By Linda Khoo
BANGKOK, May 26 (Bernama) – Former Thai prime minister and royal adviser General Prem Tinsulanonda died today at the age of 98.
Local media reported that the statesman died of heart failure about 9.10 am (local time) at Phramongkutklao Hospital here.
However, the cause of death has not been officially announced. The Royal Household Bureau is expected to make an announcement later.
Prem served King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his late father King Bhumibol Adulyadej as Privy Council chairman since 1998. He was known as ‘trusted advisor’ to the late King Bhumibol.
He also served as the country’s regent shortly after King Bhumibol passed away on Oct 13, 2016 until the proclamation of Vajiralongkorn as King in December 1, 2016.
Prem was Thailand’s 16th prime minister, serving three terms from 1980 to 1988.
Born in 1920 in Songkhla, southern Thailand, he attended Vajiravudh Secondary School in Songkhla and Suankularb Wittayalai School in Bangkok. Then, he entered the Royal Thai Army Academy (now known as Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy) in 1941.
He joined politics in 1959 as a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee. He was a senator from 1968 to 1971 and a member of parliament from 1972 to 1973.
Later, he was appointed as deputy interior minister and defence minister in 1978 to 1979 before becoming the prime minister.
He was accused of encouraging the 2006 coup that ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinwatra.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan o-cha said Prem was a great man who dedicated his life to the country.
According to Government Deputy Spokesperson, Lt Gen Werachon Sukhondapatipak, Prayuth is deeply saddened by the passing of Prem this morning.
“The premier reiterates that Prem is a statesman. He is a role model of Thais who love the country, honest and always put the public interest into consideration. He set a good example to the young generation,” he said in a statement.
Gen Prem remained a bachelor, and once declared he was "married" to the army.
Prem appeared frail during the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn on May 4.
He also presided King Vajiralongkorn’s and Queen Suthida wedding ceremony three days before the coronation ceremony.
Earlier today, Thailand’s Parliament had observed a minute of silence for Prem.
However, the Royal Household Bureau has not made any announcement on details of the funeral.