The Thai parliament announced Tuesday that it would formally invite Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to become king of Thailand’s 68 million people and occupy the throne vacated by the death of his father last month.
The announcement marked the first official step in Thailand’s royal succession and in the prince’s expected accession to the throne as King Rama X, the tenth ruler in the Chakri Dynasty.
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) convened a special session to discuss the matter after receiving an urgent letter earlier in the day from the cabinet of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.
“The throne is vacant and Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn was appointed heir-apparent in line with the royal succession charter of 1924. The cabinet informed the chairman of the National Legislative Assembly to convene a meeting and to further invite the heir-apparent to the throne,” NLA Chairman Pornpetch Wichitcholchai announced on the parliament’s TV channel.
“Long live the king,” members of the assembly proclaimed after Pornpetch read out the statement, according to news reports.
The nation has been in mourning since King Bhumibol Adulyadej died on Oct. 13 of health-related complications at age 88. At the time, the crown prince – the king’s only son – declined to ascend to the throne immediately, saying he wanted to grieve with the Thai people for his father who had ruled over his subjects for 70 years, officials said.
Prime Minister Prayuth addressed the nation later on Tuesday, saying the announcement was the first formal step in the royal succession.
Now it is up to the prince to have a royal audience to accept the invitation from the National Legislative Assembly, and this “will happen soon,” Prayuth said in a nationally televised broadcast.
“In line with the constitution, today, the cabinet has convened to acknowledge the procedure. We sent a letter to the National Legislation Assembly to inform it, and it will invite the heir-apparent to be crowned King Rama X,” he added.
The chairman of the assembly is to extend the invitation during the audience with the prince, and Maha Vajiralongkorn will ascend to the throne after accepting the formal invitation, according to Thai media.
He will take over a kingdom divided by bitter rivalries among Thailand’s influential parties and governed by a junta. The military has twice since 2006 overthrown democratically elected governments led by members of the Shinawatra family.
But while the prince may soon ascend to the throne, the 64-year-old will not be crowned king until late 2017 at the earliest.
That will follow a year of mourning for King Bhumibol, which will culminate in his state funeral, officials said in October. That was when they appointed Prem Tinsulanonda, a 96-year-old ex-general and chairman of the Privy Council, to serve as regent of Thailand until the new monarch’s ascension.
The crown prince issued no statements on Tuesday. He was expected to fly home later this week from Germany, where he has another residence, Reuters reported.
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