Thailand's Crown Prince urges calm over succession: Junta chief

Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (second from left) and Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (centre) arrive for the royal bathing ceremony for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (second from left) and Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (centre) arrive for the royal bathing ceremony for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (REUTERS, AFP, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thailand's Crown Prince has urged people not to "worry" about his surprise decision to delay being proclaimed king following the death his beloved father, the country's junta leader said.

The move, which led to the appointment of a regent, has spurred rumours and uncertainty in a nation whose recent history is studded with coups, political intrigues and street protests.

Against that backdrop, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on Thursday (Oct 13) aged 88, represented stability and moral rectitude to many Thais and his death is being mourned deeply across the country.

The 64-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the king's named successor but has asked to delay formally assuming the throne while he mourns with the Thai people.

Instead 96-year-old former general Prem Tinsulanonda, who headed King Bhumibol's Privy Council, was announced as regent.

On Saturday (Oct 15) junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha said the Crown Prince summoned him and General Prem earlier in the evening to dampen unease over the hiatus in assuming the throne.

"He asked the people not to be confused or worry about the country's administration or the succession," General Prayut said in televised statement.

"He said at this time everyone is sad - including himself - so every side should wait... before making any sudden change," he added, in an apparent reference to the succession.

 

The "appropriate time to proceed" will be after King Bhumibol's funeral and cremation, General Prayut said, quoting the Crown Prince.

The government has not set a date for the royal cremation but a deputy prime minister said the prince had asked that it be held after a year of mourning, and the coronation would take place after the cremation. 

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd also told reporters the prime minister wanted to reassure the public about the government’s work and a cabinet meeting would go ahead as normal on Tuesday so administration “can continue seamlessly.

The regent Prem is remarkably spry given his advanced years and remains a master political operator.

He has been at the centre of Thailand's treacherous politics for decades, first as general and then as a prime minister and a staunch King Bhumibol ally.

Uncertainty also shadows the kingdom's future spurred in part by doubts over whether the jet-setting Crown Prince can exert the same calming moral authority as his father.

Open discussion of the issue is curtailed by the country's harsh lese majeste law, which punishes criticism of King Bhumibol and the leading royals with jail time.

Thais have donned black since King Bhumibol's death in a remarkable show of grief for the king, while nightlife and entertainment - including television shows, concerts and sports events - have been cancelled or made low-key.

On Sunday, the government spokesman also urged mourners not to reprimand public members who did not wear black or white clothing as a sign of mourning. His comments came following criticism on social media in recent days of those who did not wear black and white clothing.

"People should not watch attentively for a mistake as if they (who did not wear black or white clothing) do not feel grief. Please look at their intention," he said. 

Sansern suggested to public mourners that they wear sombre and respectful clothing if they cannot get black or white clothing to wear as a sign of mourning. 

Black or white ribbons or bows can be put on arms and chests as a sign of mourning, he added.

 

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