The story of the rise and fall, and rise again and fall again, of King Vajiralongkorn's "royal noble consort" Sineenat "Koi" Wongvajirabhakdi
Once upon a time, when he reached the age of 67, a fabulously wealthy monarch celebrated the occasion by giving himself a special birthday gift — an official royal concubine.
The thrice-divorced King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand had married his fourth wife, former Thai Airways flight attendant Suthida “Nui” Tidjai, less than three months earlier, just before his official coronation, and she had become the kingdom’s new queen.
But Vajiralongkorn had evidently concluded that just one official partner was simply not enough.
In an extraordinary palace ceremony on July 28, 2019, with Queen Suthida watching aghast as her husband publicly humiliated her, Vajiralongkorn anointed Sineenat “Koi” Wongvajirabhakdi as his “royal noble consort”, pouring lustral water from a conch shell onto her head as she prostrated on the floor at his feet in a posture that demonstrated total subservience.
Koi was just 34 years old. She had risen from humble beginnings in northern Thailand to become a qualified pilot, a major general in the military allegedly trained in jungle warfare and parachuting, and now the consort of the king. It would have been a fairytale story, if Vajiralongkorn had been a wise and kindly monarch. But he’s a violent and volatile psychopath who loves tormenting women, so the story didn’t work out as Koi had planned.
In October 2019, just a few months after becoming Vajiralongkorn’s royal noble consort, Koi was stripped of her royal titles and decorations, and her military ranks, and thrown into jail in Bangkok without any trial or even a pretence of judicial due process. She had become a participant in a different and darker kind of fairy tale — a helpless woman abused and imprisoned by a cruel and malevolent king — but unlike in archetypal fantasy stories there was no gallant hero or courageous knight coming to her rescue. She appeared doomed to a life of incarceration and despair.
Until a dramatic plot twist. The king who had abused and jailed her decided he still loved her after all. She was freed from prison and the couple reunited in Germany to live happily ever after.
The fairytale ending lasted about 15 months before everything imploded.
Koi has not been seen since December last year, and concerns are growing about her welfare. The dizzying rollercoaster ride of her position in the palace seems to be on a sharply downward trajectory once again.
This is her story.
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Niramon Ounprom was born on January 26, 1985, in a rural riverside district near the town of Nan in northern Thailand. Like most Thais she was given an affectionate nickname, which was what her family and friends called her. Koi is the Thai word for the little finger on our hands. The most accurate translation of her nickname in English is probably “Pinkie”.
Most Thais who grew up in the north during the 1980s and 1990s were not impoverished. They had enough to eat, and they didn’t have to worry about basic survival, but their options for breaking out of a parochial existence of subsistence and servitude were relatively limited. Thailand has by far the worst education system of any country in the world with comparable wealth, and young people growing up in rural areas mostly have to endure depressingly inadequate and incompetent teaching. Every year, many young people from the north and northeast move south for jobs in construction, or to find menial work in shops and hotels, or to be servants for wealthy Bangkok families, or to try to earn a living in Thailand’s vast industrialised sex industry. There is plenty of work for northerners who want to join the Bangkok underclass, but even today, it’s quite rare for somebody who grew up in rural Thailand without wealthy connections to find a way out that actually improves their lives.
But Koi was a smart and ambitious student, and she managed to do it. She joined the army, which helped fund her to train as a nurse after she finished her studies at the Wang Pha Witthayakhom school in Nan. She enrolled at the Royal Thai Army Nursing College, located at the military’s Phramongkutklao Hospital on Ratchawithi Road in Bangkok. In 2007, while still studying there, she gave a conference presentation on strategies to help soldiers quit smoking at a conference in the hospital.
Koi graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2008 and worked for a while at Phramongkutklao Hospital before transferring to another military facility, the Ananda Mahidol Hospital in Lopburi, close to the headquarters of Thailand’s special forces, known as the Special Warfare Command, and the Khok Katiam air force base, home of the 2nd Wing Air Command.
Some time during 2011 or early 2012, Koi met Vajiralongkorn, and it changed her life forever.
