What Comes Next For Thailand Following The Death Of Their Long-Reigning King?

On Thursday, Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88. The nation’s king was one of the longest-reigning monarchs in world history, and his death, as well as the transition of power, could be a massive turning point for the country. Thailand has been divided for a long time by political factions and their rivalries, and the country has been ruled by military junta.

King Adulyadej held great power for his decades as Thailand’s ruler. He was a symbol of unity in the nation and was viewed with affection by his people. Portraits of the king hang in schools and along highways, as well as in buildings across the nation. The king was the head of state, as well as the commander of the military. King Bhumibol was behind the appointment most of the high-ranking government and military officials. Since the coup that took place two years ago, the military government claimed a legitimate position in the nation due to the endorsement of the king.

Now that Bhumibol has passed, his only son, Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, who was appointed by his father as crown prince in 1972, is expected to succeed his father. However, the prince has been seen by many of the nation as a jet-setting playboy, who has spent much of his life in Europe. This brought speculation that the coup, which occurred in 2014, was a means to grant the military more authority to keep a close watch and a tighter grip on the nation while ensuring that the ascension of Maha to the throne is smooth.

The New York Times shares details about the coup, which resulted in the junta overthrowing the elected government.

“In 2014, the junta overthrew the elected government for the second time in a decade and suspended most of the Constitution. Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha was installed as the prime minister and chief of the junta, a move that the king blessed. The coup was seen as a victory for the political elite and a defeat for a rising populist movement.”

August resulted in a vote that backed the new Constitution that was written by military members and essentially reduces the power of political parties while giving the military the main authority to appoint members of the Senate. The conditions surrounding the vote involved the junta restricting political assemblies and any criticism of the referendum. During the period of time leading up to the vote, there were over 120 people jailed by the officials and ruling generals of the military.

As for the mourning period and the length of time which passes before an ascension following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, past deaths of members of the Thai royal family included a lengthy period of time. The body of the deceased royals lay in state and included 100 days of mourning, followed by a six-day ceremony in honor of the royal.

However, it is yet to be known that this will occur following the king’s death and other plans have not been relayed. The secrecy likely involves the country’s strict lèse-majesté law, which makes it a crime to insult the members of the country’s royal family, and even makes it difficult to talk about them. Due to this law, there have been no official statements about the death of the king, or about preparations for his mourning period and the planning for a succession by his son, Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The king reigned for seven decades after taking the throne in 1946 and provided stability to the nation during the Cold War, the conflict in Vietnam, and during the country’s political upheaval, as well as its rapid growth and development over the years.

He died in the hospital on Thursday at the age of 88.

[Featured Image by Mark Baker / AP Images]