Thailand releases rare photos of King’s royal consort

Thailand’s royal palace has released candid photographs of the king’s newly-anointed consort, offering a rare and intimate window into the lives of the Thai royals.

Put out by the Royal Thai Household, the images show Maj. Gen. Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, 34, wearing combat fatigues, flying a jet and aiming a gun at a firing range.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn bestowed Sineenat the title of “Chao Khun Phra,” or the royal noble consort, on July 28 — his 66th birthday. She is the first woman to be given the rank in nearly a century.

The undated, action-packed photos show the former army nurse, who served in the King’s royal bodyguard unit, in a range of settings. In one photograph, she is wearing a parachute and standing inside a military plane, while other images depict her in more traditional photos for a royal noble consort, such as being dressed in Thai formal attire sat next to the King.

In one shot, Sineenat and Vajiralongkorn are wearing military fatigues and holding the King’s royal poodle. In another, the two are wearing casual clothes and laughing naturally.

The images received so much interest that the Thai palace’s website crashed following their release, due to the volume of traffic, Reuters reported.

A biography released with the images said Sineenat was born in the northern Thai province of Nan on January 26, 1985. She graduated from Army Nursing College in 2008 and spent time in the military undertaking courses in jungle warfare and piloting, according to state broadcaster Thai PBS.

The images give a rare insight into the personal life of a high-ranking member of the royal household — strict lese majeste laws prohibit insulting or defaming the monarchy and carry a jail term of up to 15 years for each count.

Because of these restrictions, the media — including CNN — can only report certain details about senior members of the royal family.

Vajiralongkorn was crowned king in May in an elaborate, three-day celebration, two years after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Days before the coronation, the king announced that he had married Gen. Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, and declared her queen.

Queen Suthida has been a feature of the royal household for years. In 2016, Vajiralongkorn promoted her to the rank of general — and a year later made her deputy commander of the King’s Royal Guard Command.