During this period, Vajiralongkorn was still married to his third wife Srirasmi Suwadee, a former hostess at the all-night Thonburi Café nightclub, but he was spending most of his time living in Munich with his latest favourite mistress Suthida, who he met on a Thai Airways charity flight he was piloting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on January 5, 2007.
Since his late teens, Vajiralongkorn has been notorious in Thailand as a serial abuser of women. He expected whatever wife he was married to at the time not only to accept his chronic philandering but also to help him recruit young women into his harem. For a few decades he preyed mainly on the attractive daughters of the Thai elite, and well-known actresses and singers, but by the 21st century this had already caused so much scandal and resentment that he began focusing mostly on commoners, in particular women working with the Royal Thai Air Force or Thai Airways.
He regularly exploited his air force connections to meet new female recruits, and if somebody caught his eye, he would arrange for them to become a lady-in-waiting at the palace, so they could join his stable of concubines.
Vajiralongkorn’s third wife Srirasmi had initially been recruited from Thonburi Café as a lady-in-waiting for his second wife, Yuvathida “Mom Benz” Polpraserth back in 1993. Vajiralongkorn banished Yuvathida and their four sons in 1996, and married Srirasmi secretly in 2001.
In 2012, Koi was transferred to the palace as a lady-in-waiting for Srirasmi, as this leaked document from August 2012 confirms.
Koi was told to report for duty wearing her army uniform and cap. Vajiralongkorn has a fetish for women in uniforms and runs his harem like a military unit, with his mistresses routinely awarded senior army ranks.
During 2012, Vajiralongkorn was still married to Srirasmi, although he hardly ever saw her because he spent most of his time with his favourite concubine Suthida at the Kempinski Hotel at Munich’s airport, which was owned by the Crown Property Bureau. He rarely returned to Thailand.
Although Koi was now officially a lady-in-waiting for Srirasmi, this was just a fiction to give her a position in the palace as a member of Vajiralongkorn’s harem, and while he was away in Germany she had little work to do, so she continued as a nurse at Ananda Mahidol Hospital for a while. She made it clear to everybody that her status had changed, wearing a badge with the image of Vajiralongkorn’s autistic son Dipangkorn that is known in Thailand to be a signifier of membership of Vajiralongkorn’s inner circle. Here’s an image from December 2012.
Koi was not content to be just another concubine, to be used and then disposed of whenever Vajiralongkorn happened to be in Thailand. She was determined to become his favourite mistress, and she was willing to do whatever it took. She made it clear to him that she would indulge all his fetishes — group sex, public nudity, BDSM games, or whatever else he wanted, and she would help him recruit more concubines and manage the royal harem.
Over the next few years she sent him scores of increasingly explicit selfies. They started with sweet pictures like this, the kind of thing a teenager might send to a boy she liked.
By the end of 2012 she was sending Vajiralongkorn topless photographs, and by 2014 she was sending much more explicit naked pictures, always selfies that she took herself, contorted on a bed or in a bath or in a car. Sources who work for Vajiralongkorn say he loves pornographic pictures of his wives and concubines, and displays several of them on the walls of his palaces. Some of the photographs have been leaked on social media, including of Suthida, Srirasmi and Yuvathida. They are mostly depressing images, similar to the photographs in the grubby pornographic magazines that circulated among pupils in mostly male schools like Millfield in Somerset where Vajiralongkorn spent his teenage years in the 1970s back in the days before everyone could access online images of whatever they wanted to watch.
By 2014 Koi was also wearing a silver heart-shaped pendant around her neck. Similar pendants have been observed on other women in Vajiralongkorn’s harem, and they signify that the women wearing them are concubines of the king. Her face also appeared to have been altered by cosmetic surgery, a trend that has continued.
Vajiralongkorn had been estranged from this third wife Srirasmi for years, and barely saw her except for when they had to attend royal ceremonies together, but she was still his official spouse during this period. As a leaked secret cable from the US embassy in Bangkok explained in 2009, Vajiralongkorn was spending most of his time in Munich “with his leading mistress and beloved white poodle Fufu” — the mistress was Suthida — and even when he went back to Bangkok he avoided seeing Srirasmi whenever possible, staying instead with other concubines at a mini-palace built for him by the Royal Thai Airforce at Wing 6, the military area of Don Mueang International Airport, where the king’s Dechochai royal flying unit is based.
