THAI POLITICS
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Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Thai prime minister reassures grieving nation that succession will be smooth after meeting with heir to the throne

Crown Prince – who has lived most of his life outside Thailand – wants to delay the formal succession until later, when parliament will invite him to ascend the throne

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 October, 2016, 1:40pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 October, 2016, 11:11pm

Thailand’s king-in-waiting has called on the people of the nation “not to be confused or concerned” about the delay in his ascent to the throne amid continuing uncertainty over the vacuum at the very top of the country’s power structure.

As the first heavy rainstorm broke over Bangkok since the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Sunday morning, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn expressed concern for the many Thai people affected by severe flooding as they cope with the sense of overwhelming grief gripping the nation.

The heir apparent’s intervention was relayed via the Prime Minister of Thailand’s military government, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who, along with the nation’s acting regent Prem Tinsulanonda, was granted an audience with him at Bangkok’s Dusit Palace on Saturday night.

Prayuth quoted the Crown Prince as saying they must prevent public confusion over the running of the country and the succession to the throne because the process is clearly stated in the constitution and the Palace Law.

All should use this moment to preserve the beautiful memory of the 70-year reign
Thai prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha

On the time frame for his succession, Prayuth quoted the Crown Prince as saying that no action should be taken now as it could lead to feelings that “the great protection” his father had provided during his 70-year reign was undergoing “changes”, according to the Bangkok Post.

The Crown Prince called on all Thai people to join hands and help one another pass through what he described as “the great sorrow” before any action regarding to the succession is made.

“All should use this moment to preserve the beautiful memory of the 70-year reign,” Prayuth quoted the Crown Prince as saying.

King Bhumibol passed away last Thursday aged 88 after suffering a long illness. His death has prompted an unprecedented year-long period of mourning in Thailand and led to a mass outpouring of grief that has brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of the capital and a sent a wave of emotion across the nation of 67 million people.

Due to the Crown Prince’s decision to delay his ascent to the throne, 96-year-old former army general Prem – a previous prime minister and close and trusted confidant of the late monarch – has stepped in as regent.

The Crown Prince – who due to his chequered past and the fact that he has lived most of his life outside Thailand commands little of the respect and affection his father built up during his more than seven-decade reign – wants to leave the formal succession until later, when parliament will invite him to ascend the throne.

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Prayuth, a former army chief who overthrew a populist government in 2014, has promised an election next year. The government has not said if it might postpone the vote because of the year of mourning.

The military has for decades invoked its duty to defend the monarchy to justify its intervention in politics and it recently oversaw the drafting of a new constitution that grants it oversight of civilian governments.

King Bhumibol’s promotion and funding of charitable work throughout rural Thailand endeared him to the population.

“Everyone should take this time to keep the memories of the past 70 years,” Prayuth said.

Additional reporting by Reuters