In the wake of the largest anti-government protests in Thailand since 2014, the Thai King Vajiralongkorn reinstated his Royal Noble Consort, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, after having demoted her in October of 2019.
Tamara Loos, professor of history and Thai studies at Cornell University, says that the King’s treatment of Sineenat represents one of the many reasons why protestors in Thailand have targeted the monarchy for reform.
“Several days ago, Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn had Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi reinstated as his Royal Noble Consort, the first in nearly a century in a country where polygyny is not legal. Last year, after the king married Suthida Tidjai and made her his Queen, he boldly broadcasted Sineenat’s appointment as his consort on his birthday. Within a few short months, he publicly demoted her for being disloyal, ambitious, self-promoting, and rivaling the queen. No one heard from her again, generating speculation that she had been disappeared, imprisoned or murdered. She would not be the first person who ran afoul of the authorities to have disappeared since the monarch ascended the throne. However, she has now been reinstated as ‘unblemished,’ and has had her titles and ranks restored ‘as if it she had never been stripped’ of them. Magic.
“What does it mean that King Vajiralongkorn can appoint a consort, openly ‘disappear’ her, then snap his fingers and have her brought to him directly at his luxurious estate in Germany, where he spends most of his time? It means there are no consequences for the king’s behavior, but dire consequences for those close to him and those who confront him. It means that law cannot touch him nor can it protect others from him. The king’s treatment of Sineenat as a possession, put away and taken out at his will, is one of many reasons why protesters in Thailand have broached the taboo topic of the monarchy in recent months.
“In particular, Thailand’s younger generation demands a new moral compact with the monarchy—one in which the king could be subject to Thai law. Sineenat and her family remain in the crosshairs of the king’s lethal scope, rendering moot any speculation that her reinstatement is one she freely chooses.”