BANGKOK – The heir apparent to the throne of Thailand, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, receives a difficult legacy from his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the longest-reigning and most revered monarch in the history of Thailand who died Thursday in Bangkok.
The only son of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit will become King Rama X, the 10th monarch of the Chakri dynasty after his coronation.
He was born on July 28, 1952 at the Dusit Palace in Bangkok, two years after his father’s ascension to the throne.
He received his primary and secondary education at Chitralada School in Bangkok before continuing his studies in private schools in the United Kingdom and Australia.
In 1975, he graduated from Royal Military College, Duntroon, in Canberra, Australia.
In 1987, he received a degree in Law from Sukhothai Thammathirat University in Bangkok.
At the age of 20, he was named the crown prince in a ceremony in which he swore: “I will be loyal and honest to the nation and the people. I will dedicate all my efforts and abnegation to fulfill my responsibilities for the prosperity, happiness and security of Thailand until my death.”
In the following years he served in the Directorate of Army Intelligence and the Royal Thai Army in 1975.
He participated in training programs in Australia and the United States, and traveled to the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands for training in special warfare strategies, parachute, aircraft flight, helicopters and use of modern weapons.
In Thailand, the crown prince took part in several military operations including counter-insurgency campaigns in the north and northeast of the country, and engaged in action to protect Cambodian refugee camps in Khao Lan, Trat province.
His military career led him to hold the ranks of General in the Royal Thai Army, Admiral in the Royal Thai Navy, and Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force, as he took a prominent role in assuming ceremonial duties.
His vocation for airplanes with more than 1,000 flight hours in different types of aircraft earned him the title “Jouw Pha Nak Bin” (Pilot Prince) in Thai press.
In 1987, he won the annual Air Tactical Operations Competition held in Lopburi province.
In 1994, he became an instructor pilot for the F-5 E/F fighter aircraft, a lightweight supersonic fighter which was manufactured by Northrop in the United States.
The Prince has followed in his father’s footsteps in social development programs. Since he was young, he accompanied the King to rural communities to inaugurate or follow royal projects aimed to improve the sanitation and use of natural resources.
Under the patronage of the heir apparent to the throne, six schools in underprivileged areas and 21 hospitals named “Somdej Phra Yupparat” have been established.
In 2007, Vajiralongkorn piloted a commercial airplane, a 737-400 Boeing, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the north with the intention of raising funds to purchase medical equipment for hospitals in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
As for his personal life, the prince has been married three times.
His first marriage was in 1977 to Soamsavali Kitiyakara, a relative from maternal side, which ended with a divorce. Together they had one daughter, Bajrakitiyabha.
Later he had a publicized and long relationship with the actress, Yuvadhida Polpraserth, which led to a wedding in 1994 and divorce in 1996. Their marriage produced four sons, who now reside abroad, and one daughter Sirivannavari Nariratana.
His third marriage became public knowledge in 2005. He married to Srirasmi Suwadee, who bore him one son, Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, in the same year.
The marriage came to an end in 2014, when a scandal involving the family of Srirasmi over abuse of power erupted and they were all stripped of their titles.