Thais surprised by new queen ahead of coronation

Robie de Guzman   •   May 3, 2019   •   1853

(L-R) Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida during their wedding ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand, May 1, 2019. | Courtesy : Reuters

Many Thais said on Thursday (May 2) they were excited to see the newly named Queen Suthida while others said they were surprised since there were no signs of an impending royal wedding before the marriage announcement.

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn announced on Wednesday (May 1) that he has married Suthida Tidjai, the deputy head of his personal guard force and a former flight attendant for Thai Airways, and released footage of a wedding ceremony to all Thai television channels.

Vajiralongkorn, 66, also known by the title King Rama X, became constitutional monarch after the death of his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

He is due to be officially crowned in elaborate Buddhist and Brahmin ceremonies on Saturday (May 4), followed by a procession through Bangkok the next day.

In 2014, Vajiralongkorn appointed Suthida as a deputy commander of his bodyguard unit.

Some royal observers and foreign media had linked Suthida romantically with the king, but the palace had previously never acknowledged a relationship between them.

Vajiralongkorn was previously married and divorced three times and has seven children. (REUTERS)

Thailand beefs up security ahead of ASEAN summit

Jeck Deocampo   •   November 1, 2019

 Thailand beefed up around the meeting venue for the 35th ASEAN Summit on Friday (November 1) as leaders from the Southeast Asian and other regional countries are set to gather for annual talks.

Various roads surrounding the meeting’s main venue in central Nonthaburi Province were already closed off by Thursday (October 31). The meeting is scheduled to kick off from November 2. Around 17,000 security officials were said to be deployed to oversee safety at the ASEAN Summit, according to local media.

The United States has downgraded its participation in back-to-back Asia-Pacific summits in Bangkok, a move bound to disappoint Asian partners worried by China’s expanding influence.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is confirmed to attend the Bangkok meet, while the United States has yet to announce any representative more senior than Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell.

Other issues that may figure at the Southeast Asian summit include the standoff between China and several regional states over its sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea, as well as Myanmar’s treatment of Muslim Rohingya after a military crackdown drove more than 700,000 into Bangladesh in 2017. — REUTERS

(Production: Vorasit Satienlerk, Juarawee Kittisilpa)

Duterte to attend 35th ASEAN Summit in Thailand – DFA

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte takes a bow before the guests as he takes center stage during the 45th Philippine Business Conference and Expo at The Manila Hotel on October 17, 2019. VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is set to fly to Thailand this week to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang on Monday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for the Office of ASEAN Affairs Junever Mahilum-West said the ASEAN Summit in Thailand will be held from November 2 to 4.

The Summit Plenary will start on November 2, Saturday while the opening ceremony will be held on November 3, Sunday.

Mahilum-West said Duterte is expected to talk about the long-delayed code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea when he participates in the ASEAN Plus Three Summit and the East Asia Summit.

Leaders attending in this meeting are expected to share their views regarding regional and international issues affecting the region.

The COC will be featured in the discussions, Mahilum-West said, describing the issue as “unavoidable.” The discussion on the COC falls within the ASEAN’s three pillars of cooperation: political security, economic, and socio-cultural.

“Kasi doon sa meeting na ‘yun ng mga leaders, they will have a parang tour of the horizon of what’s happening throughout the region,” she said, adding other countries are also expected to give their views.

“But as to intensive negotiations, we don’t expect that will happen in this meeting— in these kinds of meetings,” she added.

Duterte will also discuss the current direction of the country’s partnerships and cooperation on mutual concerns with China, India, the United Nations, the United States, and Japan during the ASEAN one-on-one summits.

Mahilum-West said there are about 40 anticipated outcome documents at the end of the 35th ASEAN Summit, which represent the culmination of the community’s work in pursuit of a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable ASEAN Community.

Duterte is scheduled to leave for Thailand on November 1, Friday. He will be accompanied by DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista.

Thailand ousts “royal consort”

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2019

Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi

When Thailand’s newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn named one of his bodyguards as Noble Royal Consort on his birthday in July, no one had held the title for nearly a century, dating back to the days of absolute monarchy.

Later, the palace released a series of photos of 34-year-old consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, a former nurse, variously showing her in the cockpit of a fighter jet, wearing a crop top and dressed in combat fatigues with the king and the royal poodle.

Such laudatory images previously had been reserved for the king’s close relatives – and they resembled the military-style photos of the king’s wife, Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana, on her birthday in June.

But Sineenat’s swift rise to the public eye was followed by a sudden and brutal fall on Monday (October 21).

King Vajiralongkorn, 67, stripped her of her titles in an order calling her “disloyal,” “ungrateful” and “ambitious.”

All images of her disappeared from the palace website.

An unverified Instagram account in her name was shut down overnight.

It was not immediately clear exactly what prompted the dismissal of Sineenat, whose whereabouts on Tuesday were not known.

The announcement came days after the palace abruptly postponed a Royal Barge Procession scheduled for Thursday.

The event caps year-long celebrations of King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation after he took the throne following the 2016 death of his father. (Reuters)

(Production: Jiraporn Kuhakan)

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