Thai mourning won't affect government functioning

Mourners wait to sign a condolence book inside Bangkok's Grand Palace.
Mourners wait to sign a condolence book inside Bangkok's Grand Palace. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Crown Prince allays people's concerns about that and succession at meeting with Prayut

The mourning for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej will not disrupt government administration, senior officials indicated amid concern over Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn's request to delay ascending the throne.

A Cabinet meeting will go ahead tomorrow, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said. The National Legislative Assembly will also convene in two weeks, said its president.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy where the king formally approves legislation. A new Constitution given the go-ahead in a referendum in August also requires the monarch's assent.

Shortly after King Bhumibol died at age 88 last Thursday, the Crown Prince asked for time to grieve with the rest of the nation before formally ascending the throne.

Under current laws, the head of the Privy Council automatically assumes the royal duties as Regent in the interim period. The head is 96-year-old former premier and retired general Prem Tinsulanonda, the late King's close confidant.

In a televised address on Saturday night, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he met the Crown Prince with General Prem that day.

 
 

"(The Crown Prince) asked the people not to be confused or worry about the country's administration or even about the succession," Mr Prayut said. "He said at this time everyone is sad, he is still sad, so everyone should wait until we pass this sad time."

When the rites are over, it would be appropriate for the Crown Prince to proceed, he added.

King Bhumibol - revered as a demigod and loved as a patriarch - reigned for 70 years, a period that saw much political turbulence as well as Thailand's transformation into a regional powerhouse.

Funeral rites lasting at least 100 days are currently being conducted as the King's body lies in Bangkok's Grand Palace.

While the cremation date has not been set, Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Krea-ngam said the Crown Prince had asked for it to be held after the one-year mourning period, and his coronation is expected after that.

Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck arrived yesterday to pay respects to the late monarch. There were long queues at the Grand Palace as people waited to sign the condolence book.

The government has set an official mourning period of one year and asked the public to refrain from entertainment for 30 days. 

Over the weekend, Thailand's tourism authority issued an advisory requesting that "the solemnity of these rites" be observed and that visitors wear "respectful attire".

The country's telecommunications regulator also stepped up surveillance of comments deemed insulting or defamatory to the monarchy. Open discussion about the monarchy in Thailand is curtailed by a lese majeste law that imposes up to 15 years' jail on each count.

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Thai mourning won't affect govt functioning'. Print Edition | Subscribe