Who knew a crop top could cause such uproar?
Footage of the King of Thailand wandering around a shopping mall in Munich sporting a skimpy yellow crop top and tattoos went viral last month after being uploaded to Facebook, and Thai authorities have been fighting to get the footage taken down ever since.
Here’s the footage link of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in Munich.
Thai officials have been calling on Facebook to remove the footage, which has been the subject of much mirth online. They even threatened to sue the social media giant, calling the videos “a threat to national security”.
Thailand’s authorities stepped up their threats on Tuesday, pledging to remove the entire country’s access to the social media if the footage wasn’t taken down, according to local media reports.
“If even a single illicit page remains, we will immediately discuss what legal steps to take against Facebook Thailand,” the secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, Takorn Tantasith, is reported as saying.
That threat was never realised, but Facebook has nevertheless geo-blocked many of the videos in Thailand and Thai authorities say they are working on court orders to block the rest.
Of course, none of this has stopped the images going viral on social media. Many applauded the bad-ass attitude of the 64-year-old monarch, with one Twitter user labelling the King “one cool dude”.
the current king of Thailand and i have the exact same aesthetics pic.twitter.com/fuuklEhybK
— Ave (@AeTBench) May 16, 2017
So why all the fuss?
For one thing, Thailand takes its royalty seriously.
The King plays an active interest in political affairs and anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” can face up to 15 years in prison.
Thailand’s ‘lese-majeste’ laws are some of the strictest in the world. They’re even enshrined in the constitution, which states that “the King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship… No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action”.
The laws have regularly been used to suppress any image of the King that could be construed as critical.
Ten years ago, a Swiss national, Oliver Jufer, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drunkenly spray-painting posters of then-King Bhumibol Adulyadej (although he was later pardoned by the King).
In 2015, a Thai factory worker faced charges for insulting King Bhumibol’s dog.
It also doesn’t help that the latest incident occurred during the period of official mourning for the current king’s father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The world’s longest-serving monarch, King Bhumibol was a beloved figure in Thailand. When he died in October last year after 70 years on the throne, a mourning period of an entire year was announced.
Black clothes sold out all over Thailand and travellers were warned against wearing “flamboyant clothes” or taking part in any “festive, disrespectful or disorderly” activities.
But it seems that King Maha isn’t too concerned. It’s not the first time that the so-called ‘playboy king’ has caused problems for Thai officials trying to project an image of stately sobriety.
His own mother reportedly labelled him “a bit of a Don Juan” while on a trip to the United States in 1982. He fathered several children to a mistress while married to his first wife, a cousin.
When he formally greeted military officials in Germany last May, the then-Crown Prince appeared in an outfit similar to the one in the leaked footage clutching one of his beloved pet poodles.
He also made international headlines — and raised eyebrows in Thai political circles — when he named his pet poodle, Foo Foo, as Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force. The pooch appeared at official functions dressed in a dinner jacket and lapped from guests’ water glasses.
Footage has also been leaked showing his third wife, Princess Srirasm, singing ‘happy birthday’ to the adored animal while wearing nothing but a g-string at a crowded birthday party.
Clearly, King Maha’s doesn’t plan on ending his antics now he’s wearing the crown.