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Thailand's new monarch watched for signs of unity

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn kneels during a succession ceremony to become King Rama X in Bangkok, Thailand, on Dec.1, 2016.
Xinhua | Thai Royal Household Bureau | Getty Images
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn kneels during a succession ceremony to become King Rama X in Bangkok, Thailand, on Dec.1, 2016.

Thailand Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned the new King on Thursday, even as the country continues its year-long mourning over the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The public crowning ceremony will only take place late-2017 after the previous king's cremation.

The 64-year old will adopt the new title King Rama X of the Chakri dynasty, leading one of Asia's richest and most powerful monarchies. The crown regularly invests in businesses and real estate across Thailand.

"The announcement of King Vajiralongkorn's ascension will have a modestly positive impact on investor confidence, which has wavered over uncertainties about the country's political future since the 2014 coup d'etat," Ryan Aherin, senior Asia analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said in a note on Friday.

The official ascension of King Vajiralongkorn will allow the military junta to seek royal consent in order to promulgate the draft constitution, paving the way for the government to prepare for elections late next year, according to Aherin.

The government will then ratify new laws to govern the upcoming elections, which would be the first polls since the 2014 coup.

The Kingdom is currently ruled by the military junta, which has held power since 2014.

King Bhumibol was beloved and highly regarded by the Thai public as a stabilizing force in a precarious political environment. During the former's king 70 years of reign, the Southeast Asian country had seen military coups, street protests and the ousting of popularly elected governments.

While the Thai monarchy might have limited formal powers, it holds the loyalty of the country's business elite and the military.

The new King Vajiralongkorn is the only son of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit, and had spent most of his life in Southern Germany. He has also had three high-profile divorces, and was embroiled in a recent police corruption scandal linked to the family of his third wife.

Thailand's Lèse majesté law, based on Thai Criminal Code section 112, protects the royal family from criticism or defamation.

He will "likely use the interim time to earn the trust, prestige and respect of the public and benefit from the legacy of his vastly popular father, who was seen as the moral and spiritual heart of the country," Verisk Maplecroft's Aherin said.

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