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World

December 2, 2016

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Vajiralongkorn becomes Thailand’s new king

Vajiralongkorn becomes Thailand’s new king

BANGKOK: Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed king of Thailand late on Thursday, opening a new chapter for the powerful monarchy in a country still mourning the death of his father.

Vajiralongkorn, 64, who inherits one of the world´s richest monarchies as well as a politically troubled nation, ascends the throne 50 days after King Bhumibol Adulyadej´s death.

After weeks of complex palace protocols the prince was invited by the head of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to ascend the throne in an event broadcast on all Thai television channels.

"I agree to accept the wishes of the late king... for the benefit of the entire Thai people," Vajiralongkorn, who was named heir for more than 40 years, said.

The sombre ceremony at his Bangkok palace was attended by junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the powerful head of the privy council and the chief of the NLA.

Red-jacketed courtiers looked on as a palace staff member shuffling on his knees presented the new king with a microphone through which he delivered his few words of acceptance.

Buddhist temples across the country have been asked to beat drums and gongs after his proclamation.

He becomes Rama X of Thailand´s Chakri dynasty, but will not formally be crowned until after his father´s cremation, which is expected next year.

Bhumibol´s reign, which ended on October 13, spanned seven turmoil-laden decades, pockmarked by a communist insurgency, coups and street protests.

To many Thais Bhumibol was the only consistent force in a politically combustible country, his image burnished by ritual and shielded by a harsh royal defamation law.

Vajiralongkorn does not yet enjoy the same level of popularity.

He spends much of his time outside of the public eye, particularly in southern Germany where he owns property.

He has had three high-profile divorces, while a recent police corruption scandal linked to the family of his previous wife allowed the public a rare glimpse of palace affairs.

Thursday´s ascension ends a period of uncertainty which followed a shock junta announcement after Bhumibol´s death that the prince had asked to delay his official proclamation so he could mourn.  Thailand´s constitutional monarchy has limited formal powers.

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