The dawning of a new Thai King

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has trained with the Australian, British and the United States armed services.
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - An officer in the Thai military, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has trained with the Australian, British and the United States armed services.

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, had been heir apparent to the Thai throne for more than 43 years.

The Prince was born on July 28, 1952, as the second child and only son of Their Majesties, at Dusit Palace's Ambara Villa in Bangkok.

In December 1972, when Prince Vajiralongkorn was 20, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej bestowed him with the title of Crown Prince.

The full title bestowed was "Somdech Phra Boromma-orasadhiraj Chao Fa Maha Vajiralongkorn Sayam Makut Rajakuman," which translates as "Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the Royal Son and Crown Prince of Siam."

Read also: Thailand's royal family at a glance

The bestowing ceremony was held at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in line with the 1924 Palace Law on Succession to the Throne.

After the ceremony, the Crown Prince took an oath of allegiance at the Emerald Buddha Temple in the Grand Palace compound.

While taking the title, the Prince announced that he would be loyal to the country and sincere to the people.

"I will perform my duties to the best of my intelligence and ability, and also with devotion, for the peace and prosperity of Thailand," he said.

BBC reporter David Lomax asked the Prince about the pressure he would undergo in his new title.

"In every life I believe there is pressure, stress and problem. It is the same for everybody. There are pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. I am not special," the Prince answered.

The interview appeared in a BBC documentary entitled "Soul of a Nation: The Royal Family of Thailand" broadcast in 1980.

Prince Vajiralongkorn completed his primary education at Chitralada School in Bangkok, and later at private colleges in the United Kingdom and Australia.

He graduated from the Royal Military College of Duntroon in Canberra and the University of New South Wales in Australia, majoring in military studies.

He also has a bachelor's degree in law from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.

Read also: Thailand's parliament to invite prince to become new king

As an officer in the Thai military, he trained with the Australian, British and the United States armed services, studying special forces demolition, unconventional warfare tactics and advanced navigation training.

He is also a qualified pilot of military helicopter and jet-fighter aircraft.

The Prince also holds the titles of Army General, Navy Admiral and Air Chief Marshall of the Air Force.

The Crown Prince first joined the military in January 1975 as an officer with the Royal Thai Army's Intelligence Department.

In October 1978, he was appointed as deputy commander of the King's Royal Guards Battalion of the First Infantry Regiment and then promoted to become the battalion commander in November 1980.

In February 1984, he became commander of the Royal Guards Regiment and in January 1992 chief commander of the Royal Guards Command, which is part of the Armed Forces Supreme Command.

In the 1970s, as a young military officer, the Prince took active part in military operations against communist insurgency in the North and Northeast, many areas of which were under the influence of the Communist Party of Thailand at the time.

He also led counter-insurgency campaigns against the communist forces.

Read also: Thailand's Crown Prince urges regent and PM to prevent confusion over succession

Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, soon to be King

  • With his father elevated to semidivine status, Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will have a huge challenge not just to fill the shoes of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, but to define himself as the new monarch.
  • Tall and with a soldier's posture, the Crown Prince, 64, was schooled in England and attended Australia's Royal Military College at Duntroon, in Canberra.
  • He was invested as Crown Prince in 1972 by King Bhumibol.
  • The heir apparent took up his duties after returning to Thailand, serving in the Royal Thai Armed Forces and making frequent tours around the country, while representing his father at official events and ceremonies.
  • He reportedly led counterinsurgency campaigns against communists in Thailand in the 1970s.
  • He is also a qualified fighter pilot and regularly flies big jets.
  • As the Crown Prince, he had six battalions of elite troops under his command.
  • Among other things, he established hospitals in remote areas; by 1997, Crown Prince Hospitals had been set up in 21 locations.
  • The Crown Prince has been married three times. His first wife was first cousin Soamsavali Kitiyakara. The couple married in 1977 and have a daughter but they divorced in 1993.
  • He married a second time, to actress Yuvadhida Polpraserth, with whom he has five children.
  • In February 2001, the Crown Prince married, for a third time, to Ms Srirasmi Akharaphongpreecha.
  • The marriage was announced only in 2005, and she was given the royal title Mom Srirasmi Mahidol na Ayudhya by the King.
  • A few months later, the couple's son Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, now 11, was born.
  • In November 2014, senior police officials related to Ms Srirasmi were found to have allegedly used their connections with the palace to extort and amass vast wealth, and her family was stripped of the royally bestowed surname. The couple divorced.
  • Occasionally, European newspapers have featured rare pictures of him in Europe, where he reportedly spends much time, specifically in Germany.
  • But in more recent years, as his father grew frail, the Crown Prince took over many more ceremonial duties including accepting the credentials of foreign ambassadors.
  • Lately, he has been taking on a higher public profile. He led bicycle rallies in Bangkok separately for the King and Queen in August and December last year.

As many as 21 Crown Prince Hospitals, called Somdej Phra Yuparaj in Thai, are built under his royal patronage in several rural areas of the country and the Prince serves as honorary chairman of the foundation that runs these hospitals.

In recent years, the Prince has regularly represented Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit in several important state and royal functions.

Last year, the Crown Prince initiated two nationwide cycling events "Bike for Mom" and "Bike for Dad," in August and December respectively, in honour of Their Majesties the King and Queen.

