On Monday, Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn stripped his royal consort – Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi – of her official ranks for “repeated disobedience and attempts to of interference with royal affairs.” The palace order comes three months after Sineenat – rumored to be the king’s longtime mistress – was given the official title of royal consort.
Tamara Loos, professor of history and Thai studies at Cornell University, says the move is a sign of the King’s newfound absolutism.
“The demotion of Thailand’s Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi today by King Vajiralongkorn is part of a larger phenomenon: We are witnessing the rise of a modern absolute monarchy in Thailand. This seemingly personal event is profoundly political.
“Since King Vajiralongkorn’s revered father died in late 2016, he has taken several bold steps to arrogate power exclusively to himself.
“Flaunting his newfound absolutism, the king has just demoted the Royal Noble Consort with the kind of impunity observers have seen before. For example, when then Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn divorced his third wife, Srisasmi Suwadee, in 2014, he arranged for the imprisonment of her parents and brothers for lese majeste, and of her uncle for corruption.
“The king’s second wife, who he married in 1994 and divorced two years later, fled to Britain with their five children, born between 1979 and 1987. Only their daughter, HRH Sirivannavari Nariratana, has been allowed to return to Thailand where she lives with her father, now king. Their four sons are reportedly banished, likely because they, as males, would pose a threat to the throne.
“Whether King Vajiralongkorn takes a woman as his Queen, Royal Noble Consort, or wife, she is powerless to protect herself, her children or her family in the political context of Thailand right now. Each move of his, whether economic, military or familial, reveals his unfettered abuse of power.”