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AFP
January 13, 2021

Thai king sweeps prison floors alongside consort

World

AFP
January 13, 2021

BANGKOK: Thailand’s king has visited prisons, sweeping floors alongside his official consort in the latest round of a charm offensive following unprecedented criticism of the monarchy during street protests.

The palace has stepped up public appearances in recent months, as the student-led movement has made calls for reforms to the monarchy, considered a taboo subject in Thailand.

Images released by the palace showed King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his consort, 35-year-old Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, visiting different prisons over the past two months, dressed in jeans and polo shirts.

The king has appointed Sineenat to a project overseeing the healthcare of prison inmates -- an expansion to her public portfolio after a dramatic change in her fortunes over the past year and a half.

Sineenat was named consort in July 2019 -- the first such appointment in almost a century -- but was stripped of ranks and titles three months later, accused of "disloyalty" and "ambition" to match the position of the king’s wife, Queen Suthida.

Last September, Sineenat made an unexpected comeback -- the king reinstated her titles along with a public declaration that she was "not tarnished" anymore. On Monday, the Royal Gazette announced her new public duties as a deputy advisor on a committee set up by the king focusing on prison healthcare.