Earlier this week, Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn stripped his consort of all her titles, claiming that she had been disloyal and was essentially trying to take the place of the king. He had only appointed the consort, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, about three months ago. As consort, she was essentially another companion for the king, in addition to his wife. The practice of having an official consort, in addition to one’s wife, had not been in practice in Thailand in a century, since the era of Thailand’s absolute monarchy. In the absolute monarchy period, polygyny was common and monarchs often had many consorts, but that practice of having an official consort had not occurred since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.
The punishment of Sineenat is about more than her, however. For one, it further suggests that the king potentially desires the powers and privileges of the absolute monarchy period, and does not care if he flaunts them openly. Besides naming (and the removing) an official consort, he also reportedly has taken more personal control of the powerful Crown Property Bureau, defanged his Privy Council of advisors, taken personal control of several units of the Thai military, and intervened more openly in politics. For more on the ways in which Vajiralongkorn has consolidated power, and the dangerous implications, see my new World Politics Review article