With the Royal Cremation of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great (Rama IX) of Thailand in lavish ceremonies and processions starting early yesterday morning and continuing until late last night, Thursday, October 13, 2017 (only the second day of the five-day funeral), all eyes will begin to focus on his successor, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (Rama X).
The only son of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. Vajiralongkorn was made crown prince by his father in 1972, at the age of 20. After his father’s death on October 13, 2016, he was expected to succeed to the throne of Thailand but asked for time to mourn before taking the throne. He accepted the throne on the night of December 1, 2016. On April 21, 2017, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn is likely to take place by the end of 2017, without naming a specific month. No further announcements have been made since then and no visible preparations have been made public. Bhumibol’s coronation took place four years after his own accession.
The government retroactively declared his reign to have begun on October 13, 2016, upon his father’s death. As the tenth monarch of the Chakri Dynasty, he isstyled as Rama X. Aged 64 at that time, Vajiralongkorn became the oldest Thai monarch to ascend to the throne. I previously wrote about his life on ASAD upon the release of a stamp marking his 65th birthday this past July 28.
King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation is expected to signal the resumption of normal democratic politics following the year-long mourning period for King Bhumibol Adulyadej and a general election has been slated for late 2018. Restrictions on political activities will remain in place until after the new king’s coronation, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said.
King Bhumibol was widely perceived as a person and a symbol that brought stability and maintained national unity in a country that has been plagued by numerous rounds of turmoil. The country’s constitution, argued some experts, invited nepotism and the centralization of power in small party elites because of several problems.
A Prime Minister has to be a member of parliament. A member of parliament must be a member of a political party. The result is, invariably, and regardless of which party is in power, that party elites can fire a non-compliant MP and even a Prime Miniister when they don’t pull the party line. Having an institution like the constitutional monarchy under such circumstances may mitigate the worst of the problems, but it cannot be a substitution for much-needed constitutional reform.
King Vajiralongkorn faces this challenge and he will also have to face the daunting task to live up to the expectations of the Thai people, most of whom revered his father and never knew another due to Bhumibol’s 70-year reign.
One of the expectations many have is that Rama X will abolish the harsh lèse majesté laws. Criticism of the king, queen, crown prince, regents, and their pets has long been strictly prohibited, with large fines and prison sentences of up to 35 years being imposed.
Unfortunately, I missed participating in funeral ceremonies held for King Bhumibol here in Phuket Replicas of the Royal Crematorium were constructed in all 77 provinces of Thailand so that people who couldn’t travel would still be able to made merit to His Majesty. I’d attended the rehearsals on Monday but injured my lower back on Wednesday, so I ended up watching most of the Bangkok coverage on television. I will try my best to attend the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn.
Scott #628 was released on July 28, 1972, Vajiralongkorn’s 20th birthday. In Thailand, this is considered the “coming of age” milestone. The 75-satang tan and multicolored stamp was printed using the photogravure process and perforated 13½x13.
Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed Crown Prince five months after his “coming of age” on December 28, 1972, at 12:23 in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, making him the third crown prince of the Chakri Dynasty. An excerpt from the royal command to establish the title of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, reads:
As stated in the bliss or the royal statutes of the country, when a Royal Prince who is destined to be heir to the throne is mature, the King shall graciously bestow the rank upon him of Somdet Phra Yupharat Mongkutratchakuman. At this present time, all people including citizens of nations all over the world shall accept and acclaim that His Royal Highness Prince Vajiralongkorn shall to succeed to the throne of the Kingdom. When His Royal Highness Prince is mature, at the time that he shall be established as heir to the throne, tradition and a royal tradition Kattii ceremony should be observed, consistent with the citizens and all leaders of the country of all sides. Therefore, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej hereby decrees for His Royal Highness Prince Vajiralongkorn to be His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn in accordance with the name written in the Supannabhat as: Somdet Phra Boromma-orasathirat Chao Fa Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun Sirikittayasombunsawangwat Worakhuttiyarajsantiwong Mahitalaphong Adulayadet Chakkrinaresyuppharajvisut Sayammakutratchakuman.”
He had taken up his duties while serving in the Royal Thai Armed Forces, including frequent provincial tours and representing King Bhumibol at a wide variety of official functions and ceremonies before he ascended the throne.