Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has announced that a regent will stand in as monarch until late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s son formally succeeds him.
In a televised speech late Saturday evening, Chan-ocha said Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who has been the heir apparent to the throne since 1972, had met with the junta leader and the late king’s confidante, Prem Tinsulanonda, to discuss matters.
The prince “asked the people not to be confused or worry about the country’s administration or even about the succession,” said the PM.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, arrives to pay respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, October 14, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
The prince said “at this time everyone is sad, he is still sad, so every side should wait until we pass this sad time” before cremation, the premier said.
“Once merit-making and the cremation has passed… then it should be the right time to proceed” to coronation, the prince said, as quoted by the premier.
Meanwhile, no date has been set for the cremation. However, some officials have suggested it would be at least a year before it happens.
In the meantime, the body of late King Adulyadej will be kept at the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok’s historic center in an ornate hall for the royal family members to pay their respects. The hall will be opened to the public on October 28.
For now, the 96-year-old Prem Tinsulanonda has been officially named as the regent pro tempore, managing the ceremonial duties of the monarch in the absence of a king.
In this May 26, 2006 file photo, Prem Tinsulanonda, then chief adviser to late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, greets others on his arrival at the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. (By AP)
He is a former prime minister and heads the country’s influential Privy Council.
However, real power in the country lies in the hands of the military, which has been running the government since a 2014 coup.
The late monarch, who became king 70 years ago in 1946, was the world’s longest-reigning monarch by the time of his death at the age of 88.
The majority of the country’s 68-million-strong population viewed the monarch as a pillar of stability during rapidly-changing times.
The late king, during his long-lasting reign, witnessed 10 military coups, the most recent one being in May 2014 led by now-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Many say the crown prince lacks the popularity of his father and a lengthy interim period will give the Thai people enough time to get used to the idea of a new monarch.