In an incident which highlights the difficulties faced by royal families the world over in striking the right tone in the midst of a global pandemic, Queen Suthida’s stretch limousine ran into trouble as it drove along a street in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Her motorcade was forced to slow down after encountering a few dozen protesters outside Bangkok’s Government House on October 14.
Royalisst condemned it as unforgivable harassment in a country where reverence for the monarchy in enshrined in the constitution.
Thailand’s leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who seized power in a coup six years ago, and who has likewise been the target of several months of protests, responded swiftly.
His Government banned protests and made dozens of arrests.
However, that in turn spurred more demonstrations – and of criticism of a monarchy which protesters accuse of enabling decades of military domination.
At a time when King Maha Vajiralongkorn has faced unprecedented scrutiny, many Thais are now questioning why the queen was on that road at that time.
They have also challenged the severity of the reaction – which also included three arrests on little-used charges which could even carry the death penalty.
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Other people have pointed out that the route Queen Suthida was taking was not the shortest between the Dusit Palace, where she and the king live, and the temple where she was going.
They also want to know why the motorcade had moved so slowly, even at points where there was no evident obstruction.
Royal vehicles usually move much more quickly.
King Vajiralongkorn, 68, whose full title is Phrabat Somdet Phra Vajira Klao Chao Yu Hua, has reigned since the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016.
He has been married a total of four times, with Queen Suthida being his fourth wife.
Since then he has taken nurse Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi as his concubine.
In October of last year, a palace order stripped Sineenat of her title and ranks, accusing her of being disrespectful to Queen Suthida.
However, this order has since been rescinded.
King Vajiralongkorn has a total of seven children from his various relationships.