DEPUTY Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has clarified the role of the ‘Regent pro tempore’ during the accession to the throne after confusion and doubt about the process spread on social media since His Majesty the King’s passing.
At this moment, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the heir to the throne and elderly statesman General Prem Tinsulanonda is the Regent pro tempore.
The Regent acts on behalf of the King while the heir to the throne functions at royal ceremonies, Wissanu explained yesterday.
He also noted that the new royal reign began on Thursday, the day His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away.
According to Wissanu, it is not necessary to announce that the Privy Council president, Prem, is the Regent pro tempore since the constitution makes it clear that the president of the Privy Council becomes Regent pro tempore, pending the proclamation of the name of the royal heir.
“In this case, there will be neither an official announcement nor a parliamentarian process of endorsement. Anybody in the position of Privy Council president is obligated to take the job,” he told a special TV programme on Friday night.
His Majesty the King appointed his son heir to the throne in 1972 in accordance with the law of succession.
Article 23 of the 2007 Constitution, which is referred to in this case by the current draft charter, states: “In the case where the Throne becomes vacant and the King has already appointed His Heir to the Throne under the Palace Law on Succession, BE 2467, the Council of Ministers shall notify the President of the National Assembly. The President of the National Assembly shall then convoke the National Assembly for the acknowledgement thereof and shall invite such Heir to ascend the Throne and proclaim such Heir King.”
However, the National Legislative Assembly did not do that during a session on Thursday night because the Crown Prince preferred to join people in grieving for his father before he will make a final decision on the succession ceremony, Wissanu said.
Therefore, according to Article 24 of the 2007 Constitution, the president of the Privy Council became the Regent pro tempore and functions in that capacity until the Crown Prince is ready to take the throne, which might take one year, he said.
As Prem became the Regent pro tempore, the Privy Council, an advisory body for the King, has to select its new president to replace him as he cannot have dual roles at the same time, according to Wissanu.
Prem, 96, became a member of the Privy Council after stepping down as prime minister in 1988 and was appointed chief of the council in 1998.
Prem, as the Regent pro tempore, is authorised to function on behalf of the King. He will endorse the new charter, Wissanu said, adding that many constitutions in history were signed by regents.
The heir to the throne has no authority to endorse a constitution.
The Crown Prince would preside over royal ceremonies such as the royal procession of His Majesty’s body on Friday, he said.
“It is untrue that the Regent is authorised to propose the new King. It is the role of the Cabinet to inform the chief of Parliament [of the new King] and the Parliament will hold a meeting to acknowledge [that fact] and the head of Parliament will invite the heir to become the King,” he said.
Wissanu said that by doing so the process of proposing the new King would be done “perfectly”.
“The throne will never be empty. Indeed, the new reign began since October 13,” he said.
Wissanu said it was the intention of the government, in accordance with the wish of the Crown Prince, to do it this way. “As it was the royal desire, there was no reason to do it another way. The late King is in our mind. Please think about the feelings of the Crown Prince. He is the son. So he needs times to prepare for everything,” he said.
The deputy prime minister, who is the top legal expert of the government, urged Thais to trust and listen to official statements from authorised officials, rather than taking their lead from social media and rumours. The government wants the nation to be as stable as possible during this period, he said.
“HRH Crown Prince told the prime minister that he wanted to see everything remain the same as if His Majesty the King still existed,” Wissanu told reporters.
“Don’t make our land be empty, don’t spend everything to the past so fast. Let it be at the present time. We are children, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, nephews and relatives – we will do what we do for our parents,” Wissanu said.