HAMBURG, Germany – King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s inexplicable preference for living in the southwestern German state of Bavaria is testing Berlin’s longstanding hands-off approach to his near-constant presence, particularly as anti-monarchy sentiment increasingly dominates pro-democracy protests in Thailand.
Thousands of young protesters descended on the German embassy in Bangkok on October 26 and sent a letter personally to Georg Schmidt, the German ambassador, requesting an investigation. Among other things, they wanted to find out whether the king was running Thai state affairs on German soil, which would violate German law, and whether he was responsible for inheritance duties in Germany following his father’s death in October 2016.
Although the monarch has been a hot topic among members of the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, a German official told Nikkei Asia that a student petition from Bangkok alone would not be enough to spark a parliamentary inquiry or debate – a development that is sure to continue. stressful relations between the two countries.
Thai protesters alleged that members of the monarch’s security detail in Germany may be involved in removing criticism of the monarchs living in exile in Laos and Cambodia. There were also questions about whether members of his Bavarian harem were being held there against their will.
The German government has said they have no concrete evidence of any wrongdoing.
In late October, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the authorities would “permanently review the incident and act immediately if anything we deemed to be illegal was found.” Maas’ use of the word “treiben” for events above the brow because of its negative connotations and sexual innuendo.
Sevim Dagdelen, deputy leader of the Left party, is one of King Vajiralongkorn’s strongest critics in the Bundestag. He told the Nikkei that the German government should stop accommodating the Thai head of state.
Dagdelen represents his party on the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, and in that capacity asked parliamentary researchers to see the validity of this unprecedented situation. A report was finalized on November 18, confirming that the king had stayed in Germany on a personal visa – not a visa for state guests. That puts the problem in a legal gray area.
The researchers concluded that the actions signaled by Maas, including surveillance and administrative fines, would violate international law. The head of state symbolizes the dignity of a country, they say, and therefore enjoys diplomatic immunity – even when traveling on a personal visa.
King Vajiralongkorn has returned to Thailand since early October and is expected to remain there until the end of December. The researchers concluded that serving him with a re-entry ban would amount to the de facto confiscation of his Bavarian villa. Thus, it would be “questioned in humanitarian considerations”.
Regarding the prohibition of running Thai state affairs on German soil, the researchers concluded that the German government could choose to tie up the issuance of a monarch visa on the explicit requirement that he appoint a regent in Thailand to act in his place whenever he is not there. German.
The solution is very unlikely to attract King Vajiralongkorn, whose district part of the constitution was changed after his accession. The changes were controversially branded by the military-appointed legislative assembly after Thailand’s 20th constitution was approved by a national referendum in 2016. The revised constitution only received the necessary royal approval – the king’s signature – in 2017. The changes led to the appointment of regents while he was in office. abroad as an option for the king – and no longer a constitutional requirement.
“The Bundestag research service does not have detailed knowledge of what the Thai monarch is doing in Bavaria,” the research report said. “What is important in this context is the fact that the Thai constitution dated April 6, 2017, was ‘passed down’ … the king’s obligation to assign regents while living abroad is an unnecessary provision,” he said.
Dagdelen of the Left party argues that the lack of a guardian means no doubt the king is handling Thai state affairs from German soil, and that has serious implications given the current Thai political turmoil.
“If the Thai king along with the military junta brutally crush the pro-democracy movement, he should not be granted a visa by the government for a luxurious long-term stay in Germany,” Dagdelen told Nikkei.
He also argued that Berlin should use its influence in Brussels to maintain the ice negotiations between the EU and Thailand for a free trade agreement. Negotiations were postponed in 2014 after the military took control of the country, but in late October both sides confirmed readiness to resume talks soon.
The Thai monarch has drawn considerable adverse publicity in Germany for maintaining a harem in the 21st century, reportedly violating local COVID-19 regulations, possible inheritance tax evasion and touch-and-go maneuvers on his private jet at the small Hamburg airport.
Opposition MPs in Green vegetable and the Left party is lobbying for the monarch’s visa to be reviewed for alleged violations of German visa regulations, and any role he may play in crushing political dissent in his kingdom.
However, lawmakers in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union remain more comfortable with the longstanding hands-off approach.
“I don’t understand why the issuance of a visa for the Thai monarch should be linked to Thailand’s internal affairs, and I think the foreign ministry has taken a risk,” said Mark Hauptmann, a lawmaker from the ruling Christian Democratic Union. as ‘the hand of Asia,’ says the Nikkei.
“The foreign ministry must remain humble about this issue,” said Hauptmann.