Who is he?
Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, was named heir apparent to King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1972. He is the only son of Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. Vajiralongkorn is a general in the Thai Army, admiral in the Royal Navy, and air marshal in the Thai Air Force. Many of his roles have become increasingly ceremonial and his public presence in Thailand increased in response to the ailing health of his late father. Now, Vajiralongkorn is poised to ascend to the throne to rule Thailand as the new monarch.
Why is he in the news?
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is the presumptive new monarch in Thailand. The succession rules, as well as the wishes of his father, are expected to be followed.
Strict lese majeste laws have silenced open criticism of the crown prince in Thailand, however many outside sources have published stories highlighting his less than virtuous activities. Many in Thailand do not hold the crown prince in high regard, and would prefer his more popular sister, Princess Sirindhorn to take the throne, or act as regent for Vajiralongkorn’s oldest son. However, the crown prince was named heir apparent immediately after his father’s death by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, silencing many rumors of a power struggle for the throne.
What can we expect from him?
Vajiralongkorn has acknowledged himself as the heir apparent, but has not yet accepted the role of king, electing instead to “mourn his father with along with the Thai people.” We should expect the crown prince to accept his role as king in the near future.
King Bhumibol was deeply popular and is the only monarch that most living Thais have ever known, leaving Vajiralongkorn with large shoes to fill.
Vijiralongkorn has said he views himself as the “black sheep” and this position can “help those not-too-white ones seem whiter.” Many have deep anxiety over how he will rule in the coming years and if he will resume his reportedly earlier friendly relations with ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Vajiralongkorn’s challenge will be in garnering the support and adoration of the Thai people, while also maintaining the monarchy’s strong position of authority. While his father had no immediate political responsibilities, he bolstered the monarchy’s position to create huge political influence and prestige.