BANGKOK – Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has directed police to change its security protocols to avoid the huge traffic jams that are formed whenever members of the royal family travel through the capital in motorcades following months of criticism from citizens on social media, the country’s government announced on Monday.
At the behest of the royal decree issued by the king, the security forces have modified the usual procedure of cutting off entire streets through which royals are passing and instead will partially reserve only certain lanes for the motorcades, government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat said in a statement posted on her Facebook page.
“His Majesty the King was concerned that the motorcades might affect Thai people’s commute. Therefore, his majesty has assigned the Royal Thai Police to set guidelines for citizens to transit regularly and to have the least impact,” said the voiceover in an explanatory video that accompanied Narumon’s statement.
“The process of adjusting the protection pattern during the royal motorcades of the King and his royal family by the Royal Thai Police is intended to provide security to His Majesty the King and royal family at the highest standard to be dignified and in accordance with the wishes of His Majesty the King,” Narumon wrote.
The new plans include opening lanes for the public to use at the same time as the royal motorcades, as well as allowing the use of U-turns and bridges crossing over them.
These measures were introduced following an unusual wave of criticism on social media focused on the traffic chaos and disruptions generated by the royal family’s land travels through Bangkok, one of the world’s most congested cities.
The hashtag #RoyalMotorcade (in Thai) was a trending topic in October, when many users complained about being stuck for hours waiting for the sovereign or his relatives to move through the capital’s downtown area. In December, a bridge leading out of the metropolis was shut down to allow the monarch to pick up his new yacht.
The outrage intensified at the end of the year, when many parts in southern Thailand, including the popular Phi Phi national park, were shut to the public because Princess Sirivannavari, the king’s youngest daughter, was vacationing there.
In Thailand, any public criticism of the monarchy is extremely rare, since it has one of the harshest lèse-majesté laws in the world that imposes penalties of up to 15 years in prison for offenders.