Asia Pacific

Thailand's king appoints consort as queen ahead of his official coronation

AP, Reuters

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has appointed his consort as the country’s queen ahead of his official coronation on Saturday.

An announcement Wednesday in the Royal Gazette said Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya is now legally married to the 66-year-old king and is now Queen Suthida.

Although she has been in the public eye for about three years, there has been little official information released about her and the news was a surprise to many Thais. She is reported to be 40 years old and to have previously worked as a flight attendant for Thai Airways International. The two reportedly met on a flight.

Suthida joined the palace guard in 2013 and became commander of the king’s security unit. She currently holds the rank of general. The new queen also has several top royal decorations.

Some royal observers and foreign media had linked Suthida romantically with the king, but the palace had never previously acknowledged a relationship between them.

Among the dignitaries at the marriage ceremony were Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the military junta that has run Thailand since a 2014 army coup, as well as other members of the royal family and palace advisers, according to footage that has been released.

Vajiralongkorn has had three previous marriages and divorced his previous wife, with whom he has a son, in 2014. He became king after the death in October 2016 of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thai television, which broadcast the royal order Wednesday evening, showed a video of Suthida prostrating herself before the king. According to the announcer, she presented the king with a tray of flowers and joss sticks, and in return was bestowed traditional gifts associated with royal power.

TV reports also showed the king in a white uniform and his bride in a pink silk traditional dress formally registering their marriage on Wednesday at his palace residence in Bangkok. The couple was seen signing a marriage certificate book, which was also signed by the king’s sister, Princess Sirindhorn, and Privy Council head Prem Tinsulanonda as witnesses.