Thailand’s king and queen have attended celebrations at a hospital as crop-top-wearing protesters mocked his clothing and called for his power to be reduced.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were at the Siriraj hospital in Bangkok for Prince Mahidol Day – to commemorate his contribution to medical education.
The monarch, who has spent the pandemic in Germany with an army of ‘sex soldiers’, laid a wreath at the foot of his grandfather’s statue, local media said.
It is not clear if his mistress Sineenatra Wongvajirabhakdi, who was reinstated as his royal consort after being released from jail earlier this month, was at the event.
She has been given back her royal and military titles after she was previously accused of seeking to undermine the monarch’s official wife, the queen.
It comes as a thousand demonstrators rallied at parliament as it debated amending the constitution, one of the demands behind nearly two months daily protests.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were at the Siriraj hospital in Bangkok for Prince Mahidol Day – to commemorate his contribution to medical education
The monarch, who spends much of his time in Europe, laid a wreath at the foot of his grandfather’s statue, local media said
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida are pictured at the wreath laying ceremony today
King Maha Vachiralongkorn presides over the wreath laying ceremony on Mahidol day in memory of his grandfather who was considered the founding father of Thailand’s modern medicine, at the Siriraj hospital in Bangkok
It is not clear if mistress Sineenatra Wongvajirabhakdi (pictured with the king last year), who was reinstated as royal consort after being let out of jail earlier this month, was at the event
Protesters wore crop tops and sprayed a democracy plaque outside the building as they mocked the king for his clothing.
The two-day session of parliament was convened on Wednesday and was expected to vote late tonight on whether to accept a motion for constitutional changes.
But a lawmaker aligned with the government proposed the vote be postponed to November and a new committee be set up to study details around the process first.
The proposal was met with resistance from opposition parties and also angered the protesters.
Anon Nampa, one of the protest leaders, said: ‘Do you hear the people? Or is the building so thick?’
The protesters want to change a constitution they say was engineered to ensure ex-junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha stayed on as prime minister after last year’s election.
A thousand demonstrators rallied at parliament as it debated amending the constitution, one of the demands behind nearly two months daily protests
Protesters wore crop tops (bottom right) and sprayed a democracy plaque outside the building as they mocked the king for his clothing
The two-day session of parliament was convened on Wednesday and was expected to vote late tonight on whether to accept a motion for constitutional changes
Thai police attend to an injured anti-government protester inside the parliament compound after scaling the fence of parliament in Bangkok
They want his departure and some protesters also say the constitution gives too much power to King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The biggest demonstration so far drew tens of thousands of people over the weekend.
The 2017 constitution was written by a military-appointed committee and passed a nationwide referendum in 2016 at which opposition campaigning was banned.
Prayuth said the 2019 election was fair.
On Wednesday, hundreds of royalist from the Thai Pakdee group marched to the parliament to submit a petition opposing constitutional change.
The assembly combines an elected lower House of Representatives and a military-appointed Senate.
The protesters want to change a constitution they say was engineered to ensure ex-junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha stayed on as prime minister after last year’s election
They want his departure and some protesters also say the constitution gives too much power to King Maha Vajiralongkorn
The biggest demonstration so far drew tens of thousands of people over the weekend. Pictured: Today’s rally
A Thai protester ties white ribbons on the door of the Thai Parliament as thousands rallied at the gates
Last July, Vajiralongkorn gave Sineenatra the royal consort title of chao khun phra sineenatra bilasakalayani, reviving an old palace tradition of taking a junior wife that had not been practiced for almost a century.
It came after he Vajiralongkorn named Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya his queen in May 2019 when they were married a few days before his formal coronation.
Vajiralongkorn assumed the throne after the 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years.
Then last October, less than three months after making Sineenatra his royal consort, the king issued a command rescinding the appointment.
In a statement, he accused her of misbehaving by actively seeking to block Suthida’s appointment as queen in order to take the position herself.
He said when she failed to block Suthida, her ‘ambitions and aspirations’ led her to continue to seek ways to promote herself.
That statement said the king tried to alleviate the problem by appointing Sineenatra his official royal consort but she remained unsatisfied and continued to compete.
Both Queen Suthida and Sineenatra have served as senior officers in palace security units.
Sineenat had trained as a pilot in Thailand and abroad, served in the King’s royal bodyguard unit, and in 2019 was awarded the rank of a major-general
Suthida was previously a flight attendant with Thai Airways, while Sineenatra was an army nurse.
The king has seven children by three previous marriages, all of which ended in divorce.
It emerged earlier this month the king, who has spent much of the pandemic in Germany with a reputed entourage of ‘sex soldiers’ assembled as a military unit at a four-star hotel, had pardoned Sineenat and went to Munich Airport himself to pick her up.
The consort, also known as Koi Wongvajirapakdi, was gifted the title of royal consort to mark the king’s 67th birthday last July.
It was the first time in nearly a century that a Thai monarch had taken a consort, after the king married his fourth wife Queen Suthida earlier in 2019.
Sineenat had trained as a pilot in Thailand and abroad, served in the king’s royal bodyguard unit, and in 2019 was awarded the rank of a major-general.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida during their wedding ceremony in Bangkok in May last year. According to tradition, the King has a semi-divine status and must be seated higher than those around him
During the king’s elaborate three-day coronation ceremony, Sineenat was seen marching in full military uniform in a procession that travelled from the palace to several Buddhist temples.
However, Sineenat was out within three months and stripped of all her titles for ‘disloyalty’ and alleged ‘ambition’ to match the Queen’s position.
Her actions showed ‘she does not give any honour to the king and does not understand royal tradition… her actions are to benefit herself’, a statement claimed.
Koi has apparently been in prison since then, although her exact whereabouts were unclear.
According to Bild, she was in the Bang Kwang maximum-security prison where inmates including drug dealers are constantly monitored with webcams.
The prison is said to include around 1,000 people on death row, and was the venue where Thailand carried out its first execution for nearly a decade in 2018.
Thailand expert Andrew MacGregor Marshall said she had been in a women’s prison at a different compound in Bangkok.
However, he cited palace sources saying Sineenat had been released and was due to fly to Germany imminently.
The report by Bild said she was taken straight to the airport and flown to Munich on a private plane, with a refuelling stop in Dubai.
The king himself is said to have picked her up wearing his customary tank top at Munich Airport.
The king and his entourage then drove straight to the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in the German resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it is claimed.
Reports earlier this year said the king had booked out the whole fourth floor which includes a ‘pleasure room’ and is decked out with ‘treasures and antiques’ from Thailand.
His ‘sex soldiers’ are said to be assembled as a military unit called the SAS like Britain’s special forces – with the same motto, ‘who dares wins’.
One hotel worker said staff are forbidden from the fourth floor where the king and his entourage have set up camp.
However, the king’s diplomatic immunity means that there is little German authorities can do about it.
Queen Suthida reportedly spends most of her time at Hotel Waldegg in Engelberg, Switzerland, without her husband.
The king is protected from criticism in Thailand by one of the world’s toughest defamation laws, with prison sentences up to 15 years.