Thai palace releases rare images of king’s royal consort

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s palace has released rare images and a biography of the king’s newly anointed royal consort, including both candid and action-packed photos of her aiming a weapon on a firing range, piloting a plane, and preparing to parachute.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn bestowed the rank of Chao Khun Phra or noble consort on the 34-year-old former army nurse Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi on his 67th birthday in July.

She is the first woman to receive the noble rank in nearly a century.

The publication of the more than 60 photos and a 46-page biography was dated last week, but did not start circulating online until yesterday.

“The king has ordered the creation of a royal biography for Chao Khun Phra Sineenat Bilaskalayani,” a statement from the Royal Office said, using her full title.

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his royal consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi. PHOTO: AFP

The images and details provide an unusually intimate glimpse into the private lives of the powerful, ultra-wealthy and inscrutable monarchy, which is protected by a royal insult law that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison per count.

They show Sineenat in camouflage fatigues, taking part in military drills, flying a small plane, and laughing at a table with the king, both wearing casual clothes.

In one of the photos she is shown in traditional Thai dress standing next to Vajiralongkorn and holding his hand.

Born in the northern province of Nan, she graduated from the Royal Thai Army Nursing College, trained as a pilot in Thailand and abroad, and served in the king’s royal bodyguard unit, reaching the rank of major-general in May.

A cycling and aviation enthusiast who spends much of his time abroad in Germany, Vajiralongkorn was crowned in May this year in an elaborate three-day ceremony that Sineenat participated in.

The ceremony took place mere days after a stunning announcement that Vajiralongkorn had married Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya, a former flight attendant and deputy commander of the monarch’s security detail.

Suthida is the fourth wife of the monarch, who has a teenage son and six other children.

In the run-up to his coronation the billboards and government offices were peppered with large imposing portraits of Vajiralongkorn.