It has a swimming pool and like most of his palaces, has a plane — in this case an old F-5 fighter jet — parked in the garden as a decorative ornament. Here’s a satellite view of the Don Mueang mini-palace.
Vajiralongkorn’s obsession with Koi was making his melodramatic love life even more complicated by 2014. It caused constant problems for the beleaguered staff at the Kempinski in Munich. In a profile of Vajiralongkorn for French newspaper Le Monde, journalist Harold Thibault quoted a former hotel employee who described the disruption caused by the king’s antics:
On each of his visits, tons of crates of luggage arrive. It is necessary to reorganise several floors, or the whole of one of the two wings of the hotel, if one mistress is there at the same time as another one.
The former employee said Vajiralongkorn’s aides tried to insist that hotel staff prostrate on the ground in his presence, as his servants are required to do. Hotel management explained that European staff would not accept this, and proposed instead that staff would never look directly at him or speak to him, which he apparently agreed was an acceptable compromise.
Most of the royalist Thai elite had always hated Srirasmi, because she had been a sex worker at Thonburi Café, and they felt disgusted that they had to prostrate to her and show her respect. They wanted her gone. The infamous leaked video of Srirasmi’s 30th birthday party in 2001, at which she had been virtually naked and ate birthday cake while prostrating on the ground beside the royal poodle Fufu, had also damaged her reputation after it was circulated by her enemies in 2007. A confidential US cable that year noted that “some in palace circles are working actively to undercut whatever support exists for the Royal Consort, and we assume that this undercurrent also has implications for the Crown Prince”. In November 2014, with his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej increasingly ill, Vajiralongkorn decided to prepare for his succession to the throne by purging Srirasmi and her family.
Srirasmi’s uncle Pongpat Chaiyapan had risen to one of the most powerful positions in the police — chief of the Central Investigation Bureau — thanks to Vajiralongkorn’s patronage. He was among the key players running a nationwide criminal network on behalf of Vajiralongkorn, involved in various rackets such as extortion, forcible debt collection and dispute resolution, illicit casinos, and smuggling of fuel and antiques. Srirasmi’s three brothers were also heavily involved in the mafia network. Vajiralongkorn ordered Srirasmi’s elderly parents, brothers and one of her sisters jailed for lèse majesté, plus Pongpat and several more distant relatives. He formally divorced Srirasmi in December 2014, and stripped her of her royal titles. She was banished to house arrest at her home in Ratchaburi, where she was forced to shave her head, dress as a nun, and to endure various torments ordered by Vajiralongkorn.
Srirasmi’s downfall was not a victory for Suthida, however, because Vajiralongkorn was already growing bored of his formerly favourite mistress, and was increasingly obsessed with Koi. His fetish for militarising his harem involved not just uniform cosplay but also giving them army ranks. In December 2014, as Srirasmi was being purged, Vajiralongkorn promoted Koi to the rank of colonel and gave her a new royally bestowed name, Sineenat Wongvajirabhakdi, that explicitly proclaimed her devotion to him.
Wong วงศ์ = family
Vajira วชิร = Vajiralongkorn
Bhakdi ภักดี = loyal
Less senior women in the harem were given a similar surname — Sirivajirabhakdi — but Koi’s name singled her out as a particularly special concubine.
As he grew closer to Koi and more distant from Suthida, Vajiralongkorn began spending most of his time at the 95-room four star Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in the Alpine resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about an hour’s drive south of Munich. The entire hotel was rented for months at a time for the royal entourage. The top floor of the four-storey hotel was reserved for Vajiralongkorn and his concubines, and hotel staff were not allowed there, with only Vajiralongkorn’s servants permitted access. Vajiralongkorn’s living quarters were there, along with a special suite for group sex with his harem, which he called “ห้องสุขสำราญ” — “the pleasure room”. The fourth floor was also full of Thai antiquities and treasures, brought from Bangkok.
