A private army would be very useful if there were ever a coup attempt, including a move against him from some dissenting faction in the army. “There’s a mutual interdependence between the military and the monarchy. Vajiralongkorn is clearly a product of Thai culture, but his evident authoritarianism also seems to fit a larger regional and even global pattern, the disillusionment with traditional liberal elites and the turn to strongman rule. A few days later, former Reuters reporter, Andrew McGregor Marshall, released another photo of the Crown Prince roaming Munich in a similar tank top with different tattoo prints on his torso. Thailand’s playboy king isn’t playing around, Sineenat was accused of ingratitude and misbehavior, the disappearances and apparent killings of at least eight leading opposition figures, China 1945: Mao’s Revolution and America’s Fateful Choice. Since taking the throne in late 2016, Vajiralongkorn has rapidly amassed power. STROLLING in a German shopping centre, covered in tattoos and wearing a preposterous yellow crop top, the scruffy guy looked about as far from … Neither can be as strong as it is without the other.”, “He’s not the kind of person to voluntarily relinquish any of his power,” Pavin said. The reverence for the king has long been enforced by the country’s lèse-majesté laws, which outlaw “defaming, insulting, or threatening” of a member of the royal family — including, for example, “Liking” that mall video on Facebook. But in 2017, Thai authorities demanded that Facebook remove embarrassing footage of the king in a shopping centre, wearing a crop top and sporting fake tattoos. A curated collection of counter culture. He’s using fear to solidify his position and to take command.”. When Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned King Rama X of Thailand in May this year, it marked the ascension to the throne of one of the most extraordinarily unusual monarchs in … “When he came to the throne, he looked at the past ... and he said, ‘Why should I let any of that go?’”. He has clearly taken charge, doing so in a way that implicitly affirms both obedience to authority and a kind of above-the-law monarchical privilege. BANGKOK — A few years ago, a Facebook video went viral and revealed to the world why many people in Thailand were anxious over the prospect of Maha Vajiralongkorn, then the country’s crown prince, becoming king. It’s important to take care of yourself at all times and if you are going … In effect, it gives him control of a personal private army. In Thailand’s neighbor, Myanmar, the military has allowed elections but retains its hold on power, and even the country’s ostensible democratic champion, Aung San Suu Kyi, has supported her government’s genocidal attacks on its Rohingya minority. Just three months later, as if to show the dangers of incurring the king’s disfavor, Sineenat was accused of ingratitude and misbehavior and stripped of her rank and titles. He’s also disturbingly authoritarian. Why, it’s none other than the king himself, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun. He’s taken control of an estimated $43 billion in royal assets that have for decades been entrusted to a Crown Property Bureau that, at least theoretically, managed the money for the benefit of the Thai people. But he also gave rise to a kind of middle- and upper-class terror that he was dictatorial and corrupt, and that his populist appeal challenged the sustained privilege of wealthy Bangkok elites. The threat of the US withdrawing its support is less serious.”, “China is not democratic,” he continued, “but it’s able to deliver fast economic growth, and people feel that if this can happen, what’s the need for democracy?”. The Thai military government has always used a mandatory reverence for the monarchy as a tool of political control, and has carefully cultivated a very monarchical image for the new king. All of this would be far more difficult, maybe even impossible, if there were widespread public opposition. This has included closing areas that were once open to the public, including the Bangkok Zoo and one of Bangkok’s two horse-racing tracks. The incident that has attracted the most attention in the new king’s reign so far involved the woman walking next to Vajiralongkorn in that shopping mall video, a former nurse named Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi. But then things got even stranger. After taking the throne, Vajiralongkorn had her recognized as noble royal consort, meaning that she would be a sort of official concubine — a second female companion to the king in addition to his actual wife (his fourth). In Thai society, the king is a figure of inestimable importance, a Hindu-Buddhist paragon of presumed dignity, virtue, and morality — none of which Vajiralongkorn seemed to be exhibiting on his stroll through the mall. Why, it’s none other than the king himself, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun. But in a way, that was the point: Like President Trump, Vajiralongkorn gets away with things that would have ruined his predecessors, though in Vajiralongkorn’s case, this involves an intentional display of royal power, a signal that the rules that apply to everybody else don’t apply to him. The film showed the then-64-year-old Vajiralongkorn roaming a shopping mall in Munich, Germany, where he lived most of the time, accompanied not by his wife but his mistress. Thai king 'releases his concubine from jail and flies her to Germany to join his harem' a year after she was stripped of royal titles. Vajiralongkorn is still a bit of an absentee monarch, living mostly in Europe. But human rights groups say that, instead, similar prosecutions are taking place under the country’s computer crime laws. But when the subject turns to the king, most people lapse into an awkward silence or, if they do say something, look cautiously around them to make sure no unknown person is listening. BKK Ink Tattoo. In a country where polygamy