[For now, Thailand is formally headed by Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, a former prime minister and the head of the powerful Privy Council, who assumed the role of regent pro tempore in the absence of a king. Real power is held by the military junta that overthrew an elected government in 2014.]
By Richard C. Paddock
Three days after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, health officials
offered special grief counseling, and mourners dressed in black gathered in Bangkok.
By REUTERS on Publish Date October 15, 2016. Photo by Adam Dean for
The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »
BANGKOK — The cremation of Bhumibol Adulyadej, the revered Thai king who died Thursday, will not take place for at least a year, a top official said Saturday, with the crown prince’s coronation expected to occur some time after that.
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, 64, declined to be declared king immediately after his father’s death, saying he wanted to grieve along with the country. Officials have indicated that he will be proclaimed king whenever he is ready, with the coronation to take place later. King Bhumibol named him heir apparent in 1972.
For now, Thailand is formally headed by Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, a former prime minister and the head of the powerful Privy Council, who assumed the role of regent pro tempore in the absence of a king. Real power is held by the military junta that overthrew an elected government in 2014.
Bhumibol, who became king in 1946, was the world’s longest-reigning monarch by the time of his death at 88, and he is credited with helping maintain Thailand’s stability and promoting its economic development.
A delay in declaring Vajiralongkorn king could give the country time to adjust to the idea. While King Bhumibol was widely beloved, the prince has a reputation as a jet-setting playboy who spends much of his time in Europe.
Strict lèse-majesté laws, which prohibit insulting or defaming members of the royal family, have been interpreted broadly by the authorities and have long stifled public discussion of the succession in Thailand.
In a televised address late Saturday evening, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of the military junta, said that the prince had met with the regent and reiterated his desire to delay becoming king for an unspecified time. The prince will be crowned after the funerary rites for Bhumibol are completed, he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-Ngam told Thai reporters earlier on Saturday that plans were being drawn up to construct a crematory for the immolation of the king’s remains. The prince has asked that the cremation be held after a one-year period of mourning, Mr. Wissanu said.
There is no set schedule for the prince’s coronation, but Mr. Wissanu indicated that precedent calls for it to take place after the cremation.
Thousands of mourners, most wearing black, gathered outside the Grand Palace for a second day Saturday to pay their respects to the king. His body was taken there in a ceremonial procession on Friday.
Many Thais saw Bhumibol as a father figure and since his death have wept easily when speaking of him. That was true of Mr. Wissanu, who cried as he discussed the prince’s wish that his status remain unchanged for now.
“The crown prince has asked the prime minister to keep everything the same, at least for the moment, as if the late king is still here,” Mr. Wissanu said. “Do not allow it to feel like the nation is empty and do not let everything become the past too soon.”