Crown prince delays succession after death of revered Thai king

Source:AFP Published: 2016/10/14 0:58:39

Thailand's junta chief late Thursday said the country's crown prince has asked for a delay in being proclaimed the next monarch following the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej earlier in the day.

"I had a royal audience with the Crown Prince (Maha Vajiralongkorn) and he asked for time to prepare before being proclaimed as the new king," Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha told reporters at Government House.

All eyes are now on the 64-year-old prince after the death on Thursday of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the world's longest-reigning monarch.

He inherits one of the world's richest monarchies, protected by one of the harshest royal defamation laws on the planet.

But the twice-divorced prince will also sit as the constitutional head of a deeply polarised nation, which is trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of coups, protests and bouts of political violence.

Bhumibol was widely adored and seen by many as a semi-divine figure in a rule that arched over the lives of most Thais.

Vajiralongkorn has yet to attain such popularity and unlike his father, his ability to operate as a unifying force ostensibly above the political fray is untested.

For years the crown prince was rarely heard from in public.

But in the twilight of his father's reign - and with Thailand ruled by the military - he assumed many official duties.

Last year he led two highly symbolic mass cycling events, which received blanket media coverage that thrust him center-stage as his father's health deteriorated.

Befitting his role, the prince has not publically backed any side in the bitter politics that have engulfed his country in recent years.

But some of the "Red Shirt" supporters of ousted billionaire premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his family held the crown prince's portrait aloft at their rallies before the 2014 coup.

Experts say Thailand's political turmoil is driven by concerns among competing elites over their stakes in the future of the kingdom after Bhumibol's death.

An elite aligned to the monarchy, including much of the army and judiciary, have repeatedly crushed Thai democracy movements, fuelled in recent years by a hatred of Thaksin.

They have aimed two coups at elected governments run by Thaksin and his affiliates, accusing the Shinawatra clan of vote-buying and shameless populism.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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