The Succession Process in the Thai Crown Moves Cautiously Forward

October 19, 2016. Updated November 4, 2016, and November 29, 2016

Analysis. By Quinn Marschik, The Zahedi Center. Reports at the beginning of November 2016 indicated that His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, of Thailand would assume the Throne on December 1, 2016. On November 29, 2016, the National Legislative Assembly announced its approval of formally inviting Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to ascend the Throne of Thailand. According to Palace Law, the legislature must present an invitation to the Crown Prince formally requesting him to succeed the Throne. In turn, the Crown Prince must accept the invitation. Legislative approval of the invitation dispelled any speculation that Princess Royal Maha Chakri Sirindhorn would replace her brother as monarch. The Crown Prince is expected to become King in December 2016.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known by his Throne name as Rama IX, of Thailand died at 15.52 hrs local at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, on Thursday, October 13, 2016, at the age of 88. He had been in poor health for some time. Before his passing, the King was the longest reigning monarch in the world, having recently celebrated his 70th year on the throne. The functions of the Crown were immediately assumed, pro tempore, by a Regent, Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, the President of the Privy Council, until the framework of succession could be finalized.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha announced that His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn would, in accordance with the Constitution and confirmation by the National Legislative Assembly, succeed his father as King of Thailand with the Throne name of King Rama X. The nation would undergo a period of mourning for one year to honor King Bhumibol’s 70 years on the Throne. The Crown Prince stated that he wanted time to mourn before being crowned.

It was expected that the coronation could be at least one year after Crown Prince Maha Varialongkorn acceded to the Throne, after funerary rites — cremation — for King Bhumibol were completed, possibly a year after his death. The Crown Prince and his Regent met at about 19.00 hrs on October 15, 2016, at Dusit Palace in Bangkok.

The coronation of King Bhumibol occurred only in 1950, four years after he ascended the Throne, and after two postponements.

The Sovereign of Thailand’s position in Thai society, both socially and legally, is highly significant, given that his positions and titles include Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Adherent of Buddhism and Upholder of Religions.

King Bhumibol was — to the Thai people and to the world — a much loved and highly respected monarch. On the news of his death, thousands of Thais gathered near Siriraj Hospital, dressed in pink (an auspicious Buddhist color, signifying good health) and yellow (the royal color), to pray for their sovereign. In addition to prayers, the crowds pledged their loyalty with royal songs and slogans, many displaying the late King’s portrait.

The succession had been on the minds of Thais and the world community for some years, given the King’s poor health. Crown Prince Varialongkorn was known to have had a good relationship with the self-imposed exiled Thaksin Chinnawatra, a former Prime Minister of Thailand, who was removed in a military coup in 2006, and who was sentenced (in absentia) to prison for corruption. This was of concern to the current military Government, even though the Crown Prince and former Prime Minister Thaksin had not spoken for some six years.

His Royal Highness had also lived much of his life abroad in recent years, thereby inviting claims that he had shunned some Royal duties, and had what had been termed in the international media as a “scandalous past” which had caused gossip amongst the Thai people. Average Thai opinion had favored His Royal Highness’s sister, Her Royal Highness Princess Royal Maha Chakkri Sirinthon, who has been consistently active in performing Royal duties.

Despite concerns over the succession, the Thai military Government demonstrated a commitment to a smooth accession for the Crown Prince.

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