Tens of thousands of Thais risk breaking law to criticise him online
Thailand’s controversial king has been self-isolating in a luxury hotel in the Alpine resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen with his entourage.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn, also known as Rama X, is said to have booked out the entire Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl after the four-star hotel received “special permission” from the district council to accommodate his party.
The 67-year-old king’s entourage included a “harem” of 20 concubines and numerous servants, reported German tabloid Bild. It is unclear if his four wives are living in the hotel with the rest of the group.
Guesthouses and hotels in the region were ordered to close due to the coronavirus crisis, but a spokesperson for the local district council said the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl was an exception because “the guests are a single, homogenous group of people with no fluctuation”.
However, 119 members of the entourage had been reportedly sent back to Thailand on suspicions they contracted the highly contagious respiratory disease.
News of Vajiralongkorn’s apparent self-isolation in a luxury location was met with anger by tens of thousands of Thai people, who risked breaking the country’s lèse-majesté laws by criticising him online.
Under the laws, anyone who insults or criticises the monarchy could be imprisoned for up to 15 years.
But a Thai hashtag which translated to “Why do we need a king?” appeared 1.2 million times on Twitter within 24 hours after an activist claimed Vijaralongkorn was travelling on holiday in Germany while the outbreak continued to spread across Thailand.
The Thai Ministry of Public Health announced on Saturday 109 new cases in the country, bringing the total number of infections to 1,245.
Activist Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who lives in exile in France, posted a series of Facebook posts that claimed Vajiralongkorn was flying from Switzerland to various points in Germany from early March out of “boredom”.
Mr Jeamteerasakul is a vocal critic of Thailand’s monarchy and lèse-majesté laws, and said in one post: “[Vajiralongkorn will] let the Thai people worry about the virus. Even Germany is worried about the virus [but] it’s none of his business.”
The Thai king has not made a public appearance in his home country since February, reported The Times.
His reign in Thailand began in 2016 after the death of his father, Bhumibol. Although there is no way to gauge his popularity among Thais because of severe lèse-majesté laws, it is believed he is not as well-loved as his father, who ruled for over 70 years.