King of Thailand strips consort of titles after alleged power grab

Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi
Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi is a trained pilot and nurse. Photo credit: Thai Royal Office

The king of Thailand has stripped his consort of all titles after claims she tried to make herself equivalent to the queen.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn gifted the title of consort to Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, 34, on his 67th birthday in July. 

It was the first time in nearly a century that a Thai monarch had taken a consort, and came just two months after the king married his fourth wife, long-term partner Queen Suthida. 

Wongvajirapakdi (known by her nickname 'Koi') enjoyed an unprecedented level of publicity both before and after being made consort, with the Thai palace releasing photos of the major-general and trained nurse flying a jet and shooting weapons. The palace also published official images of her holding the king's hand. 

It was unusual behaviour from the monarchy, which operates in almost complete secrecy thanks to the country's strong defamation laws which prohibit open discussion of the royal family. 

But all that came crashing down on Monday when Wongvajirapakdi's dismissal from the position was broadcast on national television. The palace said she had been stripped of her titles for "disloyalty to the king" as well as "acting against the appointment of Queen [Suthida] ...for her own ambitions".

Wongvajirapakdi is said to have "shown resistance and pressure in every manner to stop the appointment of the queen" before the coronation in May, and tried to elevate her own position as consort to the same as that of Queen Suthida. 

The king awarded her the position in an attempt to "relieve the pressure", the palace statement said.

"She does not give any honour to the king and does not understand royal tradition... her actions are to benefit herself."

The palace has deemed her behaviour "disrespectful" to the king, causing divisions among Thai courtiers and misunderstanding among citizens.

Because of the kingdom's strict restrictions on reporting about the monarchy, this statement is likely to be the only public communication about why Wongvajirapakdi was removed.

In 1996 King Vajiralongkorn denounced his second wife and disowned the four sons he had with her. In 2014 his third wife was stripped of all her titles and banished from his court.