Thailand's national assembly will invite Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to take the throne, it announced yesterday, ending weeks of uncertainty that has lingered since his father died on Oct 13.
In a special parliamentary session, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) acknowledged him as Thailand's new king.
"I will invite Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to ascend the throne and become the new King for all Thai people," NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said yesterday. "All (NLA) members, on this auspicious occasion, I ask you to stand and offer your praise to the new king."
The black-clad members of the appointed legislature rose and replied in unison: "Long live the King!"
According to protocol, Professor Pornpetch will seek an audience with the 64-year-old Crown Prince to formally invite him to take the throne, an event which Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters could happen either today or tomorrow.
Once he assents, he will be the 10th king of the Thailand's two-century-old Chakri dynasty.
LONG LIVE THE KING
I will invite Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to ascend the throne and become the new King for all Thai people. All (NLA) members, on this auspicious occasion, I ask you to stand and offer your praise to the new king.
NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT PORNPETCH WICHITCHOLCHAI
"This is a joyous event," Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters yesterday.
After King Bhumibol Adulyadej died of illness at the age of 88, the heir apparent unexpectedly asked for time to mourn with the people, leaving vacant a position that needed to be filled by a regent.
King Bhumibol reigned for 70 years in Asean's second-largest economy and was worshipped as a demigod by the Buddhist-majority population.
He wielded influence atypical of constitutional monarchs, which helped stabilise a deeply polarised country amid decades of political turbulence and frequent military coups.
Thailand's current government is stacked with generals who staged the last coup in 2014. It is now steering into place a new Constitution that extends military influence over the future government, which is expected to be elected in polls held by the end of next year.
Schooled as a teenager in Britain and then at the Royal Military College in Duntroon, Australia, the Crown Prince is a qualified pilot. Unlike his father, who was unexpectedly thrust into power at the age of 18 with the mysterious death of his brother in 1946, he was anointed as the Crown Prince in 1972.
He is expected to take the helm of one of the world's richest monarchies. The Crown Property Bureau, which owns vast tracts of land in the capital and stakes in corporate giants such as Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement Group, was estimated by economist Porphant Ouyyanont to be worth US$43.8 billion (S$60 billion) in 2014. It is a much sought-after investor.
Like his father, the Crown Prince is shielded by lese majeste laws that allow for anyone who insults or defames a royal to be jailed for up to 15 years on each count.
Despite criticism that the law is often abused for political ends, the state has directed considerable resources towards tracking such transgressions online and offline.