Wed, May 03, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Thai king gains control of five agencies

AFP, BANGKOK

Thailand’s new king yesterday was granted control over five state agencies that oversee royal affairs and security, the latest move by an increasingly assertive monarch to consolidate power.

The law detailing the transfers was not made public until it was published late on Monday in the Royal Gazette, meaning lawmakers had voted on the bill in private.

That secrecy is in line with the trademark opacity of Thailand’s monarchy, a powerful institution shielded by harsh defamation laws that for decades have landed critics behind bars.

The five agencies transferred to King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s control include two major administrative departments — the Royal Household Bureau and the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary — plus three palace security agencies.

All were previously under government or military control.

“[These] are agencies that handle work related to His Majesty the King and royal family members’ business, and they need to follow traditional procedures,” said the law, which took effect yesterday. “The work is different than other departments so it is suitable to set up new agencies under His Majesty’s custody.”

Vajiralongkorn, 64, ascended the throne after death in October last year of his father Bhumibol Adulyadej. It was the country’s first royal succession in 70 years, stirring anxiety among powerbrokers about how a new monarch might restructure relations between the palace and figures in military and government.

Vajiralongkorn has yet to attain his father’s level of popularity and his approach to the crown is still largely a mystery. Yet the new king has taken a number of assertive moves in recent months to expand his influence.

Vajiralongkorn has sacked a number of powerful palace officials from his father’s era. Some were publicly accused of “evil deeds” and paraded in front of the media with their heads shaved.

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