Vajiralongkorn wanted to be able to enjoy himself at Sonnenbichl with Koi and the rest of his growing harem without Suthida getting in the way. So Suthida was banished to a hotel in the Swiss resort of Engelberg along with her entourage, and rarely saw Vajiralongkorn. You can read my detailed article on Suthida’s life in Switzerland here.
With Srirasmi and Suthida out of the way, and his parents by now too decrepit to exert and control over him, Vajiralongkorn’s behaviour became increasingly bizarre and extreme.
On June 10, 2016, Vajiralongkorn and Koi visited the Riem Arcaden mall in Munich, dressed in crop tops with their bodies plastered with fake tattoos. Vajiralongkorn wore a pair of very low-slung jeans, while Koi was in a miniskirt and high heels. They were shadowed by several bodyguards. A Thai who happened to be visiting the mall recognised them and secretly filmed them, and gave the footage to me.
Vajiralongkorn officially became King Rama X on December 13, 2016, following the death of King Bhumibol. But after his father’s death he immediately flew back to Bavaria to be with his harem, and made it clear that he intended to continue spending most of his time in Germany.
The king and his concubines did spend four months in Thailand — an unusually long time — between mid-November 2016 and mid-March 2017. Both Suthida and Koi were aboard the Thai Airways flight that took them back to Bangkok. Koi was wearing a crop top, as can be see when she emerges from a car about a minute and 40 seconds into this video.
In another strange incident, Koi was photographed before dawn on December 26, 2016, dressed in extremely skimpy clothing, performing some kind of ritual at the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn in Royal Plaza.
The first sighting of a scantily clad Vajiralongkorn after he had become king was on April 2, 2017, when the king and Koi arrived at the traditional Stern Jägerstüberl inn in Unterammergau, near Garmish-Partenkirchen, after a cycling trip. Vajiralongkorn was wearing just a black T-shirt and tiny black briefs, and Koi was wearing “very tight panties” according to news magazine Spiegel which headlined its article “Highness in underpants”. They were accompanied by an entourage of around 30 cycling servants, who then attended to them outside the inn, serving them drinks and towels while on their knees.
“Nobody had ever seen anything like this in Unterammergau,” commented Spiegel.
Later that month, on April 25, 2017, Koi and Vajiralongkorn were photographed at another German mall, the Segmüller furniture store in Pasdorf near Munich. Both were wearing crop tops, but this time with no fake tattoos. Accompanying them was a large retinue of servants and bodyguards, as usual, as well as one of the king’s beloved pet poodles.
The images were striking because Koi looked like the dominant partner in the relationship, while Vajiralongkorn appeared pathetic, with his paunch, spectacles and absurd clothing. It fuelled gossip about a BDSM element to their relationship, in which Vajiralongkorn clearly holds all the real power, but Koi sometimes seems to be able to tell him what to do.
In April 2019, Vajiralongkorn and Koi were photographed wearing crop tops yet again, this time while they were waiting to board a cable car at Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.
Vajiralongkorn had become king upon the death of his father in 2016, but his official coronation ceremony was not held until May 2019. Senior royals and palace officials believed Thailand should have a queen ahead of the ceremony, and Vajiralongkorn agreed to wed Suthida, who had been groomed for the role for years. They were married on May 1, 2019.
But the two of them had been living mostly separate lives for years, and Koi was by now clearly Vajiralongkorn’s favourite. Suthida became a ceremonial spouse, who Vajiralongkorn met on the rare occasions he had to come to Thailand for royal events.
At the various coronation ceremonies over three days in May, Koi was usually lurking in the background, an uncomfortable reminder for Suthida that marrying Vajiralongkorn had not spelled the end of the rivalry.
Both Suthida and Koi had been given senior ranks in Vajiralongkorn’s King’s Guard, and during May he promoted Koi to the rank of major general. At the coronation procession on May 5, Suthida accompanied the role flag along with Princess Bajrakitiyabha, with both dressed in their red ceremonial King’s Guard uniforms and towering furry hats. Koi was given a prominent role in the procession too, also in a King’s Guard uniform.
