Thailand King, Maha Vajiralongkorn welcomed his consort back into the royal household in a surprise move as the nation throes of an unprecedented protest movement calling for reforms to both government and the monarchy.
The Thai Royal Household said in an official notice that all titles, military ranks and decorations were returned to Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi after she was found “untainted,” implying that she was innocent of previous accusations.
She was accused nearly a year ago of trying to usurp power and prestige from the queen. Sineenat, 35, had previously attempted to obstruct the King’s wife, Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya from being crowned, and had asked to be appointed to the role instead, a royal notice at the time said.
“It is regarded as if she was not stripped of her royal status, her royal military position and military rank and all her royal decorations were never recalled before,” the latest announcement read.
Details surrounding her reappointment are scant. Similarly, it remains unknown where she spent the intervening months.
Due to o Thailand’s stringent lese majeste law, media have been limiting reportage of the Thai monarchy and its palace intrigue. The law makes it illegal to insult or defame the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent, and convictions can carry a 15-year prison sentence.
Sineenat is the first royal consort in nearly a century. She was a former army nurse who served in the King’s royal bodyguard unit, and held the military ranking of major general. She spent time in the military undertaking courses in jungle warfare and piloting.
After being named royal consort in July 2019, she held the post for only three months before being stripped of her titles.
While it’s unclear why Sineenat is being reinstated now, it comes at a time of political upheaval.
The father of Vajiralongkorn, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, reigned for 70 years and was widely seen as a stable father figure who navigated the country through decades of coups and political unrest. He was also beloved by many for his work to improve the lives of ordinary people.
His son, Vajiralongkorn, who assumed the throne in 2016 and was crowned in May 2019, doesn’t hold that same respect or moral authority.
Vajiralongkorn is believed to spend much of his time overseas and has been largely absent from public life in Thailand as the country grappled with the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the absolute monarchy was abolished in Thailand in 1932, the monarch still wields significant political influence. Thais are still expected to follow a long tradition of worshiping the royal institution.