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.
Thailand’s parliament has invited Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to take the country’s throne.
It approved the sending of a formal invitation, which Prince Vajiralongkorn has to accept before becoming the country’s new king.
The deeply revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej died on October 13, plunging the Asian country into mourning.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was widely expected to succeed his father, but officials had earlier said he wanted to postpone it by at least a year.
Image source Wikimedia
The official reason given was that the prince wanted to give the Thai people time to mourn his father before he became king.
According to correspondents, Thailand was left in an odd constitutional limbo as Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the undisputed heir, should have succeeded his father immediately.
In the past doubts have been expressed by senior officials over how the crown prince can perform the role played by King Bhumibol for 70 years.
The monarchy occupies a pivotal place in Thailand’s political order.
King Bhumibol had been seen as a unifying figure amid periods of political unrest, including during the most recent military coup in 2014.
The leader of Thailand’s parliament, the National Legislative Assembly, is expected to meet Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn in the next few days to formally invite him. Once he accepts, his succession would then be announced to the public.
However, it is still not clear when that will happen.
Former PM Prem Tinsulanonda is currently standing in as regent.