Thailand: Why popular princess Maha Sirindhorn will not succeed Bhumibol

Princess Sirindhorn is the most popular of late king Bhumibol's children.

Thailand: Why popular princess Maha Sirindhorn will never succeed Bhumibol
Thailand's Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn takes part in a ceremony honouring the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 18, 2016. Picture has been watermarked from source. Thailand Royal Household Bureau/Handout via REUTERS REUTERS

The Thai military junta's outright backing of heir apparent Maha Vajiralongkorn after the question of succession arose following the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej has dampened hopes in the country that conventions would be broken to pave the way for the ascension of popular princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to the throne.

Imedaitely after the death of Bhumibol on Thursday, Junta government's Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that Prince Vajiralongkorn had asked for time before ascending to the throne.

In subsequent comments about the succession and crowning of Vajiralongkorn, the junta had appeared as if there had never been second thoughts over the scandal-plagued heir appetent's future.

Prayuth later said: "Citizens in Thailand and abroad should not be worried or concerned ... After at least 15 days of mourning, it will be the appropriate time to enact Section 23 of the constitution."

'Princess Angel'

Matters of royal family politics are strictly not discussed in Thailand due to the harsh lese majeste law that provides for up to 15 years of imprisonment for anyone guilty of royal defamation.

The Thai Constitution has been amended, making it possible for a woman to succeed to the throne, but the junta is seen taking all steps to ensure there is no debate over the succession.

Princess Sirindhorn is the most popular of Bhumibol's children and Thais fondly call her "Phra Thep" – Princess Angel.

However, the ruling junta has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years on activities promoting the country's monarchy and the King. The public relations effort was aimed at burnishing the image of Vajiralongkorn, analysts say.

The down-to-earth royal returned to work on Monday, assuming the role of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

She will also oversee the preparations for the cremation of the king. The heir apparent has given her the go-ahead to make the final decisions in the construction of a Phra Meru for the royal cremation, the Bangkok Post said.

The monarchy's detractors are underground, suppressed by the draconian lese majeste law. They say the world's longest ruling monarch is an absolute sovereign despite the 1932 proclamation. Thailand has witnessed more than 20 coups in the last hundred years and many of these happened during the 70-year reign of Bhumibol. He has always remained at the helm and has been the obvious bedrock of support behind the military which enacted the coups.