Only five weeks after his coronation, the new king Vijiralongkorn made a new constitution on April 6, which provide him more power over the parliament than his father ever did
With the ascension of the current Thai King Vajiralongkorn to the throne on December 1, 2016, the era of the world's longest-reigning monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej ended.
The succession caused anxiety among the Thai people as the new King Vajiralongkorn was more interested in fast cars, parties, and women than in ruling a country.
The first four months of his reign saw a forceful monarch who was more hands-on than his father. Yet, while the late King Bhumibol ruled by inspiring love in his subjects, Vajiralongkorn started his reign by instilling fear.
The young Bhumibol ascended to the throne in 1946 after his brother's mysterious death. He began his rule traveling to rural provinces, supporting local monks and temples, and establishing development projects across the country that laid the groundwork for building his unprecedented popularity among Thais. Over the following decades, Bhumibol gradually started accumulating more power, cultivating his image as the nation's benevolent father, despite the unusual amassing of wealth and the 1957 introduction of a lese majeste law that punishes anyone who criticizes the monarch with three to 15 years in jail. Even with such policies, his dedication to the Thai people remained until the very end.
Unlike him, Vijiralongkorn, who was crowned in May 2019, spent much of his adult life outside the country, enjoying an extravagant lifestyle in Europe. Since his return to the country, he has shown indifference to his father's crowd-pleasing rituals.
Only five weeks after his coronation, the new king Vijiralongkorn made a new constitution on April 6, which provide him more power over the parliament than his father ever did.
He even imposed tighter control over the palace's inner circles and the influential figures who ran it under his late father. His stricter grip on power affected not only members of the elites but also commoners. A 25-year-old law student was arrested and charged with lese majeste the day after Vijiralongkorn's ascension to the throne for sharing a Facebook post of a critical royal biography published by BBC. The incident sent a clear signal that Thailand will show a low tolerance for any public discussion of the new King's past.
Over the years, Vajiralongkorn has consolidated his power by expanding his own appointed military unit, the King's Guard, increasing his personal wealth -- amending the Crown Property Act allowed billions of dollars worth of royal assets held by the Thai Crown to transfer directly into his control, and shares at various Thai conglomerates -- including the Siam Cement Public Company and the Siam Commercial Bank Public Company -- were put into the King's name. The royal budget has also significantly increased.
However, the king's taboo being above politics started breaking in recent months as pro-democracy protesters have gathered by the thousands demanding reforms to the monarchy and military, influential institutions that have dominated Thailand's power structure for decades.
The protesters have also challenged the king's decision to declare Crown wealth as his personal property, making him by far the wealthiest person in Thailand. It had until now been notionally held in trust for the benefit of the people. There have also been questions over King's decision to take personal command of all military units based in Bangkok - a concentration of military power in royal hands unprecedented in modern Thailand.
In the face of escalating protests, the Thai government on October 15 banned protests and sensitive news publication. Thai police also arrested several activists, including three key protest leaders, On October 15 morning.
The current king Vijiralongkorn has demonstrated though that he can exercise power both by coercion and fear. It is fear that define the his rule.
Now, it is only time to tell whether the fear, Vijiralongkorn inflicted on every Thai people's mind, can save his monarchy.
The report was prepared based on information from Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN.