Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Who is the 96-year-old former prime minister appointed caretaker of Thailand’s monarchy?

Prem Tinsulanonda has a rep­utation for clean governance and for favouring compromise over confrontation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 11:11pm

Prem Tinsulanonda, the regent who will be caretaker of Thailand’s monarchy following the death of King Bhumibol Adul­yadej, is a sprightly 96-year-old known as the face of the country’s traditionalist establishment.

Bhumibol’s son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, did not want to be immediately named king to give the nation time to mourn his father’s death.

Deputy Prime Minister Wiss­anu Krea-ngam said Thailand’s Constitution mandates that the head of the Privy Council, an ­advisory body to the monarch, ­becomes regent.

Prem is a former prime minister who has headed the Privy Council since 1998. He has a rep­utation for clean governance and for favouring compromise over confrontation.

He became prime minister ­reluctantly in 1980, and stayed at the helm for eight years, guiding the country through economic problems and a series of military challenges including two coup ­attempts. At a time when Thailand was a frontline state in the cold war, Prem kept Thailand on a pro-West course, while also forging closer relations with China.

He came up through the ranks of the powerful military and first achieved national prominence

in 1974 when, as army comm­ander in the rural northeast of Thailand, he favoured devel­opment and civic action instead of military might against comm­unist insurgents. He later became army commander-in-chief and defence minister before the parliament installed him as prime minister.

In later life, his career has been defined by his relationship with two men: Bhumiphol, to whom he was unswervingly loyal; and the twice-elected prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin’s supporters believe Prem instigated the coup that removed the populist premier from power in 2006. On one occasion, his house was the focal point for pro-Thaksin protests that turned violent, with demonstrators battling with police.