As the king and queen struggle with the ailments of old age, the process of promoting the crown prince is becoming more urgent. As his birthday comes around again, the palace propaganda machine struggles to make Prince Vajiralongkorn look like the heir apparent.
The state news agency NNT does its bit, proclaiming that “Thais from all walks of life are celebrating the auspicious occasion of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s 60th birthday anniversary.” A 60th is a big deal in Thailand as it is the 5th cycle. And yet the celebrations seem rather low-key.
This seems to have become the prince’s style as he spends much of his time traveling. Vajiralongkorn is not a publicity seeker these days. Most of the publicity he gets is unwanted and surprisingly negative as glitches of style and attitude are quickly circulated.
PPT can’t help wondering if the prince has decided that there is no point competing with his father or with his sister, Princess Sirindhorn, who is forever portrayed as a happy and likeable person by the palace propagandist. Vajiralongkorn seems to have decided that he is better placed to just do his own things: strawberry picking, fluffy dogs (see here and here too), having several concubines, “artistic” photography, flying and traveling (see a bunch of posts that began with this post on 13 July and continued almost daily – here, here, here, here, here and here. Then there were other posts – here and here that came to an end around 10 August. PPT thinks that this would be a quite sensible approach.
NNT also goes through the required royal palaver: “He graduated and received a number of training courses in military affairs in line with his interests in this field.” It remains unclear whether he did graduate from the full program at Australia’s Duntroon military college.
Despite repeated speculation, NNT points out that Prince Vajiralongkorn is the heir apparent:
on 28 December 1972 was proclaimed the Crown Prince and Heir Apparent to the throne. On that day, HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn took an oath at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, vowing to perform royal duties for the sake of the nation and the betterment of his Thai citizens.
To push him aside, as some hope will be the case, would be messy and dynasty threatening. Putting Sirindhorn in his place might unleash a firestorm of palace warfare.
Then the NNT allows for a bit of bathing in reflected glory:
HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has frequently accompanied Their Majesties the King and Queen upon their visits to many parts of Thailand. He has often visited Somdet Phrayuparaj hospitals under his royal patronage in remote areas of the country. He has also been performing many royal duties promoting public health, social welfare, foreign affairs, and education, as well as religious and legal functions. Some of them have been performed as designated by TM [we assume this means "their majesties"] the King and Queen.
He’s occasionally seen in these roles, but has been handing many of the social welfare over to his major consort, who appears more interested than the prince.
NNT also begins a bit of creative writing (we say “begins” because PPT doesn’t recall this kind of palace propaganda about the prince previously:
As for his roles in military affairs, HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has been in the military service since 9 January 1975, serving in many positions. He used to take part in military battle against terrorism in the northern and northeastern parts of the country. He also helped safeguard the areas around refugee camps for the Cambodians in the eastern province of Trat.
We doubt that there is much in this and that the crown prince would be allowed to engage in warfare, but we are always pleased to hear from readers who know more.
The de rigueur commemorative banknote “includes a portrait of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and depicts the scene of His Royal Highness being conferred the title of Crown Prince.”
The message seems clear: the prince is ready to be king and he will be king. His more loquacious sister will probably continue to be the happy face of the monarchy while the new king will happily take a lower-key but well-funded role.
In terms of the future of the dynasty, it might well prove a “coup” for the next king to be less interventionist and less dominating of the scene.
Update: We included links above that we left out when we first posted this story.