BANGKOK — The king of Thailand liked her. Then he didn’t. Now, apparently, he likes her again.
Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi rose to the position of royal consort to King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, only to be stripped of her official title last year, amid accusations from the palace that she was trying to upstage the queen.
On Wednesday, the Royal Thai Government Gazette announced that Ms. Sineenat was back in possession of her noble titles. She had not been seen publicly since her dismissal nearly a year ago, and her whereabouts had not been officially revealed.
The position of royal consort, referring to a female companion who is not a wife, had not existed in Thailand since absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932 until the current king revived it for Ms. Sineenat.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been married multiple times. His first wife was his cousin; his third was purged and members of her family were jailed for disrespecting the monarchy.
Ms. Sineenat, who once worked as a nurse and an employee of a royal handicraft store, was given the title of royal consort in July 2019, on the king’s 67th birthday. Her promotion came about two months after the king married Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, who is his fourth wife.
Soon after, Ms. Sineenat, who also attained the military rank of major general, was prominently featured in dozens of photographs released online by the Royal Household Bureau. In one image she was seen perched in an airplane cockpit wearing a camouflage-printed sports bra. In another, she aimed an assault rifle. In still another, she held the king’s pet poodle, which was wearing what appeared to be a black leather onesie. At least one of the king’s dogs has also held a military rank.
When Ms. Sineenat was ousted last October, she was accused by the palace of “misbehavior and disloyalty against the monarch.” Other palace aides were later dismissed, including bedchamber pages who were accused of unspecified “extremely evil misconduct.”
The announcement of the reinstatement of Ms. Sineenat’s titles on Wednesday included the resumption of her military rank. According to an order signed in late August by the king, Ms. Sineenat was deemed “free of guilt.”
Thailand is bound by strict laws protecting the monarchy from criticism. Offenders can be imprisoned for up to 15 years.
In recent weeks, however, a peaceful protest movement against Thailand’s military-dominated government has begun calling for reforms to the country’s monarchy.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn spends little time in Thailand, preferring to live in Europe instead. Since his father died in 2016, he has assumed direct control over royal coffers and over army units that have historically carried out coups against democratically elected governments.
Thailand has experienced a dozen successful coups; one major rationale for the last one, in 2014, was to safeguard the monarchy. The leader of that putsch, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is still prime minister.
While the news that Ms. Sineenat lost her multiple titles made headlines in Thailand last year, her reinstatement was barely noted on state television on Wednesday.
The palace statement released earlier in the day noted that “henceforth, it shall be like she was never stripped of her military ranks or royal decorations.”