Thailand Begins Royal Succession Process

BenarNews staff
2016.11.29
Bangkok
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161129-TH-king-620.jpg Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn takes part in a ceremony to pay respects to his late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Oct. 16, 2016.
AFP/Thai Royal Bureau

Updated at 2 p.m. ET on 2016-11-29

The Thai parliament announced Tuesday that it would formally invite Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to become king of Thailand’s 68 million people and occupy the throne vacated by the death of his father last month.

The announcement marked the first official step in Thailand’s royal succession and in the prince’s expected accession to the throne as King Rama X, the tenth ruler in the Chakri Dynasty.

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) convened a special session to discuss the matter after receiving an urgent letter earlier in the day from the cabinet of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

“The throne is vacant and Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn was appointed heir-apparent in line with the royal succession charter of 1924. The cabinet informed the chairman of the National Legislative Assembly to convene a meeting and to further invite the heir-apparent to the throne,” NLA Chairman Pornpetch Wichitcholchai announced on the parliament’s TV channel.

“Long live the king,” members of the assembly proclaimed after Pornpetch read out the statement, according to news reports.

The nation has been in mourning since King Bhumibol Adulyadej died on Oct. 13 of health-related complications at age 88. At the time, the crown prince – the king’s only son – declined to ascend to the throne immediately, saying he wanted to grieve with the Thai people for his father who had ruled over his subjects for 70 years, officials said.

Prime Minister Prayuth addressed the nation later on Tuesday, saying the announcement was the first formal step in the royal succession.

Now it is up to the prince to have a royal audience to accept the invitation from the National Legislative Assembly, and this “will happen soon,” Prayuth said in a nationally televised broadcast.

“In line with the constitution, today, the cabinet has convened to acknowledge the procedure. We sent a letter to the National Legislation Assembly to inform it, and it will invite the heir-apparent to be crowned King Rama X,” he added.

The chairman of the assembly is to extend the invitation during the audience with the prince, and Maha Vajiralongkorn will ascend to the throne after accepting the formal invitation, according to Thai media.

He will take over a kingdom divided by bitter rivalries among Thailand’s influential parties and governed by a junta. The military has twice since 2006 overthrown democratically elected governments led by members of the Shinawatra family.

But while the prince may soon ascend to the throne, the 64-year-old will not be crowned king until late 2017 at the earliest.

That will follow a year of mourning for King Bhumibol, which will culminate in his state funeral, officials said in October. That was when they appointed Prem Tinsulanonda, a 96-year-old ex-general and chairman of the Privy Council, to serve as regent of Thailand until the new monarch’s ascension.

The crown prince issued no statements on Tuesday. He was expected to fly home later this week from Germany, where he has another residence, Reuters reported.

Life of a prince

Born in Bangkok on July 28, 1952, Vajiralongkorn is the second of four children and only male born to King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. On Tuesday, his 84-year-old mother was released from a local hospital where she was being treated for a lung infection and fever, the Associated Press reported.

The prince was educated in Thailand, England and Australia, where he attended the prestigious King’s School, near Sydney.

In 1972, at age 20, Vajiralongkorn was elevated to Crown Prince, officially putting him in line to inherit the throne. Three years later, he graduated from the Royal Military College near Melbourne.

He returned to Thailand when neighboring nations in Southeast Asia were falling to communist insurgencies and the kingdom was facing its own communist scare.

The prince joined in the anti-communist fight. In 1976, he took part in military operations in northern and northeastern Thailand, where the threat was most entrenched.

In the late 1970s, the prince started a new career, learning how to fly helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, and logged more than 2,000 hours in the cockpit. In 2012, he became a certified flight instructor for pilots training to fly Boeing 737s.

Besides being an avid pilot, the prince oversees the command of the Royal Guards, a unit whose roots date back to his great, great-grandfather, King Rama IV.

The prince has been married three times and has eight children from four women.

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