Thailand Deputy PM: Coronation of New King Won’t Happen for a Year

BenarNews staff
161017-TH-king-folo-620.jpg Pedestrians dressed in black walk past a picture of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok’s commercial district, Oct. 17, 2016.

The coronation of Thailand’s new king will take place in a year at the earliest after a national period of mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej ends, according to a deputy prime minister in charge of legal matters.

Meanwhile since his death on Thursday, three Thai citizens have been arrested for alleged defamation of the monarchy under Thailand’s strict royal defamation law, and the military-controlled government has selectively blocked some foreign news outlets over coverage of the post-Bhumibol transition, local media reported.

The death last week of 88-year-old Bhumibol has temporarily left Thailand without a king for the first time in 70 years, and his appointed successor, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, has said he will hold off on taking the throne for the time being so he can grieve alongside the Thai people, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told the nation within hours of the king’s death.

However, at any time during the next year that will culminate in Bhumibol’s cremation and state funeral, the 64-year-old prince can accept an invitation from Thailand’s National Assembly, which would automatically make him the new king, according to sections of a draft constitution that pertain to the royal succession.

On the night of the king’s death on Thursday, the assembly invited Vajiralongkorn to take the throne, but the prime minister later said that the prince was delaying his decision for now.

“The Crown Prince said everyone as well as him is sad and in mourning so that we all together help each other get past this grief. Do not make us feel the change is so abrupt. All should remember the beautiful memory of the late king’s 70 years of reign,” Prayuth said Friday after the prince had granted him a royal audience.

“After the funeral moves on to a certain point, there will be appropriate time to proceed with the official announcement of the new king,” Prayuth said, according to local reports.

Joining the prince during his audience with Prayuth was Prem Tinsulanonda, a 96-year-old former general and chairman of the Privy Council, who on Friday night was appointed as temporary regent until the day when the prince decides to ascend to the throne, according to section 22 of the draft constitution. Prem’s position as head of the Privy Council made him the late monarch’s closest adviser and gatekeeper, according to Agence France-Presse.

Over the weekend, Deputy Prime Minister for Legal Affairs Wissanu Kreau-ngam indicated that the coronation of the tenth monarch in the Chakri dynasty would take place only after the completion of funereal rites spread over a year’s time.

“Roughly we have funeral rites for at least a year, which is in line with the government’s announcement of a mourning period. Then we will talk about the royal cremation and coronation,” Wissanu told reporters, according to Thai media.

Made to kneel

On Monday, the prince – the king’s only son – joined princesses Sirindhorn and Chulabhorn and nieces of Bhumibol in offering alms and food to monks who have been chanting in the presence of the late king since his body was moved from the hospital where he died to the Grand Palace on Friday.

The king’s death after a long series of health-related ailments has plunged Thailand into a display of mass grieving that has not been seen for many years. Since Friday, Thais have been wearing black in accordance with a government order, and tens of thousands of mourners have been converging of the Grand Palace to pay their respects to and leave condolence messages for the king and his family.

However, some tensions have also arisen in the wake of the king’s death. Three people have been arrested separately for allegedly posting comments on social media that were deemed critical of the monarchy. Since a junta seized power in May 2014 scores of people have been arrested under Thailand’s Lese-Majeste law, where they face the prospect of being jailed for up to 15 years if charged and found guilty of defaming the monarchy.

One of the three new cases involved a woman from Surat Thani province, identified as Umaporn, and who was arrested for allegedly insulting the monarchy on her Facebook page.

After her arrest on Saturday, she was made to kneel in public before a portrait of King Bhumibol and issue an apology as a crowd of several hundred royalists jeered the woman, according to reports.

In addition, the government has censured foreign news outlets, including BBC News and the British tabloid Daily Mail for their coverage of Thailand since Bhumibol died.

“It has been found that some big foreign media have been reporting erroneous or false information and accusations that are of a manipulative and provocative nature. This is highly inappropriate, especially during this period of national mourning. Such practices are not only unethical but also unprofessional, insensitive to the feelings of the Thai people and offensive toward Thai cultural traditions,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday.

Jonathan Head, a Bangkok-based BBC correspondent, said the broadcaster’s transmissions into the country had occasionally been blocked by the government in the days since the king’s death.

“Whenever reporting on Thailand comes up our transmissions are blocked,” Head told Khaosod, a Thai news publication.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.