Germany does not believe Thai king breached state business ban

Thai protesters have accused King Maha Vajiralongkorn of conducting state business, including signing royal decrees, while he was on German soil.

Many royalists believe the student protesters are being manipulated by older activists with their own political agendas [File: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Germany does not believe that Thailand’s king has so far breached its ban on conducting politics during his extended periods in the country, a parliamentary source told the Reuters news agency, after legislators were briefed on the issue by the government.

Following a meeting of the Bundestag’s Committee of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, the source said that the government had told MPs that it believed the king was permitted to make occasional decisions, as long as he did not continuously conduct business from German soil.

“The German government has taken the view that it is not yet of the opinion that the Thai king has continuously conducted business,” the source said.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 68, has spent much of his time in the southeastern state of Bavaria since taking the throne. Thai protesters earlier asked the German government to look into whether he had conducted state business, such as the signing of royal commands and the annual expenditure act while on German soil.

Berlin has already said it would be unacceptable for the king to conduct politics from Germany, and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says it will continue to monitor his behaviour when he is in Bavaria.

When asked about the king’s immigration status, the government told the committee the Thai monarch has a visa that allows him to stay in Germany for several years as a private person and also enjoys diplomatic immunity as a head of state.

Diplomatic headache

Thailand’s political crisis has made the king’s presence a challenge for Germany, but revoking the visa of a visiting head of state could cause a considerable diplomatic incident.

“It is very obvious that many find what the Thai king is doing very problematic, but the government says it is not yet the problem of continuous government business,” the source told Reuters.

Youth- and student-led protests began in Thailand in July to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha – a former army ruler – and a new constitution but have increasingly sought reforms to the monarchy, an unprecedented move in a country where the royal family is protected by strict laws.

The pro-democracy protesters have accused the king of involvement in the country’s politics.

Prayuth has ignored the demands to quit and said the crisis should be discussed in parliament, where he has a majority.

Opposition parties told him he should step down for the good of the country and stop using his proclaimed support for the monarchy as an argument to stay in power.

Prayuth’s opponents say he managed to stay in office after elections last year, thanks new electoral rules and a constitution drawn up by the military government he headed after a 2014 coup. He says that the ballot was fair.

On Monday, more than 1,000 people demonstrated in support of the king, a day after thousands of people marched to call for reforms of the monarchy.

Many royalists believe the student protesters are being manipulated by older activists with their own political agendas.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies