Thailand's crown prince formally becomes new king
Thailand has a new king, with the country's crown prince formally taking the throne to succeed his much-revered late father, who reigned for 70 years.
The new monarch, who received the title "His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun," assumed his new position Thursday, according to an announcement broadcast on all TV channels. He will also be known as Rama X, the tenth king in the Chakri dynasty that was founded in 1782.
A videotaped broadcast showed senior officials presenting the formal invitation to the prince to become king, and then his acceptance. It then showed the officials prostrate themselves at the feet of the new king, who was wearing a formal white uniform with decorations.
Vajiralongkorn's father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, died on October 13 at age 88 after many years of ill health. In 1972, Bhumibol designated Vajiralongkorn — his second child and only son — as his successor.
"I would like to accept in order to fulfill his majesty's wishes and for the benefit of all Thais," Vajiralongkorn said in the videotape.
Vajiralongkorn, 64, was originally expected to assume the throne the day his father died, but in a surprise announcement, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the prince asked for the succession to be put off so he would have time to mourn.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy – although currently under military rule – but Bhumibol played an important role in stabilising his country through a time of enormous change which saw neighboring monarchies collapse under the pressures of the Vietnam War. He was especially known for his energy in development activities, doing hands-on inspections in remote rural areas. He calmed the country through several political crises.
Vajiralongkorn faces the challenges of a country that has become fractured over the past decade, as contending political forces engaged in bitter battles that sometimes turned violent, leaving a residue of bad feeling and shaking faith in the democratic system.
The new king, with a less intense interest in state affairs and a reputation as a playboy, does not command the same level of respect as Bhumibol. He has gone through divorces with three women who have borne him seven children, and in recent years has spent much of his time residing in Germany. Although most Thais are devoted to the royal institution, it is hard to gauge how they feel privately about Vajiralongkorn because of harsh laws that mandate a prison term of three to 15 years for anyone found guilty of insulting the monarchy.