The eccentric billionaire King of Thailand has a number of problems on his gilded plate right now.
The German government has expressed concern that he is illegally governing his country from a hotel in the Bavarian Alps, where he has spent much of the year living accompanied by a retinue of 20 women. Demonstrations at home demanding democratic reforms of the country and his power are gathering intensity.
And now his mistress has been targeted by an apparent nude photo leak.
Some 1,400 selfies, many of them sexually explicit, have allegedly been stolen from Sineenat ‘Koi’ Wongvajirapakdi, 35, and sent to anti-monarchy activists, in what appears to be a very modern twist on the age-old rituals of court rivalry and intrigue.
Koi was released from detention earlier this year after spending ten months at a correctional facility. She had been accused of feuding with the queen, but has now been declared “untainted” and restored to her role as 68-year old King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s official consort.
The alleged nude photos were sent earlier this year to the prominent British commentator on Thai affairs, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, and to Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic who lives in Japan and who faces criminal prosecution in Thailand for his criticism of the monarchy.
Marshall told The Daily Beast that he had only decided to publicly disclose that he had been sent the photos because Chachavalpongpun had done so. Chachavalpongpun has released several of the non-explicit images.
Marshall told The Daily Beast that in August—around the time Koi was being welcomed back into the royal household—he received a letter, sent to an address where he no longer lives, containing an SD card. The letter had what he assumes to be “a fake return address” which corresponded with the HQ of the German intelligence services in Berlin.
“There were 1400 photographs from four different iPhones. Some of them were very intimate photos.
“I made the decision not to publish them. They had obviously been sent to me without her consent, but also I just saw this is as a factional palace game.
“Earlier in August my house in Scotland was surveilled and a threat was left on the doorstep so it was quite a worrying time and the last thing I wanted was to get dragged into palace politics.”
When Chachavalpongpun released some of the pictures, and described the content of others, arguing that he was doing so to expose the falsity of the image the Thai royal family seeks to projects, Marshall felt it was appropriate to back him up and say that he had received them as well.
“From the timing of the whole thing it was clearly an attempt to sabotage her return to court,” Marshall said.
“In any royal court you get factional fighting. It is a notorious element of palace life. When you are a monarch with a wife and queen and you appoint consort, it is a recipe for vicious infighting.”
Marshall notes that this is not the first time that compromising photos of the Thai royals have appeared online, “There is an eye-popping amount of naked Thai royal flesh out there online,” he said.
The king divorced his third wife in 2014 after a video emerged showing them feeding birthday cake to his poodle, Fufu, while she wore only a G-string and courtiers crawled on the floor before them.
The existence of the photos will not be reported by local mainstream media in Thailand due to strict prohibitions, but news of them is trickling back into the country via social media, in particular Facebook.
Thailand earlier this year sought to get Facebook to remove a group critical of the monarchy that had more than a million members, but failed in the attempt.
Thailand is battling a deep recession brought about by COVID-19 and the collapse of the pivotal tourist trade.
Opponents of the royal family have been emboldened in recent months as rallies by student protesters against the establishment have seen their numbers swelling.
Demonstrators have recently taken to protesting by wearing crop tops exposing their midriff to mock the king, who has been photographed wearing similar garb at airports and in German shopping centres.
The protests have been inflamed by reports of the king’s vast wealth, estimated by London’s Financial Times at between $30 billion and $ 40 billion, after sovereign funds were effectively put under his direct control by the leaders of a successful 2014 coup.
He is believed to be the world’s richest king.
As The Daily Beast recently reported, Vajiralongkorn is also alleged to have built up an extraordinary fleet of 38 jets and helicopters for the exclusive use of the Thai royal family.
Accounts of his gilded life at the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in Garmish-Partenkirchen, where his retinue of 20 concubines who have all been given the same honorary surname, have also damaged his domestic and international reputation.
Cables written by Eric John when he was U.S. ambassador to Bangkok, which were published by Wikileaks, detail the king’s strange behavior. The cables said he adored his pet dog, Fufu, and gave him the title air chief marshal. He is said to have brought the dog to an official dinner “dressed in formal evening attire complete with paw mitts” where he drank from guests’ water glasses.