[THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST POSTED on Facebook May 21, 2017.] Last week two stories went viral: One about Pai Daodin being honored at ceremonies in South Korea for winning the 2017 Gwangju Human Rights Award while he himself sits in jail in Thailand for sharing a news article on Facebook; and another news story about the Thai junta trying to shut down all of Thai Facebook to prevent people from seeing a video of the Thai King in a German shopping mall, bizarrely attired in fake tattoos and a yellow crop top. Andrew MacGregor Marshall collected and posted versions of the crop-top news story from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Slovakia, and Taiwan. These two viral news stories culminated in many important news sources such as The Economist and The Bangkok Post pairing the two subjects in exactly the way I have been trying to do in my “King and Pai” series. (Note: In the many news articles, Pai Daodin will be referred to by his real name, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa.)
When I see The Economist and The Bangkok Post, writing a “King and Pai” story, saying everything I want to say, but bigger and better, I celebrate and feel great relief. Before this all snowballed, I was shouting to the world about it. I am happy that I may have played some small part in getting this snowball rolling and keeping it rolling. Many people worked towards this day, and I feel really, really good that the story has finally become the riveting, worldwide news I knew it could be. The absurdity of Thailand’s lese majesty law has never been clearer.
I will add one just one important point that has been missing from all the wonderful news and commentary I have seen since this blew up.*
My point is that the “Thai King in a bizzare crop top” story is not an just about a celebrity’s strange fashion choice. It is not that innocent. The behavior seen the video is part of a pattern of exhibitionist behavior in which the Vajiralongkorn and/or his mistress appear in pubic scandalously underdressed, as if on a dare. It is also about domination: Vajiralongkorn’s domination of servants, bodyguards, and others forced to participate. And he is also bullying his subjects. He is daring Thai citizens not to laugh, which they will. . . . And statistically speaking, SOMEONE will go to jail for 3 to 15 years, for each self-centered exhibitionist stunt King Vajiralongkorn performs.
The creepiness of the behavior is evident even from a close look at just the one viral video. But in fact there have SEVEN recent cases of exhibitionist behavior over the past year — and one older case — which together paint a deeply disturbing picture of Thailand’s new King.
First, note a few things about the notorious “yellow-crop top and tattoos in the German shopping mall” video. 1) The king and his mistress behave very self-consciously, not casually, as if they have dared each other to go out like this. 2) At one point the king pulls his mistress’s hand over his butt-crack and she places her hand either over his butt crack or maybe slightly down the back of his pants. 3) At least 3 body guards are following close behind the pair, and the body guards are dressed very formally. They are wearing black suits with white collars. This is not a casual outing. The formality of the bodyguards’ attire makes the king’s underdress more shocking. 4) Vajiralongkorn’s bodyguards can be identified by the severe hair styles he requires of all his male staff; the sides of their heads are closely shaved with only a shadow of hair on the top. His mistress also has severely short hair. This is a requirement for all his girlfriends and female staff.
Now let’s look at the six very similar recent cases:
1) Still pictures went viral of then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and a mistress getting on a plane in Germany wearing full body tattoos, crop tops, and low hanging jeans that threaten to reveal the butt crack. Again, everyone else in the picture is dressed formally and one guard is valiantly trying not to laugh. The tattoos in the yellow crop top video are different from this one which shows a white crop top. This incident happened while the Prince’s father, King Bhumibol, lay on his deathbed.
2) Soon after King Bhumibol died, the junta tried to suppress a set of photos in which one of Vajiralongkorn’s mistresses appears out the street at night out showing her respects to a statue of a former Thai king while wearing nothing but black sports underwear. She is surrounded by Vajiralongkorn’s bodyguards. Again, it looks like a game of truth or dare. The scandalousness of the incident is heightened by the fact that all of Thailand was supposed to be in mourning for the late King Bhumibol at that time. Meanwhile Vajiralongkorn himself is playing games, seemingly unconcerned with mourning his father OR his with his own future role as king.
