BANGKOK — The Kingdom of Thailand began Friday without a King due to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s decision to delay taking the throne as the designated heir of King Bhumibol.
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn said he would take the role of monarch when he was ready, after mourning his father, who died Thursday. Legal experts said the unexpected turn of events could have far-reaching legal ramifications and means that a former prime minister who heads the King’s Privy Council, now acts as regent for the empty throne.
“Right now we have no king,” Peerasak Porjit, vice president of the National Legislative Assembly, said by telephone Friday. “So, all of the royal duties of a king must be done through the regent.”
According to the constitution, in the event a designated heir apparent has not assumed the throne, the head of the privy council – a set of personal advisors to the king – must be made regent, which is 96-year-old Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda.
Peerasak confirmed Prem is now regent in accordance with the constitution.
‘Not Rama X Yet’
The sudden lack of a king in Thailand came as a surprise because the royal succession had been expected to go smoothly. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn had been heir apparent under the late King Bhumibol since his royal appointment in 1972. There was no other heir.
When King Bhumibol, or Rama IX, died at Siriraj Hospital on Thursday at 88, the government summoned the interim parliament for a meeting to formally proclaim Vajiralongkorn as Rama X. The meeting was set at 9pm.
The constitution also requires the cabinet order the legislative body send its chairman to the Crown Prince and ceremoniously “invite” him to take the mantle as designated by his father. The chairman, Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, was then required to inform the parliament of the Crown Prince’s decision, so lawmakers could endorse him as the new monarch.
But junta chairman Prayuth Chan-och later told reporters that Prince Vajiralongkorn was not ready, as he prefered to grieve for his father first.
“As for the … succession, he wishes to wait until the appropriate time,” Gen. Prayuth said.
Because of the Crown Prince’s decision, Pornpetch did not invite Vajiralongkorn to take up the throne, and the parliament was adjourned without proclaiming Vajiralongkorn as King Rama X.
“He’s not Rama X yet,” Peerasak said, adding that he retains the title of Crown Prince.
Some succession law experts have expressed puzzlement at the news and warned the situation could prove legally problematic.
Thammasat University law processor Kittisak Prokati said interim parliament chairman Pornpetch was clearly required by Section 23 of the constitution to invite Vajiralongkorn, yet he did not do so Thursday night.
“It means the parliament chairman must be held accountable for not performing his duty as described in Section 23,” Kittisak said. “Because he did not invite the Crown Prince, we have a huge case of confusion here, because this case could have been decided by Section 23.”
This story was originally censored on the instruction of Khaosod English’s parent organization. It has since been republished with some details omitted.