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Crop-tops, mistresses and flying poodles: meet Thailand’s next king

The Independent The Independent 15/10/2016 Ben Kentish
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Thailand is set to crown a new monarch this month after King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death ended his 70-year reign – but the former ruler’s only son and heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is not popular with everyone.

In fact he is known more for his eclectic dress sense, scandal-plagued past and failed marriages than any regal qualities.

The 64-year-old Crown Prince was pictured at Munich airport earlier this year wearing a small white crop-top, faded slim-fit jeans and a fake tattoo sleeve.

And he has already asked to delay becoming king, raising fears of deepening instability in Thailand after the death of his much-loved father. 

Born in 1952 in Bangkok’s Royal Palace, Prince Maha was educated in the UK at King’s Mead School and Millfield School before attending Australia’s Royal Military College. He spent much of his working life training with armed forces in Britain and the US, winning an array of military titles and a pilot’s license after developing a love of aviation.

He rushed home from Germany – where he spends much of his time, reportedly with a former Thai Airways air hostess who he is planning to marry – when his father’s health deteriorated and has since requested to delay taking to the throne so, he says, he has more time to mourn.

Experts believe this could deepen a period of instability in Thailand that has included two coups, anti-government protests and a bloody fight for secession by Muslim separatists in the country’s southern provinces.

The crown prince is seen to lack the public popularity that gave his father's rule legitimacy, raising fears of a power struggle in the south-east Asian country. 

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Why is he so controversial? 

It is Prince Maha’s “playboy” personal life that has attracted most attention. He is famous for his dedication to his pet poodle, Foo Foo, which was awarded the rank of Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force and given its own Wikipedia page.

It has frequently appeared at official functions; including accompanying the Crown Prince to a 2007 reception hosted in his honour by the US Ambassador Ralph Boyce.

Mr Boyce allegedly recounted the event in a leaked cable, writing: “Foo Foo was present at the event, dressed in formal evening attire complete with paw mitts, and at one point during the band’s second number, he jumped up on to the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own.

“The Air Chief Marshal’s antics drew the full attention of the 600-plus audience members, and remains the talk of the town to this day.”

When the dog died last year, it was given a four-day funeral complete with Buddhist rites before being cremated in an extravagant ceremony.

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