Thailand’s parliament starts process of naming new king

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2009, file photo, Thailand's Queen Sirikit, right, walks with her son Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok. Thailand’s parliament has started the process of naming Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn the new king following the death of his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, last month. Completing a formality, the Cabinet submitted Vajiralongkorn’s name to the National Assembly on Tuesday after a brief meeting. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2009, file photo, Thailand's Queen Sirikit, right, walks with her son Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok. Thailand’s parliament has started the process of naming Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn the new king following the death of his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, last month. Completing a formality, the Cabinet submitted Vajiralongkorn’s name to the National Assembly on Tuesday after a brief meeting. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, File)

BANGKOK (AP) – Thailand’s parliament on Tuesday invited Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn to be the new king, completing a formal step for the heir apparent to take the throne following the death of his father last month.

The Cabinet, following a 1924 law on succession, submitted Vajiralongkorn’s name to the National Assembly after a brief meeting, where members formally acknowledged him as the new monarch.

“I want everyone to give their blessings to the new king,” said National Assembly president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai. His statement was followed by a cheer of “Long live the king” by all assembly members.

Pornpetch said he will now formally invite the 64-year-old Vajiralongkorn to take the throne, the 10th in the Chakri dynasty, which was founded in 1782. He did not say when that will happen.

Vajiralongkorn’s father, the much-revered Bhumibol Adulyadej, who took the throne in 1946, died on Oct. 13 at age 88 after many years of ill health.

In 1972, Bhumibol designated Vajiralongkorn – his second child and only son – to be his successor.

Vajiralongkorn, with a less intense interest in state affairs and a reputation as a playboy, does not command the same level of respect as his hardworking father. He has gone through divorces with three women who have borne him seven children, and his love life is still gossiped about, though privately because of harsh laws that mandate a prison term of three to 15 years for anyone found guilty of insulting the monarchy.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said shortly after Bhumibol’s death that the crown prince told him that he did not want to immediately assume the throne in order to allow time to mourn his father.

Prayuth’s military government declared a full year of mourning for public offices, and most Thais have been somberly dressed in black or white since the king’s death, while revelry has been discouraged.

Huge crowds have been paying respects to the king’s remains at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. His body will be cremated in an elaborate ceremony that may take place a year or more after his death.

The official coronation of Vajiralongkorn will take place only after the cremation. Bhumibol’s coronation was in 1950, four years after succeeding his brother King Ananda Mahidol, who died of gunshot wounds in unclear circumstances.

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