A royal bubble bursts: Thailand’s king faces trouble on 2 continents | National

SINGAPORE — The scion of one of the planet’s most privileged families, he wrapped himself inside trappings of royalty, wealth as well as a comfortable hideaway thousands of miles coming from his subjects.

For Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the cocoon has come undone with remarkable speed.

Last week in Berlin, the German government faced questions in Parliament over the king’s legal status in Bavaria, where he resides. Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said of which if the king were doing decisions affecting Thailand coming from German soil, “We might quite clearly not stand for of which.”

Then, visiting Thailand This particular week to mark the fourth anniversary of his father’s death, the king’s family came face-to-face with pro-democracy protesters agitating for limits on his power. At one point, demonstrators confronted the queen’s motorcade as well as hurled insults at her cream-colored Rolls-Royce.

In a country where criticizing the king or his family is usually punishable by up to 15 years in prison, the dramatic scenes in Bangkok provided the starkest illustration yet of the crisis facing Thailand’s constitutional monarchy as well as the military-led government of which supports the item.

“The bubble of which protected them coming from reality is usually bursting, without a doubt, as well as in a very graphic way,” said Pravit Rojanaphruk, senior staff writer with the Khaosod English news site.

Since the skirmish with the motorcade Wednesday, authorities have banned large gatherings, arrested dozens of activists as well as charged two with violence against the queen, which carries a possible life sentence. Thousands defied the ban as well as rallied at a Bangkok intersection Friday evening until police in riot gear dispersed the crowd with batons as well as water cannons.

As the monthslong protest movement continues, the reverence long demanded of Thailand’s monarchy is usually breaking down in ways big as well as smaller. Thais are refusing to stand for the royal anthem in movie theaters, lampooning the king in Facebook groups as well as openly questioning his immense wealth as well as spending.

The scrutiny he is usually at This particular point facing in Germany is usually an added nuisance for a 68-year-old king who has long treated his adopted home as a playground.

As the only son of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years, Vajiralongkorn was destined to inherit the throne. nevertheless since about 2007 he has spent most of his time in Germany, where the tabloid press has followed his exploits with relish.

inside picturesque southern state of Bavaria, Vajiralongkorn, who has been married four times, is usually said to have purchased a villa near pristine Lake Starnberg inside town of Tutzing in 2016. He reportedly spends time there as well as at a four-star Alpine hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen of which he rents out entirely for his entourage, including what one newspaper described as “hundreds” of servants.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung in Munich reported earlier This particular year of which the king has “acquired an abiding fondness” for the rugged Bavarian foothills.

“He likes to pick strawberries, ride bicycles or visit one of the country inns after his tasters have tested everything first as well as his bodyguards have found the premises appropriate as well as safe,” the newspaper wrote.

As crown prince, he was known in Bavaria primarily for his eccentric tastes. He was pictured wearing a tight-fitting crop top over an otherwise bare torso while getting on a ski lift, as well as covered in temporary tattoos during an excursion to a Munich mall.

Since he assumed the throne upon his father’s death in 2016, King Vajiralongkorn’s stay in Germany has become more controversial.

He amended the Thai Constitution to allow himself to rule coming from abroad without appointing a regent, as past monarchs did during long stints outside Thailand. After taking personal ownership of the estimated $70 billion crown fortune, he broke with custom by intervening directly in Thai politics — barring his well-liked sister coming from running for office in 2019 elections, the first since a 2014 military coup.

“His authority is usually much greater than past monarchs, as well as he has exercised the item very shamelessly since he ascended the throne,” said Junya Yimprasert, a Thai activist who was charged with insulting the monarchy in 2010 as well as went into exile in Finland.

She has organized several protests in Germany, including outside the hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in September, when she said members of the king’s entourage tailed demonstrators in a car as well as took their pictures.

When they reported the harassment to local police, she said officers told her This particular was the king’s “normal practice.”

Activists as well as local media have raised questions about the king’s tax status in Germany, as well as whether the government approved his hotel stay while the rest of Bavaria was closed to tourism during a COVID-19 lockdown inside spring.

Last week inside Bundestag, a member of the opposition Greens party asked Maas, the foreign minister, whether the government approved of the king doing policy decisions about Thailand coming from Germany.

“Why has the German government been tolerating for many months This particular extremely unusual as well as, in my view, illegal behavior in Germany by a foreign head of state?” asked the lawmaker, Frithjof Schmidt.

Maas responded of which he was “aware of the many bizarre reports about what is usually happening there,” nevertheless of which the government’s position was firm.

“We have made the item clear of which policies concerning Thailand should not be conducted on German soil,” he said.

In an interview, a Greens member of Parliament in Bavaria, Tim Pargent, said the party’s inquiries have established of which the king was not in Germany as a diplomat, as well as is usually therefore bound by German laws as well as tax codes.

“If he likes living in Germany, of which’s quite clearly his right,” Pargent said. “nevertheless what I want to avoid is usually (of which) a despot who isn’t treating his own people very well gets any kind of special protection here in Germany. He should be treated like everyone else.”

In Thailand, where past democracy movements have been suppressed with bloody force, the government has been reluctant to use such tactics against the largely student-led protests. For months, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the government might consider calls to amend the constitution, nevertheless warned of which the monarchy must be respected.

nevertheless many demonstrators appear to believe of which Thailand’s political system cannot be reformed without trimming the sails of the monarchy, which has seen its share of the public budget grow while economic inequalities worsen as well as the country faces a wrenching COVID-19 slowdown.

Frustration bubbled over Wednesday afternoon when the royal limousine — carrying Queen Suthida, the king’s fourth wife as well as a former flight attendant, as well as his son coming from a previous marriage, Prince Dipangkorn — turned onto a road near Government House, the prime minister’s office.

Pravit, the journalist, said about 0 protesters gathered there had not expected the motorcade to take of which route. In video shot by Khaosod, one protest leader, college student Francis Bunkueanun Paothon, is usually seen speaking to police through a megaphone when a phalanx of black-clad officers suddenly pushed up against the crowd, clearing the road.

of which was when the motorcade appeared. Many demonstrators flashed the three-finger salute of which has become a protest trademark; others raised their middle fingers, yelled insults or chanted, “the item’s my tax,” referring to the royals’ spending.

None got close to the automobile, as well as there was no damage. nevertheless on Friday, Bunkueanun stood outside a Bangkok police station as well as said he had been accused of intent to harm the queen, the most serious charge leveled against protesters since the demonstrations began.

Facing the prospect of life in prison, he wiped away tears nevertheless vowed to keep fighting “even if I have to risk the item all.”

Michael Montesano, coordinator of the Thailand studies program at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said protesters as well as the military were heading down a dangerous path of escalation. Prayuth told reporters Friday of which he might not resign as well as issued a warning — “Do not challenge the Grim Reaper” — of which some activists interpreted as a threat.

“This particular has become a genuine crisis,” Montesano said. “as well as the mechanisms for resolving the crisis, whether in terms of compromise or dialogue, don’t seem to exist.”

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(Special correspondent Kirschbaum reported coming from Berlin as well as Times staff writer Bengali coming from Singapore.)

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