Thailand's crown prince to fly abroad, return next month: sources

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will fly overseas on Friday night and return home next month, three senior military sources with knowledge of the matter said, two weeks after the death of his father, the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

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The departure comes during a timeframe the military government had identified for the prince to ascend the throne, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha saying last week it could be within seven to 15 days of the king’s death, or even later.

The coronation of the crown prince, however, cannot take place until after the king’s royal cremation, in a year’s time.

The government has sought to dispel any concern about a royal succession after Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn said he would delay his ascension to the throne while he mourns his father.

“The prince will leave Thailand this evening to attend to personal business and will return next month in time to preside over an official engagement,” said a senior military source who declined to be identified, because the matter is sensitive.

The prince has spent much of his adult life abroad, and has a home in Germany where his son, Prince Dipangkorn, is enrolled at a private school.

His departure could trigger market jitters and fuel speculation about complications in the succession, said a senior market analyst who is Thai, and based in Singapore, but who declined to be identified because the topic is a sensitive one.

“The government has been keen to stress that the succession will go smoothly,” he said. “The prince’s departure could get people talking again about stability in Thailand if the handover does not go according to plan.”

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, 64, is the king’s designated successor, but junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said hours after the king’s death that the prince had informed him he was not yet ready to assume the throne because he wanted to grieve.

The prince has been seen presiding over the daily funeral rituals at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, where the body of King Bhumibol will lie until his cremation.

Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Clarence Fernandez