By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Patpicha Tanakasempipat
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Parliament will invite Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to become the new king following the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej last month, the president of the legislative body said on Tuesday.
Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, president of the National Legislative Assembly, said in a televised session the prince would be invited to ascend the throne after the cabinet earlier on Tuesday formally asked parliament to begin the process of installing a new monarch.
Members of the assembly stood up during a short parliamentary session and shouted: “Long live the king!”
The prince will have to accept parliament’s invitation in order for him to be proclaimed king, according to established procedure.
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said: “We expect an audience [with the prince] within the next one to two days.”
Two senior military sources said Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn would fly into Bangkok on Wednesday from Germany, where he has a home.
Reuters reported exclusively on Oct. 31 that Thailand was making preparations for the crown prince to ascend the throne on Dec. 1.
The death of the much loved King Bhumibol on Oct. 13 plunged the Southeast Asian nation into mourning. Most Thais have known no other monarch.
King Bhumibol, who was the longest-serving head of state in the world when he died at the age of 88, played a stabilizing role during decades of often violent conflict in Thailand.
The crown prince’s invitation to become monarch will likely allay some public concerns the succession might not go according to plan.
The prince, who will be known as King Rama X, or the 10th king of the 234-year-old Chakri Dynasty, can only be formally crowned after his father’s royal cremation, which will take place next year.
Thailand will begin building the late king’s funeral pyre next year and 8,000 people will be involved in the cremation ceremony, the government said last week.
The prince has not spoken publicly since his father’s death and news about his plans has come through the government.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said last month the prince had asked to delay the succession in order to grieve with the public.
In a departure from the usual Tuesday cabinet meeting, members of the cabinet and the junta met jointly at Bangkok’s Government House on Tuesday, according to a Reuters reporter.
Prayuth, who took power from an elected government in a 2014 coup, has said a year-long mourning period for the king will not affect a general election the junta has promised to hold in 2017.
The military, which has traditionally portrayed itself as he ultimate defender of the monarchy, is widely expected to remain a key power broker even after the 2017 general election.
A Thai lese-majeste, or royal insult, law criminalizes anything that is deemed to be an insult to the monarchy.
The law has curbed public talk about the succession or criticism about the crown prince, who has spent much of his adult life abroad and does not command the same level of devotion as his father.
(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Cod Satrusayang, Pracha Hariraksapitak, Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Bill Tarrant)