Thai new monarch King Maha Vajiralongkorn to take control of royal agencies

Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn attends an event commemorating the death of King Chulalongkorn, known as King Rama V, as he joins people during the mourning of his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thailand’s parliament has agreed in a confidential session to transfer control of royal agencies from the government to new King Maha Vajiralongkorn, members of the military-appointed legislature said on Friday.

The decision came on Thursday in a sitting that was not broadcast in public, they said. It is another step in giving greater say to the king, who has been reshaping the palace and shown himself increasingly assertive on other fronts.

“It involves the transfer of agencies that work for the monarch so that they are grouped together and report to the king,” said a parliament member.

The agencies had previously been under the prime minister and defense ministry, he said. Other members of the National Legislative Assembly confirmed the decision.

The organizations to be transferred are the Royal Aide de Camp Department, The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, the Bureau of the Royal Household, the Royal Guard Command and the Royal Court Security Police, the assembly member said.

King Vajiralongkorn inherited the throne last year following the death of his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose reign spanned seven decades and was punctuated by political turbulence.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, but King Bhumibol wielded great influence. His son has shown himself to be increasingly assertive with the generals who wrested power from an elected civilian government in a 2014 coup.

In January, he ordered sections of the country’s draft constitution to be rewritten – something that hadn’t been done by a monarch in decades, and which Thailand’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve.
He has also been reshaping the palace.

More than 20 notices relating to ninety-six palace staff were published on the Royal Gazette website on March 13, notifying the public of position changes and dismissals – some officials who had served for decades were fired for being “lazy” or “arrogant”.

King Vajiralongkorn is widely expected to be crowned at the end of the year following his father’s cremation in October.

Political observers say party politics is only likely to happen after the coronation and that a general election will then take place to elect a civilian government to replace the junta.

Aside from a speech in December when he ascended the throne and a televised new year address, much has not been heard from new king. Few comment on palace affairs given a jail sentence of up to 15 years for anyone guilty of insulting the monarchy.

The lese majeste laws have an impact on what any news organization can report about issues relating to the palace.

Unlike King Bhumibol, who spent much of his life in the public eye, King Vajiralongkorn has lived much of his adult life abroad, stepping in to perform royal duties in his father’s twilight years.

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