Crown prince officially becomes Thailand’s new king

In this image made from video, Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, listens to the invitation to ascend to the throne from National Legislative Assembly President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand,Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (AP)
In this image made from video, Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, listens to the invitation to ascend to the throne from National Legislative Assembly President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand,Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (AP)

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand has a new king, with the country’s crown prince formally taking the throne to succeed his much-revered late father, who reigned for 70 years.

The new monarch, who received the title “His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun,” assumed his new position Thursday, according to an announcement broadcast on all TV channels. He will also be known as Rama X, the tenth king in the Chakri dynasty that was founded in 1782.

Vajiralongkorn’s father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, died on Oct. 13 at age 88 after many years of ill health. In 1972, Bhumibol designated Vajiralongkorn – his second child and only son – as his successor. Vajiralongkorn is 64 years old.

Vajiralongkorn, 64, was originally expected to assume the throne the day his father died, but in a surprise announcement, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the prince asked for the succession to be put off so he would have time to mourn.

Prayuth says Thursday night that because of tradition that the throne should not remain vacant, the new king’s reign will be considered as beginning on the day Bhumibol died.

“His majesty the new king, the beloved son of the late king, will carry forward his leadership and legacy,” he says.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy — although currently under military rule — but Bhumibol played an important role in stabilizing his country through a time of enormous change which saw neighboring monarchies collapse under the pressures of the Vietnam War. He was especially known for his energy in development activities, doing hands-on inspections in remote rural areas. He calmed the country through several political crises.

Vajiralongkorn faces the challenges of a country that has become fractured over the past decade, as contending political forces engaged in bitter battles that sometimes turned violent, leaving a residue of bad feeling and shaking faith in the democratic system.

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