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Asia & Pacific - Thailand delays elevating a new king

Asia & Pacific - Thailand delays elevating a new king. Thai people light candles on Oct. 15 outside of the Grand Palace in Bangkok as thousands of mourners thronged to the palace complex where the body of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is being kept. (Wason Wanichakorn/AP). BANGKOK — Thailand’s crown prince was at his father’s hospital bed as the aging monarch faded, then solemnly assisted orange-robed monks as they prepared the king’s body to lie in state Friday evening.

Asia & Pacific - Thailand delays elevating a new king

But the Southeast Asian nation is still without a new king Saturday after Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn asked that his ascension to the throne be delayed as he joined the country in mourning his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died Thursday after 70 years on the throne.

Wissanu Krea-ngam, the deputy prime minister of the government, which is run by a military junta, told a state-run television channel Friday that the head of the country’s Privy Council would act as regent for now. The prince’s coronation will take place after his father’s elaborate cremation ceremony, which is months away, he said.

As mourners waited in long lines Saturday at the Grand Palace to pay their respects to King Bhumibol, some expressed a quiet concern about the country’s epic transition, as they said goodbye to a beloved figure who was the only king most had ever known.

“I’m feeling uneasy after hearing of the king’s passing,” said Kanokwan Komwat, 75, as she stood in line with her family in the sweltering heat. “We can’t rely on anybody else but him. I’m sorry the prince doesn’t want to be king yet, but he’s still grieving.”

Oct. 12, 1960 French President General de Gaulle, second from left, and his wife, Yvonne de Gaulle, left, King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his wife, Queen Sirikit of Thailand, pose for the photographers after a diner at the Elysee Palace in Paris. AFP/Getty Images. Other mourners, when asked about the prince, just blushed, ducked their heads or said that the prince’s mourning period should be respected.

Thailand has strict lèse-majesté laws that prohibit anyone from defaming or criticizing its royal family at the risk of lengthy imprisonment. The military junta has made an increasing number of arrests on those charges in recent years, and in the resort area of Phuket, according to local reports, an angry mob pursued the owner of a sweet shop Saturday after he allegedly posted disrespectful comments about the royals on social media.

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is the king’s only son, and it is often said that he lacks the same popularity as his father, who was viewed not only as a father figure but also, by some in Thailand, as a demigod. The prince, a trained pilot, spends much of his time in Europe, at a luxury villa he reportedly owns on a lake outside Munich. He is often compared to Britain’s Prince Charles, another royal with a long wait to the throne and a messy love life. The crown prince has been married and divorced three times.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor of political science and international relations at Kyoto University in Japan, in comparing the crown prince with the king, said, “He’s shown little interest in political and royal affairs, and he’s got a troubled personal lifestyle.” Some experts said that it was in the military’s best interests to keep the memory of the late monarch alive for as long as possible.

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the world's longest-reigning monarch, died in hospital Oct. 13, according to an announcement from the palace. (Reuters). The country’s political system has been under stress for decades from mass protests, military coups and a widening gap between urban elites loyal to the monarchy and the rural and aspiring middle class who support ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Shinawatra’s sister, Yingluck, was the head of the country’s last democratically elected government until a military coup in 2014.

The coronation of a new king lacking the authority of his father might deepen those cracks, experts said. “So many groups will realize that the center does not hold anymore,” said Pramote Nakornthab, a political analyst. “Violence could break out at any time.” On Saturday, the country entered the second day of a state of mourning that will officially last for a year. The wholesale market in Bangkok was overrun by purveyors of black clothes.

Taxi drivers offered free rides to the Grand Palace, and buses brought in hundreds of mourners from across the country. Five times a day the radio emanated the mournful sound of monks chanting over the king’s body inside the cavernous palace complex. The prince spent much of his childhood in a different Bangkok palace, one his father had made into a laboratory of sorts for his pet projects to aid his country’s development, with a school and small farm. He went on to attend a military academy in Australia and now is a marshal of the Thai armed forces.

The best known of his three sisters, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, a military history teacher and amateur photographer, took over administering her father’s development projects during his years of failing health, including shops that sell handicrafts from tribal communities. Although some think she would be a natural successor to the king, she has studiously avoided any hint that she desires the throne for herself, Nakornthab said.

“She is very dormant, very subordinate to her brother,” he said. “She could not show anything — by an act, by a word or anything — that she aspires to become monarch or the rival of her brother.” Experts said that when the crown prince does become king, she would serve as a prominent deputy.

Annie Gowen
Source : Washingtonpost

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