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Thai protests take aim at unaccountable playboy king

THAI protests have moved from attacking military strongman Prayuth Chanocha to questioning the power of the monarchy itself – despite heavy penalties for any criticism of it.

At a thousands-strong protest at Thammasat University on Monday night a student read out a 1932 declaration that stripped the monarchy of absolute powers.

Others attacked King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s wealth and the fact he spends most of his time in Germany, where he owns a Bavarian lakeside retreat. 

The rally ended with student leader Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul reading out 10 demands for reforming the institution of the monarchy. They included that deaths of the king’s critics should be investigated; his personal wealth should be separated from that of the Crown Property Bureau; and that the monarchy should be forbidden from political interventions, including by endorsing military coups – as it did in 2014, when the junta headed by the current prime minister seized power from elected leader Yingluck Shinawatra.

In April it emerged that the 68-year-old was spending lockdown in the Grand Hotel at Sonnenbichl in the Alps with an entourage of 20 women, prompting anger in Thailand. A Tweet asking “Why do we need a king?” went viral. 

His restoration of an official chief concubine role last July, reviving a polygamous tradition abandoned since 1921, was also controversial, though “royal noble consort” Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi was stripped of all titles a few months later, accused of plotting against the queen. A previous wife was exiled and saw her parents thrown into jail after he fell out with her.

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