Nearly six weeks after the death of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Thailand Parliament on Tuesday invited Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to be the next king of the nation. Prince Vajiralongkorn is next in line to formally ascend the royal throne after his father.
Thailand's late King Bhumibol, the world's longest-ruling monarch, died at the age of 88 on October 13. The King was revered by many of his subjects and is considered as an anchor of stability in a kingdom which has been rocked by turbulent politics over the years.
The president of the National Legislative Assembly Pornpetch Wichitcholchai in a televised session on Tuesday said that the crown prince will be invited to take the throne after the cabinet asked the parliament to formally initiate the process to position the new king. According to the established procedure, the prince will now have to accept the invitation extended by the parliament to become the king.
Here are five things you need to know about the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn:
1. The Crown Prince is second-borne
The Thailand Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the second-born child, with an older sister, Princess Ubolratana, and two younger sisters, Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn. However, the older sister is not imminent heir to the royal throne as women are not in the line of succession for the Thai monarchy. Born in 1952 in Bangkok's Royal Dusit Palace, the 64-year-old Prince Vajiralongkorn is the only male heir in the family.
2. Foreign education
Although Prince Vajiralongkorn completed his primary education in Thailand, he went to the United Kingdom to finish his schooling. Vajiralongkorn later attended King's School in Parramatta. He eventually graduated from the Royal Military College in Australia. Crown Prince Vajiralonkorn was first introduced to the people of Thailand through his father's home videos, which were shown in theatres across the country.
3. Passion for flying
Prince Vajiralongkorn has a passion for flying aircraft that saw him attain a position in the armed forces as a military pilot. Reports state that the prince first learned how to fly aircraft in the United States.
4. Vajiralongkorn's younger sister
The Crown Prince has been embroiled in many scandals over the years and has gained a negative reputation, as a result many people from Thailand prefer his younger sister Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as the nation's next monarch. However, as per the establishment traditions, Princess Sirindhorn cannot ascend the throne.
5. Married three times
Prince Vajiralongkorn has been married three times, first to Soamsawali Kitiyakara in 1977, then to Yuvadhida Polpraserth in 1994 and finally to Srirasmi Suwadee in 2001. However, he divorced his third wife Srirasmi in 2014 after many of her relatives were arrested for using their royal status for money. Consequently, Srirasmi had to forgo her titles and return to the life of a commoner.
According to WikiLeaks, some documents shared through the US diplomatic cables suggested that the Tai elites had concerns about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn ascending the throne after his father.