Thai lawmakers told to stand by as ascension date approaches

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha presiding over a mass pledge of allegiance to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a ceremony at the Government House in Bangkok on Nov 22, 2016.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha presiding over a mass pledge of allegiance to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a ceremony at the Government House in Bangkok on Nov 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP / THAI ROYAL BUREAU

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thai lawmakers have been asked not to leave the country next week, the head of Parliament said on Tuesday (Nov 22), as a much-touted December date for Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to ascend the throne draws near.

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Oct 13 at the age of 88 has left the South-east Asian nation of 67 million people without a monarch, but Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has made it clear that the King's only son and appointed heir, Prince Vajiralongkorn, will inherit the throne.

Thailand is making preparations for the Prince to ascend the throne on Dec 1, Reuters reported in October.

Mr Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, head of the National Legislative Assembly, said lawmakers had been asked not to take leave between Nov 28 and Dec 2 and not to travel abroad or outside of the capital Bangkok over an upcoming long weekend holiday.

"Dec 3 to Dec 5 are holidays and the government might have urgent legislation to raise or a special session might be called," Mr Pornpetch told Reuters.

Mr Pornpetch said that the assembly had not yet been ordered by the government to enact Article 23 of the Constitution, which says that Parliament will convene and invite the heir to the throne to become king and "proclaim such heir king".

Parliament needs a quorum in order to proclaim the new monarch.

General Prayut said last month that the Prince had asked to delay his ascension to the throne while he mourns his father.

Regardless of when the Prince ascends the throne, a formal coronation can only take place following the late King's cremation next year.