Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, one of the world’s longest reigning monarchs, died last week, shocking Thailand’s political scene. In a unexpected move Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn declined to ascend the throne. While it is expected that the Crown Prince will still succeed his father, as he stated that he needed time to mourn his loss before accepting, the act has had unexpected impact on the political culture and citizens. The military junta that has been in place since 2014, headed by General Prayuth has being trying to put at east the anxiety over the succession or the planned elections next year. “The government’s administration, the laws and Constitution – including elections – will remain the same according to the road map,” Prayuth said.
While the events have been detrimental to the stability of the Thai government, are typical to the tradition of Thai succession. King Bhomibol’s coronation didn’t occur until 4 years after the death of his father, and his funeral is expected to happen for at least another year, while the entire country mourns his loss.
It’s interesting to note the power that the King still has, even in a rule that today is almost ceremonial. Also of notice is the reaction of the junta regime following an August election that approved a junta-sponsored Constitution, part of which extended the regime’s control over elections. It seems, at least in words, that Thailand is going to stay on the “road map” that has been laid out to put in place a democratically elected government. We’ll see how it plays out in the coming months, and if Thailand keeps progressing toward national elections slated to be held in 2017. Read more about the coming succession here.