Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn is being investigated again in Germany over whether he paid the correct amount of property and inheritance taxes.
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn is embroiled in a new issue in Germany, as local officials are apparently investigating whether he paid the requisite property and inheritance taxes in Bavaria, where the Southeast Asian monarch spends most of his time.
King Vajiralongkorn, a controversial figure in Thailand, came under fire from Berlin in October 2020, when Germany’s then-Foreign Minister Heiko Maas publicly warned the king that “politics concerning Thailand is not to be done from German soil,” adding that Germany “would always oppose having guests in our country who run their state affairs from here.”
Following that, the German government stated that it was pleased with assurances that King Vajiralongkorn was not performing official Thai business in Germany, and tempers were considerably soothed when the king avoided Germany for the majority of 2021. However, interest in the king’s activities has resurfaced after he was photographed in Germany in November.
Interest was reignited after return of Thai King to Germany
“It is simply naive for the German government to assume that King Vajiralongkorn, who spends much of the year in Germany, is not conducting political affairs from here,” said Sevim Dagdelen, member of the German parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and part of the Left Party.
“Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock must declare the Thai king a persona non grata if she wants to prevent him from continuing to order massive human rights violations in Thailand while in Germany,” she told the media.
The Thai monarch is said to live in a house worth €10 million ($11.3 million) in Tutzing, a lakeside village near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and spends a lot of time at the opulent Sonnenbichl Hotel. Back home, his long absences have sparked a lot of debate.
In the capital Bangkok, widespread pro-democracy protests against the country’s administration, which is made up of military generals who gained control in a coup in 2014, erupted in early 2020. Despite the fact that criticizing the monarchy might result in decades in prison, marchers began to push for royal reforms, breaching a centuries-old taboo.
Hundreds of people were detained, and Thailand’s constitutional court declared that the demonstrators were seeking to destroy the monarchy, despite the fact that the majority of them were only asking restrictions on it.
Vajiralongkorn, unlike his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who ruled from 1946 until his death in 2016, is a divisive figure. Since assuming the throne, he has expanded the monarchy’s powers, been significantly more involved in politics, and struggled to connect with ordinary Thais.
Photos showing him barely clothed and surrounded by his enormous harem of women have circulated on social media, and many of them were shot while he was in Germany.
Thai King rather stays in Germany
“Thais are frustrated but the king doesn’t care. Things are pretty much the same now as before the protests,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
“He simply rather stays in Germany; that’s his personal liking,” Pavin explained. “He can still travel as much as he wishes, and he has been in and out of Germany. Sometimes, he has just done a one-day visit to Bangkok and then returned to Germany.”
The Thai King, King Vajiralongkorn, returned to Germany in November after a 13-month absence due to a warning issued by the German Foreign Ministry. Despite this, there are new controversies surrounding the Thai king. “The German media has continued to hunt him down, reporting regularly on his activities in Germany,” Pavin added.
King Vajiralongkorn purchased a new luxury $375 million (€332 million) aircraft last week, and the inaugural flight will apparently take place in Germany, according to German media. It was reported late last year in Germany’s Bild that the monarch had entrusted Germany with several of his most valued and precious things for safety.
German Foreign Minister Baerbock, who assumed office in December, has reiterated her predecessor’s stance by declaring that Berlin expects the king not to undertake Thai-related business while in Germany.
In October 2020, Germany’s then-Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in his official capacity issued a stern public warning to King Vajiralongkorn, a controversial figure at home in Thailand, that “politics concerning Thailand is not to be done from German soil” and that Germany “would always oppose having guests in our country who run their state affairs from here.”
Thai King must not conduct affairs related to Thailand while in Germany
“We have clearly communicated our position to the government of Thailand,” an official source in the German foreign ministry told the media. “We assume that no decisions will be made on German soil by their representatives that contradict the German legal system, international law, or internationally guaranteed human rights.”
“The Thai government has assured us that it will accept this requirement and act accordingly,” they added.
An anonymous source in the German foreign ministry indicated, however, that they are always looking for ways to improve the situation and that they may change their mind if new information emerges. In Germany, political and civil-society pressure for a change in government policy persists.
For years, Junya Yimprasert, the founder of the Thai activist group Act4Dem located in Europe, has been urging the Berlin government to crack down on King Vajiralongkorn. The messages critical of him were projected over buildings in Germany, including the country’s parliament and the Sonnenbichl Hotel, during the demonstrations in Bangkok in 2020, by Junya and her organization.
“We would be grateful if the German government removed the immunity of the Thai King and opened the pathway for criminal procedure under the German law to proceed,” she said.
Local authorities are known to be inquiring into the monarch’s tax issues on his second house in Tutzing, which he supposedly acquired for €10 million some years ago. There are also issues over whether he should have paid inheritance tax in Germany after his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, died.
According to reports, King Vajiralongkorn inherited an estimated $10.6 billion in inheritance from his father. According to German law, inheritance tax is 30%, which means the king might owe the German state approximately $3 billion.
Due to tax privacy restrictions, the Bavarian state tax office declined to comment.
“It is a scandal that a multi-billionaire apparently does not pay inheritance tax in Bavaria, although immunity under international law does not provide for any exemption from this,” Dagdelen said. “The king’s privileged treatment must end.”