has been banned for 100 years, the king seemed to be saying that a kind of polygamy would be a prerogative of the monarch (and nobody else). And so, following the election, the former army chief who led the 2014 coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, became the country’s prime minister. He’s arranged for units of the army to report directly to him. When Sineenat was installed for her brief reign as noble royal consort, official photographs of the ceremony showed her lying on the floor, making hand gestures of fealty, while Vajiralongkorn sat imperiously on a gilded throne above her. But in new elections in 2011, the pro-Thaksin party won again in a landslide, and Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became prime minister. A new constitution written by the coup leaders allowed an election to take place in March 2019, but the new law gives the military so many automatic seats in parliament that it would be almost impossible for an opposition party to take control. The idea of this early kingship is said to be based on two concepts derived from Hinduism and Theravada Buddhist beliefs. Plaques that once memorialized the 1932 coup that abolished the absolute monarchy have, according to some Bangkok residents, simply disappeared. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, the long-serving prime minister, Hun Sen, has jailed his main political opponents and banned the only political party that had a chance to defeat him in elections two years ago. “Yes,” he replied. But there is a deep and wide respect for the institution of the monarchy in Thailand that will no doubt help him, as well as the military factions that support him. “He wants everybody to see, whether it’s taking back the land that the zoo is on or assuming direct control of military regiments. One of the leaders of the protests, a local fish farmer named Sarayoot Souraksa, described in succinct terms how people in the region of 4 million people felt about the country’s past turmoil and the coup that put an end to it. Do you know how easy it is to get in trouble under Thailand’s backwards laws? Erratic, eccentric and “a little bit of a Don Juan”, his reign plunges Thailand … That’s the way they make people give up.”. Yingluck was accused of corruption and removed from office in 2014, and with new Red Shirt protests looming and the old, much-loved king, Bhumibol, on his deathbed, the military stepped in, seizing power in a coup and then assuring the royal succession when Bhumibol died two years later. “They are royalists.”. Vajiralongkorn does none of that, cultivating instead an image of sternness, command, and Olympian distance from ordinary people. Around the same time, several palace aides were dismissed — two of them, identified as bedroom guards, for “inappropriate acts and adultery,” according to the official Palace Gazette. And whether he really did that or not, he cultivated an image of Buddhist kindness and compassion, sponsoring programs in the countryside, going to villages and meeting with ordinary people. And nobody can or dares to stop him.”. He also said the love he has for the king is the same he has for his parents. It far outweighs all other considerations, such as the size of the tattoo, or the speed the tattoo artist completes his work, or indeed – the price. Here’s a rundown of what we know about the Thai ruler. Still, whenever new elections were held, Thaksin’s party won them handily, and when those governments were ousted, Thaksin’s ardent supporters, known as the Red Shirts, mounted huge counter-demonstrations. But that doesn’t mean he’s detached from politics back home. “Actually, the 2014 coup was a way for the military to assure Vajiralongkorn’s succession at a time when his father was sick and Thaksin was becoming more popular than the king,” Pavin said. Thailand’s king, world’s longest-serving monarch, dies at 88 ... sagging jeans and fake tattoos with a poodle in tow. Thailand's New Playboy King, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, had a poodle named Foo Foo and sports tattoos and crop tops Since the military coup of 2014, at least 68 people have been arrested or imprisoned under these laws, according to Human Rights Watch. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy. We’d like to think his friends call him “Bodi,” if he has any. This newly-crowned ruler of Thailand looks like a really chill dude we’d love to kick it with. If there were people hoping somehow that, being a Western-educated, cosmopolitan person living mostly in the West, he would encourage a move back in the direction of liberal values and practices, they have by now been disappointed. Two years later, huge Yellow Shirt demonstrations took place. Join millions of people looking to find tattoo inspiration, discover artists and studios, and easily book tattoo appointments. In the Philippines, for example, President Rodrigo Duterte has emerged as a sort of elected strongman, carrying out a supposed war on drugs that has resulted, according to human rights groups, in more than 20,000 extrajudicial killings. Richard Bernstein is a former foreign correspondent at Time magazine and the New York Times. This is partly because of skillfully applied measures of repression by the military-led government, including the disappearances and apparent killings of at least eight leading opposition figures, and surveillance of others the police feel might cause trouble. “Some people have gone to jail,” Sirapop Kornaroot, known as Rungsila, a dissident poet recently released after five years of detention, told me. THE next king of Thailand’s scandal-plagued playboy lifestyle could tear down his family’s dynasty. Just last month, Thai scholar Sulak Sivaraksa was arrested and jailed for blasphemy against the crown when he publicly doubted the historical validity of a 16th century elephant battle between the Thai king and the crown prince of Taungoo Burma. Soldiers patrol the sidewalks alongside. Even the most senior officials in the government and the military literally drop to their knees when in his presence. In the largest of them, in 2010, the Red Shirts occupied the commercial center of Bangkok for nearly three months before they were crushed by the army, with some 80 Red Shirts killed and more than 2,000 injured. Thailand’s king has terrible fashion sense and likes wearing fake tattoos. A furious opposition emerged, known as the Yellow Shirts — yellow being the color of the monarchy — whose claim to legitimacy was that they, with support from the military, were the defenders of the monarchy. ; The hotel received special permission from local authorities to open for the king and his entourage of 20 women, The Times of London reported. But thankfully insults aren’t necessary for the present King of Thailand, as he is a totally great and kickass king. Indeed, the old politics was breeding such extreme conflict that Thailand was in danger of civil war. Photos of Thailand’s King Rama IX and elder monks adorned the walls. “That’s the way they keep control. It does this by refusing to criticize these countries for human rights violations, by offering aid and military support when such support is withheld by the US and Europe, and, not least, by presenting a model that seems to be successful and that China itself proclaims as an alternative to Western ways of doing things. By choosing I Accept, you consent to our use of cookies and other tracking technologies. Construction cranes loom over the ramparts. You can rest assured, Thailand is in great hands. Featuring the world's top artists. Thaksin put into place several programs, like low-cost universal health care, aimed at alleviating rural poverty and appealing to his base. THAILAND’s eccentric King has made his mistress a royal consort – in an awkward ceremony attended by his new wife. It’s all about the quality. A video leaked in 2007 showing a birthday party for Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn's third wife Srirasmi All of these countries have retained what a Filipino journalist, Marites Vitug, called “the trappings of power” in a conversation I had with her in Manila. It is a special thing to get a tattoo in Thailand from a monk and have him bless it. They have elections, some independent newspapers that even do good critical reporting, and while they do not hesitate to get rid of opponents, they also keep disappearances at low levels so as not to arouse public animosity or international sanction. This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. A glimpse into the old race track revealed a bunch of construction sheds. “Take the Belt and Road project,” he said, referring to Beijing’s plan for a network of ports, railroads, energy corridors, and shipping lanes aimed at making China the center of a vast Eurasian economic network. Where does Vajiralongkorn fit into this? A two-foot long bamboo stick or needle is needed to carry out this ancient tattoo art form; it is jabbed into a person’s skin over and over until the design is complete. The current concept of Thai kingship evolved through 800 years of absolute rule. It’s an immense rectangle, surrounded by newly renovated walls surmounted by the yellow flag of the monarchy. The King of Thailand has been a curious source of scrutiny since his ascent to the throne in 2016. And given its importance as a pillar of Thai nationhood and identity, that could be disastrous in a country already prone to deep divisions and political turmoil. “I thought that Thailand would end up having a weak king,” Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a scholar of Thai politics and a dissident exiled from the country when Vajiralongkorn’s father was still king, told me in a Skype interview from Japan, where he lives. He was eating ice cream while wearing very un-monarchical jeans and a crop top, his bare midriff displaying what seemed to be elaborate temporary tattoos. With King Bhumibol Adulyadej old and ailing, many worried the Thai monarchy would atrophy into irrelevance once his playboy son ascended to the throne. Bangkok: Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, who is set to be crowned King of Thailand after his father King Bhumibhol died on Thursday, is a womaniser, wears crop tops and has fake tattoos… The 2017 Constitution of Thailand was approved in a referendum in 2016, and was endorsed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn on 6 April 2017, Chakri day, in a ceremony at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. In one of them, for example, he eliminated a requirement that when the king is out of the country, which Vajiralongkorn is most of the time, his authority would revert to a regent. Vajiralongkorn, in this sense, arrives at a time of disillusionment with the old politics. His removal of two crack army regiments in the Bangkok area from the usual chain of command and putting them under his own authority is among them. We don’t want to insult anyone, just their idiotic choices in clothes, so we’re just going to come out and say this – that elephant battle totally fucking happened. They involve powers of luck, protection and blessing from above when you have a monk give you a tattoo. I hired a car to look at the royal compound, though it’s not easy to get glimpses inside. WARNING: Nudity. Thai man tattoos king's words of praise on his arm, says the king is god. Now, insulting the monarchy of Thailand is actually considered a serious crime, so we’re going to go easy on this inked king and his stupid crop top. To get a sense of that, I spent a day in November in an area of fish farms and rice paddies in Chachoengsao province southwest of Bangkok to talk to members of an environmental group opposed to a planned industrial zone called the Eastern Economic Corridor. In 2016, a video surfaced of the royal walking through a shopping mall in Germany wearing a crop top and revealing his tattoos. 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