Koi had been heartbroken that Vajiralongkorn went ahead with marrying Suthida, but she didn't give up, and continued to pressure him into giving her higher royal status. Within just a few months, she got her wish, with the surprise ceremony on Vajiralongkorn’s birthday in July 2019 anointing her as “royal noble consort”.
Until the 20th century, Thai monarchs tended to amass vast harems and father dozens of children. Chulalongkorn, King Rama V of Siam, who died in 1910, had at least 153 wives and concubines, and at least 97 children. His successor Vajiravudh was gay, which complicated the task of trying to produce an heir, and had various wives and consorts during his life as he tried to find somebody he could procreate with. It was during the reign of Rama VI that the rank of royal noble consort had last been bestowed on somebody.
After Vajiravudh’s death in 1925, the Thai royals publicly embraced monogamy and Western marital norms. King Rama VII, Prajadhipok, had just one wife. King Ananda, Rama VIII was killed by his brother Bhumibol when he was just 20 years old, and never married. Bhumibol, Rama IX, married his wife Sirikit just before his coronation ceremony in 1950, and although she was notoriously unfaithful to him, she remained his only wife until his death.
But since becoming Rama X, Vajiralongkorn has signalled that he believes he has the right to behave like the absolute monarchs of past eras, rather than the constitutionally-constrained kings of the 20th century. He notoriously ordered a famous plaque in Royal Plaza commemorating the 1932 revolution to be removed, and has been trying to erase other reminders of the people and events connected with the end of the absolute monarchy. He explicitly took full control of the vast royal fortune, likely to be worth at least $70 billion, ending the fiction that the wealth belonged to the nation as royalist propaganda had routinely claimed during Bhumibol’s reign. Officially reviving royal polygamy was another signal from Vajiralongkorn that he rejects modern norms and intends to embrace royal absolutism.
Koi played a significant role in Vajiralongkorn’s efforts to turn the clock back to the era of absolutism. During 2017, she came up with the idea of holding a “winter fair” in Bangkok which would celebrate the days of Old Siam, with Thais encouraged to dress up as aristocrats from the past. It was hugely popular among royalists and helped fuel a trend for glorification of an idealised past. When the fair was held for a second year in December 2018, Suthida was visibly upset and agitated at the opening ceremony, another sign of the toll that rivalry with Koi was taking on her.
Koi was also heavily involved in the conceptualisation and creation of the so-called jit arsa or “volunteer spirit” royalist mass movement which was launched in 2017. Members of the organisation, who have to undergo indoctrination before they officially join, are given polo-shirts, neckerchiefs and caps in the colours yellow and light blue. Yellow is Vajiralongkorn’s colour because he was born on a Monday. Light blue was Koi’s colour — she was born before dawn on a Saturday morning which means she has Friday’s colour. The presence of blue in the jit arsa uniforms was to acknowledge Koi’s role in the project.
Soon after she was named Vajiralongkorn’s official consort, the palace published a 46-page online hagiography of Koi with 60 photographs, including images showing her doing military training, preparing for a parachute jump, flying a plane in a camouflage-pattern crop top, posing with Vajiralongkorn in formal royal clothing, and cuddling one of the king’s pet poodles. It caused such a sensation that the volume of traffic crashed the Royal Household Bureau website. The biography was later removed from the palace website after Koi was thrown into jail, but I saved a copy you can view here.
Suthida had never had such an extensive and adulatory biography released about her. Stranded in Switzerland most of the time, her status as queen was far from secure. The main reason why Vajiralongkorn didn’t completely abandon her was that he didn’t want yet another marital scandal at the start of his reign. He was trying to convey the image of a virtuous semi-divine monarch, even though his antics frequently showed he was anything but.
Despite her remarkable rise and relentless self-promotion, Koi’s position in the palace remained precarious too. Vajiralongkorn is notorious for his violent mood swings and for savagely punishing his wives and concubines if they displease him. Also, both the king’s daughters, Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, hated Koi and sided with Suthida. Having an official wife and an official consort unsurprisingly caused constant tensions and drama, and fuelled savage infighting in the royal family as competing factions battled for status and supremacy.
