Stranger than Fiction Life of the New Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn


Royal officials lying down at Maha Vajiralongkorn’s feet – Getty

Since succeeding his father former king Bhumibol Adulyadej who has recently being cremated the new King of Thailand Maha Vajiralongkorn is surely not a conventional monarch.

Three times married, with a controversial image and a history that includes making his poodle Foo Foo air chief marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, is no one’s idea of an ideal royal.

The video clip of the multi-tattooed Maha surfaced this week on Facebook. The footage was filmed by a Thai citizen in Munich’s Riem Arcaden mall on June 10, 2016, six months before Maha ascended the throne after the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had reigned for almost seven decades.

The 44-second clip, posted by a French-based Thai dissident called Somsak Jeamteerasakul, has been viewed more than 461,000 times and has caused an uproar in Thailand, where mocking the monarchy carries a 15-year jail sentence.The authorities have ordered Facebook to take the offending video down and attempted to sue. Facebook itself blocked the footage in the region of Thailand but that was not enough for everyone.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), claimed that Facebook had only removed 178 of the 309 offending posts with 131 still accessible in Thailand.But this is just the latest bizarre episode in the life of a very unusual king.

Even his ascension raised eyebrows because although his father died on October 13 last year, he asked for a delay in becoming monarch until December 1. In the event, a regent stood in for him although his reign was retroactively deemed to have begun on the date of his father’s death.

At 64, Vajiralongkorn, the king formally styled as Rama X is Thailand’s oldest crowned monarch.

Maha was born on July 28, 1952, in the Dusit Palace in Bangkok and after early schooling in Thailand he was sent to the UK where he attended King’s Mead School in Sussex, followed by Millfield school in Somerset.

He was not very popular with his fellow pupils. Maha was remembered by one schoolmate as plump and clumsy, prone to overeating the Thai snacks he kept in a trunk under his bed and with a facial twitch so bad that his face would seize up violently every 30 seconds.

Maha himself revealed that he was so pampered he didn’t learn to tie his own shoelaces until he was 12 as that was a task performed for him by flunkeys.

The only activity he seemed to enjoy was the combined cadet force, assuming a kind of officer role and bullying his fellow cadets.He was also prone to maniacal giggling in the night, waking up the rest of the dormitory.All this being the case, perhaps it should not be too much of a surprise that life did not go entirely smoothly from then on in.

After a spell at the Royal Military College in Duntroon, Canberra, Australia and some further education he was made crown prince on December 28, 1972.There ensued a riotous life marked out by womanising as noted by his own mother Queen Sirikit on a trip to the US in 1982: “My son the crown prince is a little bit of a Don Juan.

“He is a good student, a good boy but women find him interesting and he finds women even more interesting. If the people of Thailand do not approve of the behaviour of my son, then he would either have to change his behaviour or resign from the royal family.”

If that was meant as a stark warning, it didn’t work. Maha’s first wife was his cousin Soamsawali Kitiyakara.They married in January 1977 and had a daughter two years later but it wasn’t long before he was looking elsewhere.Nine months after the birth of his first child, a second – a son – appeared. The mother was actress Yuvadhida Polpraserth with whom Maha went on to have five children, finally marrying her in 1994.

However, they had a massive bust-up just two years later. Amid claims that she had had an affair with an air marshal, Yuvadhida fled to Britain with her children.

Vajiralongkorn abducted their daughter and brought her back to Thailand where she became a princess but her mother and four brothers were stripped of their titles and now live in the US. “We were ordered by our father not to return home to Thailand,” the four men said in a letter in 2011.

“We were afraid to risk even demonstrating the slightest inference of disrespect toward the royal family.”

Wife number three was Srirasmi Suwadee whom Maha married in 2001 and was subsequently described by her husband as a “modest and patient” person who “never says bad things towards anyone ”. She was a former waitress and the marriage was kept secret until 2005 when she was elevated to “princess” and Maha declared he was ready to settle down.

Two years later the pair were seen throwing a party for their poodle Foo Foo, the air chief marshal, in which Srirasmi clad only in a G-string was seen eating from the same bowl as the dog. Their devotion to their military mutt and the birth of their son Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti was not enough to keep them together, however, and they split among allegations of corruption in her family.

Vajiralongkorn jailed her parents for two and a half years. Foo Foo also made quite an impression on everyone he met, including US ambassador Ralph Boyce.

He once divulged: “Foo Foo was present at the event dressed in formal evening attire complete with paw mitts. At one point he jumped up on to the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses including my own.

“The air chief marshal’s antics drew the full attention of the 600-plus audience members and remains the talk of the town to this day.”

When Foo Foo died in 2015 he had a four-day Buddhist funeral.

Unlike his father, the current king is not popular among his people but any hint of dissent is firmly stamped upon. The woman accompanying him in the Facebook video is not his latest “official” girlfriend, air hostess Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudaya, 41, nicknamed Nui, whom he has made a general. She is a nurse called Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, with whom he is said to have become close.

Maha spends a lot of time in his villa outside Munich, speeding around in his white Porsche 911 Turbo.


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