BANGKOK — The crown prince of Thailand, who declined to become king last week, will ascend to the throne soon, possibly as early as Friday, the head of Thailand’s military government said Tuesday.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha, prime minister and leader of the junta, also said that he expected national elections next year to proceed as planned, although he did not specify when.
“For the succession, no one should be worried,” he said after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday. Referring to the elections, he added, “Our country cannot just stop.”
The nation is in mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, who was the world’s longest-reigning monarch before his death Thursday. In tribute to the king, who was widely beloved, many public events have been canceled and most people are wearing black. Large crowds continue to gather each day outside the Grand Palace to pay their respects.
It was widely expected that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn would become king hours after the death of his father. But in a surprise move, the prince said he needed time to mourn the loss of his father before ascending to the throne. It was unclear at that point how much time the prince desired.
That decision prompted Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, leader of the powerful Privy Council, to assume the role of regent pro tempore in the absence of a king. Despite the changes in the monarchy, the military junta, which seized power in 2014, remains firmly in control of the government.
The comments by Prayuth appeared to be aimed at reassuring the public that it need not be anxious over the succession or about the planned election.
Still, he was unclear about when the prince would become king, saying it could be seven to 15 days after Bhumibol’s death, or later.
The election, he said, would be held in accordance with the junta’s master plan, often referred to as a “road map,” but he was again vague on the timing. In August, voters approved a junta-sponsored constitution that provides for elections but reduces the influence of political parties and extends the influence of the military.
“The government’s administration, the laws and constitution — including elections — will remain the same according to the road map,” he said. “Don’t ask me when or how it will occur. The road map is the road map.”
The king’s funeral, an elaborate event, will not be held for at least a year as the nation mourns. The coronation of the new king will occur some time after the funeral, as tradition dictates.
In Thailand, there is precedent for a lengthy delay between the succession of a king and the coronation. The coronation of Bhumibol, for example, was postponed twice, and he was not crowned until 1950, four years after he became king.