid concerns for his ailing health.
In TV footage released on December 14 by the palace he is seen swearing in judges at a Bangkok hospital where he has been staying.
The 88-year-old king has received treatment for a number of ailments including a lung infection.
The health of the monarch is of public concern as he is widely revered and seen as an arbiter in the country’s divided political arena.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who is the world’s longest serving monarch, was last seen in September in a video released by the palace.
The king missed his birthday celebrations for the second consecutive year on December 5. The event was marked by a cycling event last week in Bangkok led by his son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Palace officials did not give any further details of the king’s health on December 14.
King Bhumibol has been in and out of hospitals for the past few years and has had operations to remove his gallbladder and to treat hydrocephalus – an excessive build-up of fluid on the brain.
The monarch was re-admitted to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok in June, shortly after he was discharged.
King Bhumibol’s popularity stems partly from his long reign, but he is also seen as a pillar of stability in Thailand which has been wracked by political strife in recent years and is currently governed by a military-led government.
Strict lese majeste laws ban any criticism of King Bhumibol or the royal family.