Thailand's crown prince returns from abroad for official duties

Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn waves to well-wishers who had gathered to see King Bhumibol Adulyadej before he departed to the Grand Palace from Siriraj Hospital to take part in his coronation anniversary ceremonies in Bangkok, Thailand on May 5, 2010.
PHOTO: Reuters

Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn returned to Bangkok on Friday, just weeks before he is due to ascend the throne, four senior military sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Fresh questions about the succession arose when the prince flew to Germany last month to attend to personal business.

Thailand is making preparations for the prince to ascend the throne on Dec. 1, though a formal coronation will be at least one year from now.

The country has been without a monarch since revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej died on Oct. 13 and has been ruled by regent Prem Tinsulanonda, the 96-year-old former head of the royal advisory council.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said last month that the prince had asked to delay his ascension to the throne while he mourns his father. "His Highness has arrived back in Thailand from Germany and will attend an event this evening at the 1st Infantry Regiment, King's Own Guards. This is confirmed," said a senior military source who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The prince's return to Thailand, will likely ease any concerns about the succession, said Bangkok-based lecturer and analyst Gothom Arya. "His return will likely stop any lingering rumours that the ascension process, when it happens, will not proceed smoothly,"he told Reuters.

The prince has spent much of his adult life abroad, and has a home in Germany where his son, Prince Dipangkorn, is enrolled at a private school.

Thailand's military government submitted a new constitution for royal endorsement on Tuesday. Prayuth Chan-ocha has said that only the new monarch can approve the charter.

Mourners file into Grand Palace to pay respects to late Thai king

  • Tens of thousands of Thais streamed into Bangkok's Grand Palace on Saturday (Oct 29) as the public was granted its first chance to enter the throne hall where late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is lying in state.
  • For the past two weeks, crowds have massed outside the Grand Palace, a compound of shimmering temples and pavilions in Bangkok's old quarter, to pay tribute before a portrait of the monarch.
  • But Saturday was the first time the public has been allowed to enter the decorated throne hall, where he is lying in a coffin behind a gilded urn."I have been waiting here since 1am," said Mr Saman Daoruang, an 84-year-old sitting in a thousands-long queue that snaked around a large field outside the palace.
  • The authorities have said that 10,000 mourners will be permitted to enter the throne hall per day, in small batches.
  • Like many in the crowd, Mr Saman has been sleeping in a tent on the grassy parade grounds since he arrived in Bangkok by train from northern Nakhon Sawan province.
  • "But I haven't been able to sleep because I was so thrilled and proud to come here," he told AFP, clutching several portraits of the monarch.
  • King Bhumibol, who died at 88 two weeks ago, was adored by many of his subjects and seen as an anchor of stability in a kingdom rocked by turbulent politics.
  • His passing has thrust the country into a year of official mourning, with most Thais wearing only black and white since his death and TV channels devoting hours of airtime to footage from his 70-year reign.
  • Thailand's arch-royalist military government, which came to power in a 2014 coup, has encouraged mass displays of devotion for the late King and helped arrange a flurry of free bus, train and boat rides to move mourners to the capital.
  • It has also stepped up its enforcement of lese majeste - which punishes criticism of the monarchy with up to 15 years in prison per offence.
  • Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, has asked to delay his proclamation as king in order to grieve with the nation, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who has presided over the transition.
  • The regime has not provided a clear timeline for when the Prince will formally ascend the throne.

By law, the monarch or regent, has 90 days to approve the constitution after it is submitted.