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New Thai king to continue late king's political legacy

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-12-04 08:55

New Thai king to continue late king's political legacy

A handout image provided by the Royal Household Bureau shows Thailand's new King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (R) listening to the invitation to ascend the throne by National Legislative Assembly President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai (C), Regent pro tempore General Prem Tinsulanonda (back L), Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (back C) and Supreme Court president Veerapol Tungsuwan (back R) during the ascension to the throne proclamation ceremony at the Ambara Villa of the Dusit Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, December 1, 2016. [Photo/IC]

BANGKOK - Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn formally ascended the throne on Thursday and made his first royal decree to reappoint Prem Tinsulanonda as head of Privy Council within 24 hours after the ascension, both of which reassured those who worry that the country would be thrown into uncertainties and instability.

Vajiralongkorn accepted invitation from parliament president to ascend the throne, a constitutional formality, and was thus formally proclaimed King Rama X, or 10th king of the 234-year-old Chakri Dynasty in a televised ceremony late Thursday, followed by a televised statement of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, saying "Thailand has a new king now".

The 64-year-old new king finally succeeded his father, revered late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch.

The succession took place seven weeks after the late king's death on Oct 13. Thai Prime Minister Prayut said the then crown prince declined to start the royal succession immediately because he asked for time to grieve his father with the country first.

During the interregnum, Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, a former prime minister and chief of the powerful Privy Council, stood in as regent and his regence ended when Vajiralongkorn accepted to ascend the throne.

Prem resigned as Privy Council head for late King Bhumibol on Friday, while the new king appointed him as head of his Privy Council simultaneously, which was announced on TV Pool.

Observers say the reappointment of Prem indicates the new king's reluctance to make political changes and his determination to maintain the late king's legacy to stablize the country and to keep everything normal.

Reappoint privy council chief to continue late king's legacy

The 96-year old Prem is one of the most experienced, canny and influential political figures in modern Thai history.

He was also the closest confidant of late king during the last four decades of his reign.

Prem came up through the ranks of the powerful military and has been the monarchy's front man since 1980, first as prime minister and then as a top royal advisor. He served as prime minister for eight years, while guiding the country through economic problems and a series of military challenges, including two coup attempts.

Prem has been the head of the Privy Council since 1998. He enjoyed a reputation for clean governance and for favoring compromise over confrontation.

As the regent, Prem once served as the "acting" monarch and in this capacity can exert enormous influence over the armed forces, since the ruling monarch must endorse all military reshuffles.

Some said that the appointment of a new Privy Council will give observers a better indication of how actively King Vajiralongkorn intends to reign as well as to reshuffle the country's political center.

In his royal decree to reappoint Prem as privy council chairman, King Vajiralongkorn said Prem is "qualified to remain in the position".

Paul Chambers, director of research at Chiang Mai's Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs said the new king would likely continue his father's legacy of calculated involvement in Thailand's political landscape.

Observers believe that the new king would like to seek close partnership with the military veteran to maintain the kingdom's stability.

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