The conflict was more manageable when Vajiralongkorn was in Germany, because Suthida had been shunted off to Switzerland so was kept apart from Koi, but hostilities inevitably escalated every time the royals came back to Thailand and all the feuding factions were cooped up together in Amphorn Sathan Palace.
This was one of the reasons Vajiralongkorn usually preferred to avoid even staying a single night in Thailand. When he had to come for an essential ceremony, the royals would arrive early in the morning on a specially arranged Thai Airways flight on a Boeing 777 and return to Europe late that night.
But in October 2019, the king and his consorts had to come for an extended stay in Thailand to preside over kathin ceremonies all over the kingdom — lucrative events in which they receive substantial donations — and to prepare for a royal barge procession, a spectacular event intended to glorify Vajiralongkorn’s new reign.
Within days of being back in Bangkok, the simmering antagonism boiled over, mainly because of Koi’s relentless pressure to be given equal treatment to Suthida at royal ceremonies and the barge procession. A furious row erupted between Koi and Princess Bajrakitiyabha, who accused the consort of trying to rise above her position in the palace and seeking to outshine higher status royals.
Vajiralongkorn, who despite his frequent savage behaviour towards women is often surprisingly hapless and weak at dealing with family arguments and conflicts among concubines, was caught in the middle with no idea what to do.
With internecine conflict raging among the competing royal factions, and Vajiralongkorn vacillating, the chaos paralysed the palace and threw planning for the barge procession into disarray. On October 17, deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, a royalist legal scholar whose main job is to lie and bend the law whenever required to protect the regime and the monarchy, announced that the royal barge procession had been postponed until December 12, absurdly claiming the change of date was due to unfavourable tidal conditions in the Chao Phraya river.
A few days later the chronically indecisive Vajiralongkorn finally was pushed into making a decision. After an ultimatum from Bajrakitiyabha he sided with his eldest daughter.
On October 21, the Royal Gazette announced that Koi had been stripped of all her royal titles, decorations and military ranks, for being disrespectful and trying to usurp Suthida to become queen:
Royal noble consort Sineenat is ungrateful and behaves in ways unbecoming of her title. She is also not content with the title bestowed upon her, doing everything to rise to the level of the queen… She lacks the understanding of the good traditions of the royal court. She displays disobedience against the king and the queen.
Exhibiting his usual cruelty, Vajiralongkorn ordered Koi to be jailed at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution at Klong Prem Prison, also known as Lat Yao. Her incarceration was never officially announced and she was never even put on trial for her alleged crimes. Prayut and the regime never attempted to intervene or bring Vajiralongkorn under control as he rode roughshod over his concubine’s basic constitutional rights. Meanwhile, several royal guards and courtiers believed to be in Koi’s faction were also purged, accused of “extremely evil misconduct”.
Following Koi’s fall from grace, the uniforms of the jit arsa volunteer force were changed to yellow and purple, instead of yellow and blue. Purple is Suthida’s colour. Tens of thousands of the old uniforms had already been issued though, so ever since, there have been some members of the mass movement with Suthida’s colours and other with Koi’s.
Meanwhile, there was no winter fair in 2019/20 — the event was too closely associated with the now disgraced Koi.
Just three months after becoming the king’s official consort, Koi had come crashing back to earth, purged from the palace and flung into prison.
The fairytale appeared to be over.
But the king soon began to have second thoughts. He’d been pressured into purging his favourite concubine for the sake of family harmony, but despite having a harem of many other women at his disposal, he was pining for Koi.
During August 2020, rumours began circulating that Vajiralongkorn was going to forgive her and reinstate her as his consort. Her enemies in the royal family, including Suthida and Bajrakitiyabha were appalled, and the civil war inside the palace reignited.
During August, a letter arrived at an address where I used to live, and was forwarded to me. Inside was a SD card with 1,443 photographs that had apparently been extracted from three iPhones that Koi used to own. Most of the images were photographs she took of herself, and scores of them were very explicit. The envelope had a fake return address — Gardenshützenweg 71-101 in Berlin, which is an office of Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency. It also included a letter claiming that the images had been obtained by pro-democracy Thai hackers, but this was almost certainly untrue — instead, it’s highly probable that the images were leaked by a palace faction trying to sabotage Koi’s rehabilitation. The pictures were also sent to dissident academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun in Kyoto. I have never published any of the explicit photographs I received — I regard it as an invasion of privacy with no credible public interest justification. I was also wary of getting dragged into the civil war in the palace.
