King’s consort falls from favor
Former royal bodyguard and army nurse Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi was dismissed from the rank of Chao Khun Phra, or noble consort, and accused of “disloyalty to the king.” Her whereabouts are unknown but the announcement has set social media alight with speculation and intrigue sparked by the rare glimpse behind cloistered palace walls. But it wasn’t the first time King Maha Vajiralongkorn has made his powerful presence felt since ascending the throne in 2016. Here are five ways royal power has been displayed under Thailand’s new king so far, from beefing up his security to taking direct control of a fortune. ‘Disloyalty’ in palace The palace said Sineenat had not obeyed the king, had created conflict in the palace by going above her authority and had acted “against the appointment of the Queen (Suthida)... for her own ambitions.” Her actions had also undermined the monarchy, it said. Known as Koi, Sineenat is a qualified pilot and was the first woman to receive the consort title in nearly a century. After she obtained it, the palace released images of a short-haired Sineenat in combat fatigues shooting weapons, flying a jet and preparing to parachute from a plane, as well as holding the king’s hand. It was a vivid contrast to the swift dismissal, which has gripped Thai Twitter users. #SaveKoi was one of the trending hashtags, while one user said they felt “sorry” for Sineenat. Thailand has a harsh royal defamation law that means media must self-censor when reporting on the palace. Sineenat’s rapid fall from favour is not the only time the Thai public has been given a glimpse into the king’s dramatic personal life. AFP Several relatives of his third wife Srirasmi were arrested as part of a police corruption probe and charged with lese majeste. Vajiralongkorn divorced her and she lost her royal titles, and pictures later circulated of her with a shaven head. Army units The palace has also stepped up royal security under Vajiralongkorn, adding 1,600 police officers. Two new army units were later put under the monarch’s direct control in October by royal decree, only a few months after the May coronation. It is unclear how many soldiers are in each regiment, but experts say a single division holds up to 5,000 troops.
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