The king of Thailand is enjoying life at a luxury hotel in Germany, while his subjects back home are suffering under coronavirus. But criticizing the monarchy is outlawed, despite the king’s “embarrassing” behavior.
Life in Thailand has been brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic. The normally bustling streets of Bangkok are deserted. Suvarnabhumi Airport, normally a hub of international tourism, is seeing a fraction of its usual traffic. Thailand’s critical tourism industry, which made up 20% of the country’s GDP in 2018, has ground to a halt.
During a crisis, people expect leaders to demonstrate solidarity and encouragement. But Thailand’s king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, has largely been absent from his kingdom since the coronavirus pandemic began. He has been riding out the coronavirus at a luxury hotel in the Bavarian Alps.
Vajiralongkorn enjoys special permission to reside at Hotel Sonnenbichl in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. According to local authorities, the hotel is not open for normal accommodation. The king and his entourage have special permission because they are a “single, homogeneous group of people with no fluctuation.”
The king’s hotel
The king is not living alone in isolation; his entourage of 100 includes a harem of at least 20 women. At the end of March, German media reported the king was jet-setting around Germany in a private Boeing 737, visiting Hanover, Leipzig and Dresden. Vajiralongkorn reportedly didn’t even disembark and took off again directly after landing.
The king is known for his eccentric behavior. He officially succeeded his father to the throne in October 2016 and was coronated during a magnificent ceremony in May 2019. Rather than following in the footsteps of his father, who was revered by many Thais, Vajiralongkorn is often embroiled in scandal.
“The king’s behavior during the coronavirus crisis has been a disaster for the reputation of the Thai monarchy,” said journalist and activist Andrew MacGregor Marshall, adding that the king is a “troubled, sadistic and authoritarian monarch who should have no place in the 21st century.”