Monday, January 24, 2022

Thai king does not need visa to return to Germany, says Berlin

German authorities have raised questions about whether the king has conducted Thai state business while in Germany.

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As a head of state, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn can return to Germany at any time without a visa, the Berlin foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The monarch, 68, has spent much of his time in Bavaria since assuming the throne in 2016.

He returned to Thailand in October amid mass student-led protests demanding curbs to new powers he has taken.

Demonstrators also demanded the resignation of the ultra-royalist prime minister, who first seized power in a military coup.

King Maha also drew criticism within Germany as he and his entourage lived in a hotel during the country’s first lockdown even though hotels were supposed to have closed.

Answering a parliamentary question from the opposition, the foreign ministry said the king has not needed a visa to visit Germany since he became head of state.

Sevim Dagdelen, an opposition MP, said if the king needed no visa then the German government could not influence how long he stayed, but if necessary and as a last resort could declare him persona non grata or an undesirable person.

In response, a foreign ministry source said on Wednesday: “Even if a foreign head of state does not need a visa to enter the country, Germany is free to tolerate the stay or not due to its territorial sovereignty.”

The German government has said it would be unacceptable for the king to conduct Thai politics from Germany and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in October the authorities were monitoring his behaviour while there.

The source at the foreign ministry said it has no evidence that the king has conducted Thai state business during his previous sojourns in Germany.

Thai protesters have complained about their king’s prolonged absences from his country, as well as the high cost of his lengthy stays in Europe.

In late October protesters marched to the German embassy in Bangkok to present a letter asking Berlin to look into whether the king had conducted state business while on German soil.

The Thai palace has a policy of not commenting to media and has never said anything about the king’s time in Europe.

Since Maha ascended the throne following the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the role of the monarchy in Thai politics has become a central issue for many protesters, who argue that accusations of disloyalty to the king have been used repeatedly to put down pro-democracy movements.

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