BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s crown prince has divorced his wife, in a dramatic fall from grace for a senior princess at a time of heightened anxiety over the health of the country’s revered but ailing monarch.
A statement published by the palace in the early hours of Saturday in the Royal Gazette said Princess Srirasmi had relinquished her royal status, a move that ends her 13-year marriage to Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The rare public airing of palace intrigue comes after a string of the princess’ relatives were arrested in a high-profile corruption scandal that has sent shockwaves through Thailand’s elite.
“The king has granted permission to announce that Princess Srirasmi, the wife of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, has informed in a written document that she has resigned from her royal status,” the palace said in a short statement, signalling an end to the marriage.
Analysts said the 62-year-old crown prince’s split from his wife will deepen fears for the monarchy’s future as Thailand’s 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej enters the twilight of his reign.
In May, Thailand’s military seized power after months of violent street protests saying it needed to do so to protect the monarchy and restore order to the politically divided nation.
The king – the world’s longest-serving monarch, who is revered by many Thais as a semi-divine figure – has been largely confined to hospital this year and pulled out of plans to hold a public audience earlier this month during his birthday celebrations.
Srirasmi married the crown prince in 2001 and had been expected to become queen. The couple have a nine-year-old son who was thought to be Prince Vajiralongkorn’s most likely heir.
“This announcement will add a greater sense of uncertainty and anxiety among Thais over the future of their monarchy – not just with the current generation, but with later generations too,” Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai expert at Japan’s Kyoto University, told AFP.