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Thailand's crown prince 'urges calm' over succession delay

Thailand's crown prince has told his people not to worry about his decision to delay formally assuming the throne as a year of mourning begins. Instead, a 96-year-old former general has been announced as regent.

Prayut Chan-O-Cha, leader of Thailand's ruling military junta, said Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn summoned him early on Saturday, to dispel unease in the wake of the king's death.

"He asked the people not to be confused or worry about the country's administration or the succession," Prayut said in a televised statement.

"He said at this time everyone is sad - including himself - so every side should wait ... before making any sudden change."

Thailand Bangkok - Beisetzung von König Bhumibol Adulyadej (picture-alliance/AP Photo/W. Wanichakorn)

The feeling of grief is clear, with most Thais only knowing one king throughout their life

"We all should spend this time remembering the beautiful memory of the past 70 years," Prayut said. "After a period of time for performing religious rites and the funeral ceremony have been passed, then it will be the appropriate time to proceed."

No date has yet been set for the cremation. The 88-year-old King Bhumibol, who ruled the country for decades and was seen as a symbol of stability amid political chaos, died on Thursday.

"He requested time to deal with his grief and express his sadness alongside the people across the nation at this time," Prayut said.

Monthlong funeral rites

Prayut was accompanied to the meeting by Prem Tinsulanonda, a former prime minister and military general who has been announced as interim regent in the absence of a ruling monarch.

On Saturday, mourners dressed in black gathered in front of the royal palace in Bangkok. Royal funeral rites, which are scheduled for 100 days, continued with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presiding over a ceremonial breakfast and prayers.

The palace was opened in the afternoon so mourners could sign a condolence book.

The extended period of mourning is expected to last a year, with the public being asked to suspend celebrations and festive activities for 30 days. Leisure and socializing spots in Bangkok were less frequented than usual on Friday and, while no alcohol ban was issued, some local stores voluntarily restricted sales. Tourists have also been warned not to behave inappropriately at such a sensitive time.

rc/bw (AFP, AP)

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