3) German paparazzi got pictures of King Vajiralongkorn in Germany on a bike ride with his mistress on what looks to be a wet chilly day. He is wearing what looks like a cold-weather biking outfit—with no pants—and what looks like a men’s speedo bathing suit. You can see skin between his jacket and the tiny bikini bottoms. His mistress is similarly dressed. Servants are with him, this time dressed in athletic gear, but they are kneeling on the ground serving him something on a tray. They must kneel out in public, in the grass, even outside of Thailand, on a biking trip!
4) In the weirdest pictures yet, Germany tabloids published pictures of King Vajiralongorn in a German store shopping wearing yet another crop top, but this one looks smaller, more like a sports bra (see banner at the top of this page). And again there are the low-slung jeans, but with less tattoos than usual. His mistress is wearing a similar outfit, showing her midriff. The bodyguards, dressed formally, follow behind carrying the shopping basket/cart. Some foreign viewers had expressed admiration for the King’s style in earlier pictures, saying his tattooed look was “bad ass,” but these pictures give a different impression. In previous crop-top images, Vajiralongkorn got credit for having a relatively flat abdomen at age 64. In this picture, he is beginning to look a little saggy, adding to the mystery of why he would want to go out showing so much skin. These latest pictures cause many foreign viewers to suggest that the Thai king may be transitioning or gay (I don’t think he is either.)
5) There is a very solid rumor (but no pictures) of a naked skydiving incident. Specifically in the middle of the night, the King and a mistress got on a plane, she jumped naked while he jumped dressed. Vajiralongkorn does everything with a crowd of personal assistants, so there is no way this was just a private matter that unexpectedly became public.
6) Just last week, pictures came out of the King and a mistress totally naked and either having sex or in sexual foreplay (depending on how you want to define your terms). The king had pinned these pictures to a bulletin board in the palace. Predictably someone took a picture of the pictures and uploaded them to the internet. Why would the King post pictures of himself having sex where his staff could see them?
All these incidents took place over the past year, but for important context we also have to mention the famous naked birthday party with a poodle video starring his now ex-wife Srirasmi. (This is the ex-Princes Srirasmi who has now mysteriously disappeared; we have heard that she was murdered after her divorce from the King three years ago, and have been demanding proof that she is still alive.) But while she was still married to Varjiralongkorn, she appeared in a scandalous video that went viral. In the video, the then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is dressed normally and servants are dressed normally, but Srirasmi is for all practical purposes completely naked with just a string bikini bottom. The fact that everyone else in the video, including Vajiralongkorn, is totally dressed makes her nakedness more shocking. In addition, Vajiralongkorn has her perform a degrading act: she gets down and eats cake off a plate on the ground with the dog.
Off the top of my head, I can estimate that 8 specific people went to jail at least in part for sharing content mentioned above.** Others had to literally flee the country and can never return. Three exiles who shared this content were blacklisted by the junta; anyone even following them on facebook may be committing a crime. AND on Tuesday, May 16, the junta government literally threatened to shut down all of Thai Facebook to stop the sharing of the viral videos about the King.
So when the King or his mistress go wandering around in public half-dressed, it is an exhibitionist stunt. He knows it will cause a giant scandal. He knows that staff at Thailand’s Ministry of Truth will soon be working overtime, denying the scandal, censoring the internet, threatening those inside and outside of Thailand, throwing people in jail, taking down websites, and looking for a way to SHUT DOWN ALL OF FACEBOOK (in Thailand) in a futile attempt to suppress pictures of their badly behaving King.
Vajiralongkorn is said to be cruel and even sadistic. Therefore, when you see his wife or his mistresses perform degrading acts and joining him in bizarre games, and it is impossible to know if his partner is fully consenting or being coerced (which is why I haven’t posted all the pictures here).
So while I blame no one who laughs at these images (I have laughed myself), be aware that the reality is more sinister than first appears.
Next week I will summarize an equally serious recent scandal involving the new King—the disappearance of a historical plaque marking the end of absolute monarchy.**
*Obviously people have been making these points as the information was gathered. Special thanks to Andrew MacGregor Marshall for continual info gathering and commentary and to Christine Grey for ideas from her essay “Risk, Gossip, and Retribution in Thailand.”
**NOTE: A set of people recently went to jail for sharing content of Somsak Jeamteerasukul, who was posting both about the historical plaque and the type of incidents mentioned above.