I have always been fascinated by the history of my home country, Thailand. From the grand temples that dot the landscape, to the delicious street food that pairs perfectly with a cold beer, there are countless beautiful aspects of my culture that I love to share with my readers on my blog. However, today I want to dive into a topic that is a bit darker: the scandalous past of Thailand's royalty.
For many around the world, Thailand's royal family is seen as a symbol of tradition and stability. Their lavish lifestyles and impressive palaces are only part of the picture, however. Throughout history, the royal family has been plagued by scandal and controversy, ranging from corruption to affairs and even murder. As someone who cares deeply about our country's history and culture, it is important to acknowledge and discuss these uncomfortable truths.
In this article, I want to tell the story of some of the most infamous scandals that have rocked Thailand's royal family. We will explore the cultural and historical context that led to these events, and take a closer look at the lives of some of the most controversial members of the monarchy. I hope that by sharing this history, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and challenges faced by those in positions of power, and continue to learn and grow as a society.
Siamese Dynasties: A Blood-Stained History
The history of the Thai royal family is a saga that has played out over the centuries. The country has seen several dynasties befall, each with their scandals and controversies. The present-day Chakri dynasty, which came to power in 1782, is no exception.
One of the most scandalous periods in the dynasty's history is perhaps the reign of King Mongkut, known to the western world as King Rama IV. He was the father of Anna Leonowens, the governess who immortalized him in the popular novel, “The King and I.” King Mongkut had a rather infamous reputation as a pleasure-seeking ruler who kept a vast harem of concubines and fathered many illegitimate children.
During his era, gambling and opium were rampant in Thailand, and the royal palace witnessed wild parties involving opulent feasts and performance by court ensembles. Even though he's often hailed as a modernizer, he was fiercely conservative about his royal prerogatives and upheld his absolute power, even to the detriment of the people.
Rama V & Queen Savang Vadhana's Forbidden Romance
King Chulalongkorn, also known as Rama V, was probably one of the most significant monarchs in Thai history. He was a visionary who actively initiated reforms and modernization measures in the country. He abolished slavery, introduced the country's first postal service, and established the modern legal and education system.
However, his personal life was no less dramatic than his political career. It's said that he fell in love with his half-sister, Princess Savang Vadhana, and carried out a secret relationship with her for almost 30 years. The couple had nine children together, but their romance remained a taboo in Thai society, where incest was explicitly prohibited.
It's believed that the British kept the Queen's memoirs locked away in their archives, concerned that their publication would offend the Thai royal family. It was only in recent years that these diaries came to light, shedding light on the scandalous affair.
Opium Wars and King Rama VII's Downfall
Perhaps the most tumultuous and tragic period in Thai history was when King Rama VII was forced to abdicate and flee the country. He ascended the throne during a period when Thailand was a constitutional monarchy, but he ruled with an iron fist and suppressed all dissenting voices.
The King was also a drug addict and was known for his passionate love for opium. He became embroiled in a secret war with European opium smugglers, whom he accused of interfering with his opium trade monopoly.
Amidst all this chaos, the King's erratic behavior scared away foreign investors, and Thailand's economy tanked. The depression hit hard, and the people turned against the King, who they saw as responsible for the country's woes. The Revolution of 1932, led by a group of young civil servants and military officers rooted out the monarchy and established a constitutional democracy.
Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn's Personal Scandals
The recent years of Thailand's history have been no less tumultuous. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has faced intense media scrutiny, with reports of his lavish lifestyle and personal scandals dominating headlines.
The Crown Prince has been notorious for his multiple marriages and relationships with mistresses. His third marriage to Srirasmi Suwadee, a former waitress, was a subject of intense public scrutiny, with the prince demanding that her family be stripped of their royal titles.
Even after he ascended the throne as King Rama X, his profligate ways continued to invite criticism. He's often seen wearing tailored crop tops and sporting elaborate tattoos, a departure from traditional royal attire.
The Mysterious Death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Brother
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who ruled Thailand for over seven decades, and was revered as a deity-like figure by many Thais. However, his family's history has been marred by tragedy and controversy.
One of the most significant controversies was the death of his younger brother, King Ananda Mahidol, in 1946. King Ananda was a mere 20 years old when he was found shot dead in his bedroom, under circumstances that remain a mystery to this day. Some theories suggest it was an assassination, while others that it was a tragic accident.
The tragedy was compounded by a conspiracy of silence, with both the Thai and British governments suppressing any information about the incident. To this day, the Thai monarchy has continued to evade questions about the young King's death.
Spectacular Extravagance of Crown Prince Maha's Third Wife
Perhaps one of the most extravagant and outrageous scandals in recent history was the spectacle surrounding Crown Princess Srirasmi Suwadee. The commoner waitress, who married into the royal family, soon became a subject of fierce criticism, with accusations of corruption and scandalous behavior.
The Crown Prince's third wife was often pictured with designer bags and jewelry that were reportedly worth millions of dollars. Apart from her opulent lifestyle, her open display of affection and general disregard for tradition and protocol infuriated the Thai aristocracy.
Her fall from grace was swift and spectacular. In 2014, the military junta staged a coup in Thailand, and the Crown Prince's wife was forced to denounce her royal titles and leave the palace.
Rama X & Consort Sineenat's Fall from Grace
King Rama X's reign has been no less turbulent than his predecessor's. The present-day king, who ascended the throne in 2016, has been embroiled in numerous scandals, with various relatives being purged from the royal court.
One of the most dramatic episodes was the sudden rise and fall of his royal consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi. The consort was subject to intense media scrutiny after her appointment, with reports of her getting a military rank and being given substantial powers over the monarchy's finances and assets.
However, her fall from grace was equally swift. She was accused of trying to usurp the Queen's position and was stripped of all titles. The palace issued a statement calling her “ungrateful” and accused her of “disloyalty” to the King.
These scandals and controversies have been a part of Thailand's royal history for centuries. While the monarchy has managed to survive multiple challenges and upheavals, the scandals have left an indelible mark on the country's psyche. They serve as a reminder of the frailty of power and the vulnerability of even the most illustrious of institutions.