Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn may become Thai King on Dec 1

Mourners paying their respects to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Sunday. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will return from Germany this month, said a senior military source.
Mourners paying their respects to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Sunday. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will return from Germany this month, said a senior military source.PHOTO: REUTERS

Preparations being made for his ascension to throne, say military sources

BANGKOK • Thailand is making preparations for Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to ascend the throne on Dec 1, two senior military sources with knowledge of the matter said yesterday.

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Oct 13 at the age of 88 has plunged the South-east Asian nation of 67 million people into a year of mourning.

News of the December timeframe follows the Prince's departure for Germany at the weekend where he had personal business to attend to, one senior military source told Reuters, adding that the Prince would return this month.

"We are making preparations. Everything is being prepared for Dec 1," said another senior military source who declined to be identified. "But this timeframe also depends on His Royal Highness."

Prime Minister Prayut Chan- o-cha had said the Prince's formal ascension could be within seven to 15 days of the King's death, or later. Speaking on behalf of the Prince hours after the King's death, Mr Prayut said the Prince wanted to grieve with the people and leave the formal succession until later, when Parliament will invite him to ascend the throne.

His formal coronation, however, cannot take place until after the King's cremation in a year's time.

ALL SET FOR DEC 1

We are making preparations. Everything is being prepared for Dec 1. But this timeframe also depends on His Royal Highness.

A SENIOR MILITARY SOURCE

General Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, who was head of the powerful Privy Council, is acting as Regent until the new king is named.

Thailand's strict lese majeste laws have left little room for public discussion about the succession. They have also severely curbed public discussion about the Prince.

Thailand has weathered more than a decade of political upheaval that has pitted the royalist-military establishment against populist political forces. The latest chapter was a May 2014 military coup which removed then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and which the military said was to end Thailand's cycle of political instability.

Mr Kan Yuenyong, executive director of the Siam Intelligence Unit think-tank, said he did not foresee any political violence in the next year but added that divisions would resurface if the succession did not go smoothly. "Political tensions might warm up again and struggles could follow," he said.

Thailand's baht slid 0.9 per cent throughout last month amid concern that the King's death may increase political uncertainties and hurt economic activity in the near term.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2016, with the headline 'Prince may become Thai King on Dec 1'. Print Edition | Subscribe