Thai king appoints new patriarch of country's Buddhist order

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Thailand's king has named a new supreme patriarch to head the country's Buddhist order, ending a deadlock that left the position empty for more than three years.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Tuesday that King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has appointed 89-year-old Somdej Phra Maha Muniwong to be the 20th supreme patriarch. His predecessor died in 2013 at age 100.

The Sangha Council, the ecclesiastical administrative body, in January 2016 followed legal procedure in nominating its most senior member to the position. However, Prayuth refused to endorse the council's nominee, Phra Ratchamangalacharn, who had been accused of links to the prominent but controversial Dhammakaya sect.

The law was changed in December to allow the king sole authority to appoint the supreme patriarch.