New king of Thailand to be named on December 1st

Coronation of crown prince to take place after late king’s cremation next year

Thailand’s crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn   joins people during the mourning of his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok late last month. Photograph:  Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Thailand’s crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn joins people during the mourning of his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok late last month. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

 

Thailand is making preparations for crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to be named as the country’s new king on December 1st. The date will be 50 days since King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who spent seven decades on the throne, died at the age of 88.

His death has led to a sense of uncertainty about the country’s future, which was deepened when the prince asked that he be given time to mourn with the people before taking his father’s place.

The nation of 67 million people is currently in a state of mourning, which will last a year. Although the heir to the throne can become king at any time, the royal coronation will not be held until the official cremation takes place late next year.

Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had initially said the ascension could have been carried out within seven to 15 days of the king’s death, although that date has now passed. The prince has since flown back to Germany, where he spends most of his time.

“We are making preparations. Everything is being prepared for December 1st,” a senior military source who declined to be identified told Reuters. “But this timeframe also depends on his royal highness.”

Unique figure

Prem Tinsulanonda

Nigel Gould-Davies, a Thailand-based associate fellow at Chatham House, said the late king was a unique figure whose role will not easily be filled.

“[T]he modern monarchy is King Bhumibol’s achievement. By force of example he restored this institution from the uncertain future it faced following the end of absolute rule in 1932,” he wrote.

“But for this reason the role of monarchy and the person of the king became indistinguishable. There is no precedent for defining this role, its power and its position in the larger system of governance after the passing of its creator.”

The country’s lèse-majesté (wounded majesty) laws are among the world’s strictest, meaning any open discussion of royal affairs is taboo and, in practice, legally dangerous. The penal code states that anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent” can face up to 15 years in prison on each charge.

The ruling junta, which took power in a military coup in 2014, positions itself as being closely aligned with the monarchy and has sought to appease ultra-royalist factions by pursuing anyone deemed to have breached lèse-majesté laws.

It has begun a search for people deemed to have defamed its monarchy, investigating 20 new criminal cases since the king’s death and seeking to extradite suspects from abroad. None have yet been sent back to Thailand. – (Guardian service)