Updated: Anti-Vajiralongkorn protests

7 05 2020

Royal Central reports that “German and Thai activists have staged a protest outside the the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in Germany where King Maha Vajiralongkorn is staying with his harem of 20 women.”

The protesters used projections on the hotel and elsewhere that asked questions including: “why does Thailand need a King who lives in Germany?”

European newspapers are also reporting the protests.

Clipped from AMM”s Facebook page

As ever, it is Andrew MacGregor Marshall who has all the details. Because his Facebook posts are often blocked and because he is the only one with an analysis, we reproduce it in full here:

ANALYSIS—Things are going from bad to worse for King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand.

A year after his coronation ceremonies, the Thai monarch is more unpopular than ever. Many Thais are appalled that while the kingdom faces the coronavirus crisis, their king is living at a luxury hotel in Germany with 20 concubines.

Foreign media all over the world have been reporting on his lavish spending and large harem, causing international embarrassment for Thailand.

Thai media are unable to say anything due to the country’s draconian restrictions on freedom of speech, but social media is ablaze with unprecedented criticism of the king. Last month the hashtag #กษัตริย์มีไว้ทําไม#WhyDoWeNeedAKing — was retweeted more than a million times in just 24 hours.

Vajiralongkorn’s visit to Thailand for Chakri Day on April 6 was a PR disaster for the monarchy. The king and queen flew to Bangkok on a special Thai Airways flight from Zurich, and stayed just 19 hours and 48 minutes in Thailand before departing back to Switzerland.

When they arrived back at Zurich Airport, Swiss police arrested and handcuffed a photographer working for German newspaper BILD who was trying to get pictures of Vajiralongkorn and Suthida from a public area in the airport.

Thais were shocked at the huge expense of flying the king and queen to Bangkok in a Boeing 737 when they were staying for less than 24 hours.

In Germany and around the world, many people were furious that Vajiralongkorn was allowed to break strict laws on travel and quarantine.

The palace tried to repair some of the damage to Vajiralongkorn’s reputation by arranging for relief supplies to be distributed to impoverished communities in the name of the king and queen. Recipients were forced to hold up pictures of Vajiralongkorn and Suthida and say how grateful they were for the royal generosity.

But most Thais can see through the propaganda by now, and it is widely known that the relief packages were funded from the state budget, paid for by Thai taxpayers not by the king. Embarrassing footage of Channel 3 palace reporter Malinee Wanthong forcing an elderly couple to praise the king on video went viral.

Shocked by the criticism, and unwilling to come back to Thailand, Vajiralongkorn cancelled plans to come to Bangkok for Coronation Day on May 5, Visakha Bucha Day on May 7 and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony on May 11.

At a time when he was expected to show moral leadership, with many Thais facing financial ruin due to the covid-19 crisis, Vajiralongkorn was far away in Europe.

The palace’s next PR effort backfired spectacularly too. Photographs were released on May 1, the first wedding anniversary of Vajiralongkorn and Suthida, showing the royal couple observing King’s Guard soldiers preparing bags of relief supplies, and Suthida sewing a face mask.

The photographs were intended to give the impression that Vajiralongkorn and Suthida were in Thailand and actively helping Thais facing destitution due to the pandemic. But in fact, the king and queen have only been in Thailand once since the lockdown, their visit of less than a day on April 6/7.

This was the only time the photographs could have been taken — a fact confirmed by the URLs of the images on the www.royaloffice.th website, which all included the digits 06042563 until they were hastily edited.

So it was clear the propaganda pictures had been taken during a very brief photo op on the evening of April 6, and Vajiralongkorn and Suthida had done little or no work to help the poor cope with the coronavirus crisis.

More signs of chaos and incompetence in the palace emerged this week. On Monday, hideous giant photographs of the king were erected on Rachadamnoen Avenue ahead of Coronation Day. On Tuesday, they were removed without explanation.

Some have suggested they may have been removed because the palace feared they could be vandalised by Thais sick of the king.

Today, a large photograph of Vajiralongkorn on an overpass in Mahasarakam was destroyed by fire. Police blamed hot weather or an electrical fault, but arson seems a more likely explanation.

Mahasarakham. Clipped from an anonymous social media page

Royalist Thais have long claimed that pictures of the king miraculously remain undamaged even in houses destroyed by fire. Today’s blaze showed how ridiculous that myth is.

Now, in the most unprecedented protest against the Thai monarchy in nearly a century, German and Thai democracy activists have launched a campaign to get Vajiralongkorn thrown out of Bavaria.

Last night they projected protest messages onto the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl, where Vajiralongkorn is staying with his harem. Thai security guards drove out of the hotel twice in large black vehicles to intimidate the activists, but did not intervene to shut down the protest.

Messages were also projected onto the town hall in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Alpine resort where the king spends most of his time.

Today I spoke to German organisation PixelHELPER which staged the protest with support from Thai activists. They say the protest is just the first step in their campaign.

Next, they plan to ask locals to sign a petition urging the local authorities to revoke the special permission for Vajiralongkorn to stay at Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl.

According to German law, if 1,720 people — eight percent of Garmish-Partenkirchen’s 21,514 eligible voters — sign the petition, the local authorities will be obliged to call a town meeting to decide if Vajiralongkorn should be allowed to stay.

Many locals have told German media that the king’s presence is damaging the reputation of the town, and they want him out.

Vajiralongkorn’s 13-year holiday in Germany may finally be coming to an end.

If readers can get to Marshall’s Facebook page or Twitter account, there is more information on all of these events.

Update: The Bangkok Post has an editorial that is headlined “High time to come home.” Of course, this is not about the king, but may as well be. With tens of thousands of Thais still struggling to return, the king seems determined to stay away.


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3 responses

9 05 2020
Why does the king prefer Germany? | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] it mentions the recent protests against his loose “isolation” at the “Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl, an alpine, luxury […]

15 05 2020
Monarchy down | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] institutions like the military, bureaucracy and judiciary. It is recent social media activism and protests against the king (in Germany) that gives Pavin […]

25 05 2020
PixelHELPER protests against Vajiralongkorn | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] will recall the PixelHELPER illuminations protest against King Vajiralongkorn in Germany. We have really only posted on one of these protests in […]

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