Reports of the king’s activities have moved from the gossip section to the front pages of more serious newspapers in Germany
There are growing calls to investigate the political activities the Thai monarch is conducting from his home in the Bavarian Alps
Thailand’s capital of Bangkok is more than 8,800km away from the scenic Bavarian lake region where
quietly took up residence as crown prince over a decade ago.
The 68-year-old’s improbable choice for a life shrouded in secrecy in
was long just a staple of reports that appeared in the curiosity sections of tabloid newspapers and on lifestyle TV programmes here. Those occasional reports of an eccentric monarch were nourished by at-time bizarre public sightings – such as wearing a tightfitting crop top over a bare torso on a shopping excursion and otherwise behaving strangely.
The scion of one of the world’s most privileged and wealthiest royal families, the king also reportedly spends time at a luxury Alpine hotel in the Bavarian ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen that he rents out entirely for his entourage.
in Thailand along with demands for a new constitution and limits on the monarchy, the king’s decision to spend most of his time in Germany – since 2016 when he ascended the throne upon his father’s death – has become a major political issue in both countries.
The king is now back in Bangkok with his family but reports on him and his activities have moved out of the gossip section and onto the front pages of more serious mainstream newspapers in Germany.
A recent report in the Oberbayerisches Volksblatt noted that “monarchy critics in Germany have sent a petition to Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas asking them to declare the Thai king ‘persona non grata’”, and that 150,000 had signed the petition.
“His majesty has preferred his own personal comfort instead of focusing on the matters of his kingdom,” the article said.
The national ARD Tagesschau news programme reported on its website in July: “Thailand’s king prefers to party in Bavaria – it’s Maha Vajiralongkorn’s birthday but he prefers to spend his time in a luxury Bavarian hotel instead of with his compatriots. They’re speaking badly of him now more and more.”
The Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung published a story last month under the headline: “The secretive lifestyle of the Thai king in a Garmisch luxury hotel.”
King Vajiralongkorn’s actions, in particular his direct intervention in Thai politics while living in Germany, have also drawn sharp recent criticism from the German parliament and a pledge by the government to investigate. The king had vetoed a bid by his sister
, a former princess, from running for office in last year’s elections – the first since a military coup in 2014.
Frithjof Schmidt, a member of parliament for the opposition Greens party said the king’s political interventions were “incompatible with his residency status in Germany”.
“Conducting official state affairs in Thailand while living in Germany is not permissible,” he told
Schmidt, a member of parliament’s foreign policy committee and an expert on Southeast Asian issues, raised his complaints to Maas, the foreign minister, in a memorable encounter in parliament last week.
He said that it was all fine and good that the Thai king was a resident of Germany, owning a villa in the town of Tutzing overlooking the picturesque Starnberg Lake. But he nevertheless wanted to know: “Why has the German government been tolerating, for many months, this extremely unusual and, in my opinion, illegal behaviour in Germany by a foreign head of state?”
Maas pledged to investigate and said the German government was already fully “aware of the many bizarre reports about what is happening there” in Bavaria with the Thai king.
Schmidt, who also called upon the German government and the European Union to suspend talks with Thailand on a
that were restarted in 2019 because of the king’s behaviour, said he was planning to continue pursuing the issue with gusto next week with Maas and the government, when parliament returned for its next session.
“The comments from Foreign Minister Maas were an important first step but that needs to be followed up with further actions,” said Schmidt, adding that his goal in bringing up the matter was to “stand up for our values and support democracy”.
Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a noted Thai monarchy critic who has been accused by the government of violating the country’s strict lèse-majesté laws, said rising pressure from the media and parliament in Germany was making the king’s position there “increasingly untenable”.
“I think it will become increasingly embarrassing for the king to be living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen as it’s becoming such a diplomatic issue,” said Marshall, a former Bangkok-based correspondent.
As media attention grows, the king’s days of living blissfully in semi-obscurity in Germany would soon also become a thing of the past, he added.
“He always liked to go cycling or shopping in odd clothes,” Marshall said. “Now that he’s become a fixture in the media, he can’t just do that any more without being noticed.”