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Thailand’s King Becomes a Foreign Relations Challenge for Germany

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Thailand who are taking on their country’s powerful and secretive monarchy are turning to Germany for answers

10/27/2020 11:30:00 AM

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Thailand who are taking on their country’s powerful and secretive monarchy are turning to Germany for answers

Demonstrators marched to the German Embassy in Bangkok late Monday to ask Angela Merkel’s government to investigate their king, who spends stretches of time in Bavaria.

Thousands of demonstrators marched to the gates of the German Embassy in Bangkok late Monday to ask Angela Merkel’s government to investigate their king, who spends stretches of time in the southern German state of Bavaria.Among their requests, contained in a petition for German authorities: that Berlin disclose King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s travel and tax records in that country, probe his activities affecting political events back home and verify reports that he resides in luxury overseas while Thais face a coronavirus-induced economic crisis.

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Many young activists in Thailand’s new protest movement see the throne as a stumbling block to greater democracy. Protesters, who have mainly targeted the government of Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, have also turned attention to the crown. They have broken longstanding taboos in recent months to question the royal family’s lavish lifestyle, call for transparency in palace finances and seek curbs on the crown’s role in politics.

These are bold steps in a country with a strict lèse-majesté law under which perceived insults to the crown are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. King Vajiralongkorn is currently in Thailand, having returned a few weeks ago for a series of official ceremonies.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in response to a question at a news conference on Monday that Germany was closely monitoring both the protests in Thailand and the king’s activities during the time he spends in Germany. “If there are things that we consider to be illegal, then that will have immediate consequences,” said Mr. Maas.

“We have made clear that politics that concern the country of Thailand can’t be conducted from German soil,” he had said earlier in the month in response to questions from an opposition lawmaker in parliament.On Monday at the German Embassy in Bangkok, which was heavily guarded by police, some protesters unfurled a black banner that read “reform the monarchy.”

“The request is aimed to reinstate Vajiralongkorn to Thailand and institute the monarch to be under the constitution to bring Thailand back to the path of a true constitutional monarchy,” protesters said in a statement that was read aloud to a cheering crowd.

A spokeswoman for Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the king, as the head of state, “reigns but does not rule” and performs only ceremonial duties. He “does not involve himself in politics and the administration of the state, which are the responsibilities of the prime minister and the government,” she said.

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But protesters, and many political analysts and historians, say the monarchy is part of the royalist-military elite that controls levers of power. The military has mounted coups in the name of protecting the crown, which has endorsed such overthrows.The Thai palace might have faded after the 1932 revolution that ended absolute rule. But the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016, restored the throne’s prestige and power during his seven-decade reign, shaping modern Thai politics.

His son, King Vajiralongkorn, has moved to shore up his own influence since his succession. Legal amendments enacted in 2018 placed the palace’s vast fortune under his sole discretion. In 2019, he brought two army units under his direct authority by order of a royal decree. Opposition lawmakers who support the pro-democracy movement say discussion of the monarchy is forbidden in parliament and palace finances, a part of the national budget, are opaque.

Thailand is facing its worst economic downturn since the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, in large part because of measures to control the coronavirus pandemic that have battered its tourism-dependent economy. Widening inequality led some Thais to question whether their tax money is bankrolling the royal family’s lavish European retreats, opening the door to more questions about the legality of the king’s absentee leadership. The palace hasn’t commented on the protests.

On Oct. 14, a day now seen as a turning point for the demonstrations, the Thai government declared a state of emergency in Bangkok after a group of protesters jeered at a limousine transporting the queen. Three activists were subsequently charged with intending to harm the queen, an archaic provision that can carry penalties of up to life in prison. The government lifted the state of emergency on Thursday in an effort to defuse protests.

King Vajiralongkorn’s life is shrouded in secrecy. In the years leading up to succession, diplomats expressed concerns about the crown prince. U.S. Embassy cables published on WikiLeaks cited prominent Thai politicians making negative remarks about him. According to one leaked cable, he promoted his late pet poodle to the rank of air chief marshal. Another made reference to his preference for residing in Germany.

German media have published photos of his excursions from time to time, such as one by tabloid Bild published in April of the king waiting for a gondola to visit the mountain Zugspitze in a belly-free top. They have also reported on the sojourns in Bavaria, where he owns a villa in the small town of Tutzing, on Starnberg lake southwest of Munich, according to Andreas Botas, a real-estate agent for luxury villas in the region who said he saw the king during a visit of a property in 2016.

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In March, representatives of The Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl contacted the district administration of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to ask if they could lodge the king as a long-term resident, circumventing a ban in Bavaria on touristic lodgings in hotels during the pandemic, a spokesman for the administration, Wolfgang Rotzsche, said. The administration didn’t oppose it.

“We received a lot of scorn for it,” said Mr. Rotzsche. The district administrator got 50 or 60 emails, letters and calls from people critical of the king’s stay, said the spokesman. Most of the complaints, he said, came from people outside Bavaria.Write to Feliz Solomon at feliz.solomon@wsj.com and Ruth Bender at Ruth.Bender@wsj.com

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I believe Germany will handle this issue appropriately. By the way, Thai royalists group has accused that US goverment is behind the pro-democracy protesters. This morning a handful of this group rallied to US embassy in Bangkok to protest against the US. Sorry for the headache🥴 Royalty is passé. Irrelevant.

The West's cesspools of decadence should mind their own business. ZanzibarLivesMatter Have a look on what is going on in Zanzibar election. The Island is the largest beach/food tourist destination in Africa. Magufuli is Invading Zanzibar. ZanzibarIsBleeding Pro-democracy demonstrators are turning to Socialist Germany for help? That's like the mouse turning to the cat for help to find cheese.

this is terrible news

German government warns Thai king not to conduct politics from GermanyGermany is continuing to look into the behaviour of Thailand's king, who tends to spend long stretches of time in Bavaria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, as opposition protests in Thailand gain speed. 'We are monitoring this long-term,' Maas said. In Bangkok, protesters planned to march to the German embassy on Monday to present a petition to Berlin to investigate the king's use of his powers while in the European nation.

German government warns Thai king not to conduct politics from GermanyGermany is continuing to look into the behaviour of Thailand's king, who tends to spend long stretches of time in Bavaria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, as opposition protests in Thailand gain speed. Lol he’s doing his king work in another country, come on tho lots of people work on vacation NIUlive or from campuses. Right!!!! It’s not fair.

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German government warns Thai king not to conduct politics from GermanyGermany is continuing to look into the behaviour of Thailand's king, who tends to spend long stretches of time in Bavaria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, as opposition protests in Thailand gain speed. 'We are monitoring this long-term,' Maas said. In Bangkok, protesters planned to march to the German embassy on Monday to present a petition to Berlin to investigate the king's use of his powers while in the European nation.

Thai protesters say they will petition Germany over kingThai demonstrators said on Sunday they would petition Germany to investigate King Maha Vajiralongkorn's use of his powers while he has been staying in the European country, as thousands of people again took to the streets of Bangkok. Germany ?! Lots of luck with that! It's a messed up system. The king lives most of the year in opulent accommodations in Germany spending his country's money. Yet you're not even allowed to criticize him back home? So f$ked up

German government warns Thai king not to conduct politics from GermanyGermany is continuing to look into the behaviour of Thailand's king, who tends to spend long stretches of time in Bavaria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, as opposition protests in Thailand gain speed. Lol he’s doing his king work in another country, come on tho lots of people work on vacation NIUlive or from campuses. Right!!!! It’s not fair.