Thai Crown Prince's wife quits royal post amid police probe implicating relatives

Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn walking with his wife Srirasmi after greeting foreign royalty in Bangkok in this June 11, 2006 file photo. Thailand's Princess Srirasmi, third wife of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, has resigned from her roya
Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn walking with his wife Srirasmi after greeting foreign royalty in Bangkok in this June 11, 2006 file photo. Thailand's Princess Srirasmi, third wife of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, has resigned from her royal post, a palace statement said on Dec 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The third wife of Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has resigned from her royal post, in a move that signals her 13-year marriage to Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkom has ended, weeks after her relatives were implicated in a police corruption probe.

The announcement in the royal gazette, which was released late on Friday, stated that Princess Srirasmi had requested to resign from her status in the royal family, and it was granted by the King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The statement, dated Dec 11, was undersigned by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

It is unclear what is the status of the couple's nine-year-old son, Prince Dipangkorn, who until recently was the presumed heir of the throne after his father.

The developments come amid anxiety about the looming succession, after King Bhumibol cancelled a public appearance for his 87th birthday on Dec 5 on his doctors' advice.

The king, who is seen as a unifying figure in the politically riven country, had his gall bladder removed in October and remains in Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital.

Late in November, Prince Vajiralongkorn stripped erstwhile Princess Srirasmi's family of its  royally-bestowed surname of Akharapongpreecha, which was granted when the couple wed in 2001.

Over the past few weeks, at least seven of her relatives had been embroiled in a corruption probe allegedly involving millions of dollars and extortion, oil smuggling and other crimes.

Senior policemen as well as soldiers have been implicated, alongside tycoon Nopporn Suppipat, one of Thailand's wealthiest people according to Forbes.

The chief suspect of the probe is former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan, who is an uncle of the former princess.

He has also been accused of defaming the monarchy, an act which carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Public discussion about the monarchy and royal family is severely curtailed by lese majeste law.

tanhy@sph.com.sg