The efforts of her many enemies to block Koi’s return failed. The women’s prison at Lat Yao announced it would be closed to visitors on August 27 and 28, 2020, allegedly for a “big cleaning day”. In fact the jail was closed so Koi could be extracted without too many witnesses.
She was released from Lat Yao prison on August 28 and flown to Munich on one of the king’s personal Boeing 737s to rejoin his harem at Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl. Photographs taken by a journalist at Munich Airport showed the king went to greet her personally inside the aircraft as she arrived on August 30— wearing one of the crop tops that had become an infamous part of both their attire.
Shortly afterwards he emerged with Koi by his side.
In a bizarre announcement, the palace said that the charges against Koi had been annulled and she should be considered “free of guilt” and “untainted”. Vajiralongkorn attempted to rewrite history itself, bizarrely declaring that all the punishments inflicted on Koi should be deemed never to have happened:
The stripping of royal titles, official position in serving the crown in a military capacity and military ranks, and the recall of all decorations, have never taken place.
Koi was back in the game.
Meanwhile, Vajiralongkorn’s melodramatic love life was being frequently mocked by protesters calling for royal reform in Thailand.
In October 2020, Vajiralongkorn returned to Bangkok for a visit of several weeks, accompanied by both Suthida and Koi. As usual when the two women were both in Thailand and could not be kept apart, tensions quickly began worsening.
Koi regularly accompanied Vajiralongkorn and Suthida at royal events, leading to frequent excruciating scenes of the two women trying to ignore each other as the king and queen stood together and Koi lurked awkwardly in the background.
The drama spawned rival camps on social media, with Suthida and Koi each having competing Instagram fan clubs.
Senior palace courtiers and members of the extended royal family were in despair about the constant conflict and upheaval caused by Vajiralongkorn’s antics, and the damage it was doing to the image of the monarchy. Even most royalists were appalled by the chronic drama, as this post by popular monarchist social media site Royal World Thailand showed.
Vajiralongkorn had intended to return to Bavaria in November and send Suthida back to Engelberg. But because of the mounting mass protests calling for reform of the monarchy, plus the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, he decided to extend his stay and attempt a charm offensive to restore faith in the royals, with several walkabouts to greet adoring carefully chosen supporters.
Suthida and Koi both joined the walkabouts, along with Vajiralongkorn’s daughters Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari. Koi was usually flanked by other women in the royal harem, who were officially claimed to be ladies-in-waiting.
The royals ended up staying in Thailand for more than a year, the longest period Vajiralongkorn had spent in the kingdom since 2007. It was a nightmare time for Suthida.
As Koi’s influence over the king grew, she again began pressuring him to raise her status in the royal family even higher. Not content with being a royal noble consort, she implored him to elevate her to the rank of queen. According to senior palace sources, the lovestruck Vajiralongkorn initially agreed, and intended to hold a ceremony on Koi’s birthday on January 26, 2021, to bestow the title upon her. But the plan was furiously opposed by Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, who were aghast they they would have to move down a notch in the royal hierarchy if Koi became queen, and would have to show deference to a woman they loathed.
In late December 2020, Vajiralongkorn travelled to Roi Et for several days with Koi but not Suthida. The king and Koi wore various matching outfits during the trip, and royal sources said their clothes had been coordinated by Koi.
Over the years, Vajiralongkorn has shared strikingly childish cartoons on his annual New Year cards. His card for New Year 2021 included photographs of Vajiralongkorn and Koi, and drawings of a loving couple coloured yellow for the male and light blue for the woman, surrounded by children. There was no sign or mention of Suthida anywhere on the card.
Meanwhile, as conflict raged among the royals over Koi’s ambition to become queen, Suthida disappeared from public view, and was not seen for several weeks following an appearance on December 28.
