Thai king strips consort of all titles in shock move

Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi dismissed for 'disloyalty' and 'ambition' to match queen's position, palace says.

    Former royal bodyguard Wongvajirapakdi - known by her nickname 'Koi' - was gifted the title in July, the first time in nearly a century a Thai monarch has taken a consort [File Royal Household Bureau/Handout via Reuters]
    Former royal bodyguard Wongvajirapakdi - known by her nickname 'Koi' - was gifted the title in July, the first time in nearly a century a Thai monarch has taken a consort [File Royal Household Bureau/Handout via Reuters]

    Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn stripped his 34-year-old consort of all titles for "disloyalty" and "ambition" to match the queen's position, less than three months after she was bestowed with the honour.

    Former royal bodyguard Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi - known by her nickname "Koi" - was gifted the title on the king's 67th birthday on July 28 - the first time in nearly a century a Thai monarch has taken a consort.

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    A few days later the palace released images of the short-haired Sineenat in combat fatigues shooting weapons, flying a fighter jet, and preparing to parachute from a plane, as well as holding the king's hand.

    It was an intimate and rare glimpse into the private life of Thailand's powerful, ultra-wealthy and inscrutable monarch, known as Rama X of the Chakri dynasty.

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    But on Monday, Sineenat's swift and public downfall was relayed on national television.

    She was dismissed from the rank of Chao Khun Phra - or noble consort - for "disloyalty to the king", according to a royal command, as well as "acting against the appointment of the Queen [Suthida] ... for her own ambitions".

    Her actions "are considered dishonourable, lacking gratitude, unappreciative of royal kindness, and driving a rift among the royal servants, making misunderstanding among the people, and undermining the nation and the monarchy", it said.

    The Thai monarchy is protected by a harsh defamation law, making open discussion on the institution for the public and media based inside the country all but impossible.

    Rama X has dramatically bolstered his authority since his 2016 ascension to the throne, pulling the immense wealth of the crown under his direct control and restructuring key army units to his command.

    Koi, a qualified pilot and former army nurse, was the first woman to receive the consort title in nearly a century - fitting a pattern of assertive moves by the king.

    "She wasn't satisfied with the royally bestowed position and still did everything to be equal to the queen," the statement said.

    Stripped of all ranks

    Thai king and queen
    Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn, right, and Queen Suthida take part in their wedding ceremony in May [File: Handout/Thai Royal Household Bureau/AFP]

    Koi was stripped of all military ranks, decorations and royal titles, it said.

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    Born in the northern province of Nan on January 26, 1985, Sineenat, graduated from the Royal Thai Army Nursing College at the age of 23.

    She has also trained as a pilot in Thailand and abroad, served in the king's royal bodyguard unit, and in May was awarded the rank of a major-general.

    During the elaborate three-day coronation ceremony of the king in May, Sineenat was seen marching in full military uniform in a procession that travelled from the palace to several Buddhist temples.

    The move stunned the Thai public, who often glean clues of the royal family's secretive ongoings through imagery and symbolism relayed by the palace.

    Supported by the conservative arch royalist military, frank discussion of palace affairs is rare among the Thai public.

    The 67-year-old king came to power in 2016 after the death of his father Bhumibol Adulyadej - who is widely revered by Thais and seen as a figure of moral authority.

    The new king, a cycling and aviation enthusiast, is a more remote figure to the public, having spent much of his time abroad, particularly in Germany.

    Koi's most recent whereabouts have not been publicised, leading to rumours she had fallen from grace. She had previously appeared openly in palace-issued media.

    The last time a Thai monarch had an official consort was during the reign of King Vajiravudh, who died in 1925. But consorts were more common in the 19th century, when they often received their appointments as a way of cementing alliances with regional power-brokers when the kingdom was still known as Siam.

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    SOURCE: News agencies