Thailand’s king has sacked four members of the royal household, the palace announced on Tuesday. One announcement said that two bedroom guards were fired for “extremely evil conduct” and “adultery”, while the second announcement said that two military officials were dismissed for being “lax” in their duty and behaving “unbecomingly of their ranks and titles”. The two men were stripped of their military ranks.
The shake-up follows the ousting of six other officials last week who were relieved of their duties for misconduct that harmed the royal service. No further details have been released in connection with the dismissals that occurred over these two weeks. However, they pale in comparison to what happened to the king’s consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, who was removed from her post for attempting “to elevate herself to the same level as the queen”.
The 34-year-old woman became the first person to be awarded with the title of consort since polygamy was abolished in Thailand.
Before her appointment, Wongvajirapakdi was a major general, a trained pilot, a nurse, and a bodyguard. She was bestowed with the title two months after King Maha Vajiralongkorn married his fourth wife – Queen Suthida.
In an announcement published in the Royal Gazette, the palace said Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi had been insubordinate to the king and showed "resistance and pressure in every manner to stop the appointment of the Queen". The announcement also said that she was guilty of abuse of power and gave orders on the king’s behalf.
Nobody knows what prompted this demotion and the further shake-up in the royal palace as the monarch's life in Thailand is shrouded in secrecy. In an interview with NPR, Tamara Loos, a professor of history and Thai studies at Cornell University, said that the demotion of Wongvajirapakdi is a stunning moment in Thai history.
"King Vajiralongkorn is systematically arrogating power exclusively to himself", Loo said, adding that the monarch puts Thailand "in danger of reverting to an absolute monarchy.”
Royals in Thailand are protected by a lese-majeste law that prohibits speaking negatively about monarchs. Relatives of the king’s third wife Srirasmi Suwadee, including her parents, were jailed for supposedly violating this law.
King Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne in 2016 after the death of his father King Bhumibol, who ruled the country for 70 years. Earlier this year, he disqualified his own sister from running for prime minister.