Faced with another raging family row, Vajiralongkorn reluctantly backed down and took the side of his daughters again. The king celebrated Koi’s birthday with a highly unusual public display of affection for his concubine, accompanying her on a merit-making trip to the Wasukri royal pier to release some birds, fish and buffalo — although unfortunately no political prisoners — from captivity. Suthida had never been treated so well on her birthday. The lovebirds once again wore matching outfits, but Koi didn’t receive the present she had really wanted — promotion to queen.
Suthida eventually reappeared at an event at Dusit Palace on February 12 to mark Chinese New Year, with Koi also in attendance, and Bajrakitiyabha tactfully positioned between them. The queen continued to face regular humiliation throughout 2021, with Koi always shadowing her at royal events. Having a wife and a consort always present at the same ceremonies and rituals never got any less awkward or embarrassing for the monarchy.
Sometimes they even all shared a golf buggy together, in particularly ridiculous scenes, such as during this trip in March 2021.
Meanwhile, Vajiralongkorn continued to regularly publish new cartoons, many of which may have been partly drawn by Koi. The example below from February 2021 was drawn on Koi’s personal notepaper, as can be seen by her insignia on the left of the page — the interlinked letters MVS, for Mahidol, Vajiralongkorn and Sineenat, in yellow and blue. The figures in the cartoons are also colour coded — yellow for Vajiralongkorn and light blue for Koi.
In June 2021 the place issued a particularly excruciating set of images showing Vajiralongkorn and Koi supposedly working hard in the kitchens of Amphorn Sathan Palace to cook food for medical workers treating coronavirus patients. As usual, the pair were dressed in matching outfits — tracksuits, aprons with the slogan “so cute” and even chef’s hats.
The royals finally returned to Europe in November 2021, taking over much of the airport hotel in Munich for their mandatory two weeks of coronavirus quarantine. They made day trips to Thailand on November 20 for the changing of the clothes of the Emerald Buddha, and on December 5 for the birthday of the late King Bhumibol.
The December 5 visit was the last time Koi has been seen in public. She has been missing for eight months. Here is the last image we have of her.
It remains unknown what happened during December last year between Vajiralongkorn and Koi. Suthida was back at the Hotel Waldegg in Engelberg, while Vajiralongkorn was at Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl for most of the month with Koi and the harem.
The king flew back to Bangkok via Zurich on December 28 for Taksin Day, bringing Suthida but — very unusually — not Koi, who stayed in Bavaria. He planned to stay in Thailand less than two weeks.
Thai Airways was told to prepare the king’s favourite long-haul plane, a Boeing 777 with tail number HS-TKY which he insists on using for intercontinental flights, to fly from Suvarnabhumi to his favoured airport Don Mueang on January 7 and then to depart in the early hours of January 8 to take the royals back to Europe. As usual, the king wanted to fly to Zurich so he could drop off Suthida and send her back to Engelberg, then continue to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
But the plans were repeatedly changed. First the January 8 flight to Europe was cancelled, and rescheduled for January 11. Then this was cancelled too.
Vajiralongkorn’s return to Europe was rescheduled again for January 14, then January 24, but he kept cancelling. Clearly there was some turbulence in the palace, with plans being changed so frequently.
Eventually, Vajiralongkorn decided he was not going to return to his pleasure palace in Bavaria for now. He has not been back to Germany since December and has not seen Koi since then.
There has been some speculation that Koi could be pregnant, but there is no evidence to support that. The real reason, royal sources say, is that Koi’s ambitions were causing so much conflict that Vajiralongkorn became increasingly angry and bored of the drama. Surprisingly, Suthida seems to have won the power struggle for now, with the help of Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari.
Koi has managed to claw her way back many times before after setbacks, and perhaps she can do the same again. But she is out of favour with the king and stuck in Bavaria while Vajiralongkorn spends time with Suthida in Thailand.
On July 28 last week, the royals gathered to mark Vajiralongkorn’s 70th birthday. It was exactly three years since he had anointed Koi his royal noble consort, but she was nowhere to be seen.
For the moment, Koi is gone.