Thai royal consort given duties just before dismissal

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn with former royal noble consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi. Shortly before her dismissal this week, Ms Sineenat was given the task of leading his volunteer programme. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn with former royal noble consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi. Shortly before her dismissal this week, Ms Sineenat was given the task of leading his volunteer programme. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK • The Thai royal consort who was stripped of her titles this week was put in charge of the King's volunteer corps and an upcoming festival shortly before her dismissal.

Ms Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, 34, was stripped of her titles by King Maha Vajiralongkorn for being disloyal to the monarch and attempting to sabotage the appointment of Queen Suthida in May.

Before her dismissal, Ms Sineenat held the rank of Major-General in the king's royal bodyguard unit where Queen Suthida was the deputy chief.

Earlier this month, she was given the task of leading the King's volunteer programme.

Founded in 2017, the programme mobilises volunteers to do civic work such as cleaning canals, scrubbing pavements and planting mangroves. The volunteers are also deployed as ushers at big public events.

According to a report by newswire agency Agence France-Presse, there are at least five million of these volunteers in Thailand.

Ms Sineenat was also tapped as the lead adviser of a winter festival, Un Ai Rak. The year-end event featuring cultural performances and stalls run by people wearing traditional Thai outfits, is held every year near the Bangkok palace.

On Thai social media, #SaveKoi was one of the top trending hashtags yesterday.

Ms Sineenat's whereabouts are unknown.

But given Thailand's harsh lese majeste law, social media users tended to limit themselves to coded statements online.

Self-censorship on matters relating to the monarchy is common in Thailand as someone who insults or defames the king, queen, heir apparent or regent can be jailed for up to 15 years on each count.

The King, 67, ascended the throne in 2016 after the 70-year reign of his revered father Bhumibol Adulyadej. His coronation, however, took place only in May.

 
 
 

The final part of this coronation ceremony, involving a convoy of royal barges being rowed down the Chao Phraya River, was postponed last week from tomorrow to Dec 12.

The King has consolidated power since taking the throne, most recently by taking personal control of two army units.

An analyst who declined to be named said his action on Ms Sineenat confirms his leadership style: "He is in control, and no one shall take advantage of his generosity."

Ms Sineenat was born Niramon Ounprom in the northern province of Nan. Her nickname is Koi, which means little finger.

She graduated from the Royal Thai Army Nursing College and worked as a nurse from 2008 to 2012. After that, she joined the Royal Household Bureau, working in the palace's handicraft store.

She has undergone military training and is also a qualified pilot.

In July, she was appointed Royal Noble Consort. In August, the palace released her official biography and a series of candid photos, including one of her wearing a crop top and another of her holding the King's hand. The photos caused a stir, and Thailand's palace website to crash.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2019, with the headline 'Thai royal consort given duties just before dismissal'. Print Edition | Subscribe