JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, or Rama X, naturally will become the center of attention of millions of mourning Thai people during the cremation of his father, the late Bhumibol Adulyadej, on Thursday.
Millions will tearfully bid their final farewell to their beloved leader. The whole nation has been mourning since Oct. 13 last year, when the demigod king who ruled Thailand for 70 years passed away.
The Thais are now facing uncertainty, as their new king will be very different from his father and the military is unlikely to hand over power to civilians.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha seized power in a coup in May 2014 and practically serves as prime minister. There are no clear signs that he will end his dictatorship and the new king will order the soldiers to return to their barracks.
Thailand used to be described as a role model of democracy among fellow members of Asean, including Myanmar. Now Thailand is suffering a deficit of democracy.
Thai people had witnessed King Bhumibol rule and protect his people with wisdom and compassion in nearly all aspects of their lives, particularly in difficult times such as the military administration. The globally acclaimed agricultural development of Thailand is an immortal legacy of the king.
Political developments since 2001 have divided the nation into two extreme camps: Pro- and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, a deposed prime minister despite his democratic election. At a glance, it seems that the king was not very supportive of Thaksin.
Thaksin served as prime minister for five years until 2006, when the military launched a coup. Thaksin's sister Yingluck became prime minister following the 2011 election but the military forced her to step down in 2014.
A pressing agenda for Thailand under the new king should be revisiting the extremely strict lèse-majesté law that criminalises anyone who criticises the royal family. The legislation has often been used by the government and the military as pretext to punish anyone they don't like.
Thailand is entering a new chapter. As the only country in the region that never experienced colonialism, the nation knows very well that they can be suppressed by their own leaders.
Thailand is a great nation and Asean needs a strong Thailand.
Under the new king's leadership may Thailand continue to prosper.
The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.