The Crown Prince has two daughters, Her Royal Highness Princess Bajra Kitiyabha and Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, and a son, His Royal Highness Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.

A look back at Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej's life

  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world's longest-reigning monarch. His health has been fragile and he has not appeared in public for months.
  • King Ananda Mahidol (pictured here), 20, is found dead in his palace bedroom in Bangkok with a single gunshot wound in the head from a Colt .45 he kept by his bedside. His death shocks the nation. Within hours, his brother Bhumibol Adulyadej, 18, is named the new king. He returns to Switzerland to continue his studies while an uncle acts as regent. The case is later ruled as murder, and two royal servants and a personal secretary of the former king are convicted and executed for plotting to assassinate him.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej being carried by a cortege during the coronation ceremony in Thailand. Taken on May 5, 1950.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit posing with their first child Princess Ubol Ratana in April 1951.
  • (on left) Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej receiving flowers from a villager.
  • (on right) Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit posing with their first two children Princess Ubol Ratana and Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn in 1955.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (centre) on the throne at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej taking a picture during his trip to Cambodia. Taken on July 7, 1980
  • Japanese Emperor Akihito (second from right) and Empress Michiko (second from left) posing with Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (right) and Queen Sirikit at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Taken on Sept 25, 1991.
  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej receiving garlands from villagers. Photo made available by the Thai Royal Bureau on June 5, 2006.
  • (From left) Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Sirikit appearing at a balcony of Anantasamakom Throne Hall in Bangkok to mark the King's birthday. Taken on Dec 5, 1999.
  • Tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan (left) being granted a royal audience with Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Chitralada Palace in Bangkok.
  • French President Jacques Chirac (right) speaking to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the start of a gala dinner at the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Taken on Feb 17, 2006.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his wife Queen Sirikit (left) reviewing the guard of honour during the military parade to celebrate his 81st birthday in Bangkok, Thailand. Taken on Dec 2, 2008.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he sits on a wheelchair during an appearance at a hospital in Bangkok on Oct 23, 2009.
  • Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting King Bhumibol at his palace in Hua Hin in 2009.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej waving to well-wishers after the royal ceremony for his 83rd birthday in Bangkok. Taken on Dec 5, 2010.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (centre) sitting in a wheelchair as he departs Siriraj hospital to grant an audience on his 85th birthday celebrations in Bangkok, Thailand on Dec 5, 2012.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (centre), Queen Sirikit (second from right) and Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (right) visiting Thung Makham. Taken on May 25, 2012.
  • King Bhumibol has been on the throne since 1946. A well-wisher was among those who prayed for his well-being in Bangkok on Oct 10, 2016.
  • On Oct 10, 2016, well-wishers pray in front of a picture of King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok where he is usually treated when ill.
  • A well-wisher at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, where the king is treated when his health condition is serious.
  • Images of King Bhumibol were held during a parade at a festival in Narathiwat on Sep 17, 2016.
  • King Bhumibol has been in hospital since the end of May and has received treatment for various ailments.
  • Well-wishers held up portraits of King Bhumibol at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok on Oct 10, 2016.
  • The king was last seen in public on Jan 11, 2016, when he left hospital to visit his Bangkok palace for a few hours.
  • The king is widely adored by many Thais, who revere him as a semi-divine figure.
  • This exquisite cigarette box was a gift from King Bhumibol to Singapore's President S R Nathan in 2005. It is displayed at the Istana Heritage Gallery.
  • King Bhumibol welcoming President S R Nathan in his state visit in 2005.
  • Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew ande Mrs Lee meeting King Bhumibol at his palace in Bangkok in 1998.
  • The king has been treated for various ailments during a year-long hospitalisation in the Thai capital.
  • Many Thais see the king as a pillar of stability in a country which has seen bouts of political unrest over the past decade following the downfall of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
  • Women offer prayers for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital, where the king is being treated, in Bangkok on October 11, 2016.
  • Women offer prayers for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital, where the king is being treated, in Bangkok on October 11, 2016.
  • Women hold portraits of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as they pray for his health at Siriraj Hospital, where the king is being treated, in Bangkok on October 11, 2016.
  • Thai citizens started wearing pink en masse as soon as word spread that the colour has "auspicious power" for their beloved King's good health.
  • Many people wearing pink headed to the Siriraj Hospital to write get-well messages and pray for His Majesty to recover.
  • Many people wearing pink headed to the Siriraj Hospital to write get-well messages and pray for His Majesty to recover.
  • Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha along with his wife, plus military leaders, members of the National Council for Peace and Order, and Cabinet ministers, left well-wishes for the monarch at Sala Sahathai Samakhom in the Grand Palace, while wearing pink and yellow.
  • Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha along with his wife, plus military leaders, members of the National Council for Peace and Order, and Cabinet ministers, left well-wishes for the monarch at Sala Sahathai Samakhom in the Grand Palace, while wearing pink and yellow.
  • Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha along with his wife, plus military leaders, members of the National Council for Peace and Order, and Cabinet ministers, left well-wishes for the monarch at Sala Sahathai Samakhom in the Grand Palace, while wearing pink and yellow.

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