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Thai king’s son visits temple on surprise trip to kingdom

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s second son visited a Bangkok temple yesterday, offering alms to monks as he makes a surprise first trip to the kingdom in more than two decades.

Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse caused a stir this week with his unexpected return to Thailand, after spending most of his life abroad following his parents’ divorce in the 1990s.

The 42-year-old visited the Yannawa temple in downtown Bangkok yesterday morning, trailed by an eager crowd of reporters and photographers.

He handed out alms before releasing fish into the Chao Phraya river.

Vacharaesorn is the second of four sons from the king’s second marriage – to former actress Sujarinee Vivacharawongse – none of whom hold official royal titles.

Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse, the second-eldest son of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, visits a temple in Bangkok, Thailand. PHOTO: AFP

His visit comes at a sensitive time for the Thai royal family, with the king’s eldest daughter Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol still in hospital after collapsing and losing consciousness in December.

The king, who has seven children from four marriages, has not formally named an heir apparent, though succession rules favour sons.

Earlier in the week, Vacharaesorn dropped in at the Foundation for Slum Child Care, which cares for underprivileged children in Bangkok, posing for photos and briefly speaking with well-wishers outside.

“I have been gone from this country for many years and coming back is like a dream come true,” Vacharaesorn told media in a video clip later shared on Facebook.

He is believed to have landed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday, with surprised Thais snapping pictures.

The hashtag “SonofTenReturnsToThailand” – a reference to his father’s formal title of Rama X – was briefly trending on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Tens of thousands liked an image of him stepping from a Bangkok tuk-tuk, which he shared on his Facebook page on Monday.

Brought up in the United States, Vacharaesorn works as a lawyer in New York and speaks English and French.