BANGKOK — After publishing dozens of unusual photographs of the Thai king with his official consort, the website of the Royal Household Bureau went down Monday and remained inaccessible for much of the next day.
Among the photos of Major General Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun’s consort, are images of her sitting in an airplane cockpit, wearing a camouflage-printed sports bra.
In other images, she is aiming an assault rifle and standing in combat gear with the king’s pet poodle in her arms. The dog is wearing what appears to be a black leather top.
Sineenat was named a noble consort last month, on the king’s 67th birthday. It is a title that has not been conferred since Thailand abolished its absolute monarchy in 1932. Before taking up her consort duties, Sineenat graduated from the Army Nursing College in 2008. She is now a member of the king’s bodyguard corps, with the rank of major general.
The palace released more than 60 photos of Sineenat, accompanied by a biography that ran to more than 40 pages. Sineenat completed courses on jungle warfare and night parachuting, according to the biography.
The position of noble consort is separate from that of queen. That title is held by Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, a former flight attendant who is the king’s fourth wife. Suthida later became a general and helped command the king’s bodyguards. News that the two had married was released three days before the monarch was officially crowned in May.
Both Suthida and Sineenat participated in the coronation ceremonies, a gilded $30 million affair in which the king received a 16-pound Great Crown of Victory.
At airports in Bangkok, large electronic billboards now show a montage of the king’s life. “His merit and virtue shield the people,” says one message displayed on the board.
Maha Vajiralongkorn spends much of his time in Germany. His father, though he was born in the United States and educated in Switzerland, did not leave Thailand for decades after he was crowned; when he died, he was the world’s longest-reigning living monarch.
Thailand has strict defamation laws that make criticizing members of the royal family an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Among the hundreds who have been jailed for lèse-majesté in recent years are relatives of Maha Vajiralongkorn’s third wife, whom he divorced in 2014.
Several prominent observers of the royal family in Thailand declined to comment on the photos of the king and his consort.
Thailand, led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the architect of a 2014 military coup, announced a plan this month to set up a center designed to stop the spread of false news online. Human rights groups have warned that the center could be used to limit freedom of speech in a country where various laws have been used to criminalize dissent.
It is not clear what caused the palace website, which on Tuesday displayed a “403 forbidden” message instead of featuring the photos of Sineenat, to stop working. Such error messages occur when an Internet service provider suspends a site, and could mean that it has been overloaded by traffic or that an order has gone out to take it down.
An employee of the database office at the Royal Household Bureau, who declined to give her name when reached by phone Tuesday, said the site had crashed the day before for unknown reasons and that her office was working to fix it. By Tuesday evening, the site was accessible again, including the photos of the general.