BERLIN – Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has sparked controversy in Germany with his frequent stays at a four-star hotel in the Bavarian Alps during the coronavirus crisis.
The monarch and his sizable entourage have become regular visitors to the region, where he also owns a 14,000-square-meter villa, since his coronation in 2016.
These visits have often caught the attention of local tabloid newspapers due to the royal’s extravagant clothing and accompaniment of concubines.
During the COVID-19 pandemic there have also been criticisms that the king’s continued holiday has been due to special treatment.
He customarily stays at the luxurious Grand Sonnenbichl Hotel and goes skiing and hiking in the mountains.
“You cannot speak of an exceptional treatment,” Stephan Scharf, spokesman for the Garmisch-Partenkirchen ski resort, where the hotel is located, tells EFE by telephone.
He adds that regulations imposed by Bavarian authorities in March prohibiting overnight tourist stays due to coronavirus allowed hotels to continue accommodating displaced travelers.
“The hotel then sent us an email informing us that they had a group of Thai citizens who were already there and asked us if they could stay,” he continues.
“We considered this situation was covered by the regulation.”
The monarch’s abundant entourage, which German media has reported to be around 100 people, and his alleged infractions of a mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals and strict lockdown measures that were in force until a few weeks ago have caused a wave of outrage.
Scharf says the prefecture has received complaints and even threats from the rest of the country.
“The issue has been given a lot of hype when in fact there has been no harm,” he adds.
Bavarian hotels are expected to resume normal activity this week, according to Scharf.
Local politician Katharina Schulze does not agree and has asked the federal government to clarify whether the king’s behavior contravened regulations designed to slow the spread of the pandemic.
“These privileges for a monarch from which ordinary citizens are excluded require an explanation,” Schulze was quoted as saying by local media.
Germany’s foreign ministry in Berlin the monarch, who has a diplomatic passport, is not in the country on an official trip.
“According to information from the Thai government, the stay of His Majesty, Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua, the head of state of the Kingdom of Thailand, is private,” the ministry said.
It is unclear whether the monarch is still at Sonnenbichl or not, the hotel phone goes straight to a prerecorded message informing potential clients that due to the pandemic it is not possible to reserve rooms until further notice.
Reports of human rights violations in Thailand have fueled criticisms of the Thai royal, officially known as King Rama X.
Earlier this month a group of activists projected messages of protest on the Sonnenbichl Hotel and the facade of the Thai embassy in Berlin.
Thailand has one of the harshest lèse-majesté laws in the world, which forbid any public debate on the monarch’s decisions and with penalties of between three and 15 years in prison for defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir or members of the royal household.