Unlike his father — the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned from 1946 until his death in 2016 — Vajiralongkorn cuts a controversial figure. Since taking the throne, he has assumed greater powers for the monarchy, been far more engaged in politics, and has struggled to connect with ordinary Thais.
Photos of him scantily clad and surrounded by his vast harem of women have spread on social media, and many of the photos were taken of him while in Germany.
'Things are pretty much the same'
"Thais are frustrated but the king doesn't care. Things are pretty much the same now as before the protests," said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at Kyoto University's Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
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"He simply rather stays in Germany; that's his personal liking," Pavin explained. "He can still travel as much as he wishes, and he has been in and out of Germany. Sometimes, he has just done a one-day visit to Bangkok and then returned to Germany."
King Vajiralongkorn was spotted back in Germany last November after a 13-month stint away from the country following the warning by the German foreign ministry. And yet, there are fresh controversies around the Thai monarch. "The German media has continued to hunt him down, reporting regularly on his activities in Germany," said Pavin.
Just this week, German media outlets reported on King Vajiralongkorn purchasing a new luxury $375 million aircraft, and Germany will reportedly be the destination for the maiden flight. Late last year, German tabloid Bild speculated that the king has sent many of his most prized and valuable possessions to Germany for safekeeping.
German Foreign Minister Baerbock, who took office last December, has echoed her predecessor by stating that Berlin expected the monarch not to conduct affairs relating to Thailand while in Germany.
'No decisions will be made on German soil'