In memoriam

Published On: October 17, 2016 12:05 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal



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King Bhumibol Adulyadej, long a unifying figure in politically fractious Thailand, died Thursday and uncertainty over the succession quickly arose as his crown prince reportedly sought a delay in taking over.

The death of the 88-year-old Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, removed a revered father figure in a country where political tensions are still raw two years after a military coup.

US President Barack Obama led global tributes to Bhumibol, whose death ends a remarkable seven-decade reign during which Thailand served as a pillar of relative stability in a turbulent region.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, is the king’s named successor, but the country’s military junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha said the prince informed him he was not yet ready to assume the throne.

“He asked for time to prepare for legal processes in order to proclaim him on the throne at the appropriate time,” Prayut told reporters after meeting the prince.

Most Thais have known no other monarch than Bhumibol and he was portrayed as a guiding light through decades of political turmoil and coups.

The palace said he died at 3:52 pm (0852 GMT) after a long illness, causing large crowds to erupt in mourning outside the hospital where Bhumibol spent most of the last two years.

“How will Thailand live without you, father?” cried one distressed young man as others chanted “Long Live the King!”

Prayut, the former army chief who heads the ruling junta, quickly affirmed Vajiralongkorn as chosen successor.

But the delay in officially proclaiming him king will fuel concerns over a potentially messy succession.

The Crown Prince is yet to attain his father’s widespread popularity, spending much of his time overseas.

Analysts said elites likely want to stage a slow and careful transition.

“But any delay is worrisome as it creates suspicion and the Thai people are concerned anyway about the monarchy’s future under Vajiralongkorn,” said Paul Handley, author of the unauthorised biography “The King Never Smiles”. “It’s maybe too early, but it almost creates a power vacuum.”

Speaking earlier on television, Prayut said Thailand would hold a one-year mourning period and that the country’s notorious entertainment functions must be “toned down” for a month.

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