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Thai king dismisses six palace officials, one for 'evil' actions

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By The Associated Press with NBC News World News
Image: Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Queen Suthida, Princess Bajrakitiyabha and Princess Sirivannavari Nariratan leave after they attend an event commemorating the death of King Chulalongkorn in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 23, 2019.   -   Copyright  Athit Perawognmetha
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BANGKOK — Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn has dismissed six palace staffers, just days after stripping his royal consort of her titles and military ranks for what he termed disloyalty.

The six palace officials were dismissed and stripped of their ranks and royal decorations on Wednesday, according to a statement from the palace.

The most senior of them, police Lt. Gen. Sakolket Chantra, worked with the Royal Household Bureau and sometimes represented the palace in public events. He was accused of "evil" actions — an expression that means serious misconduct — indiscipline and exploiting his job for personal gain, the statement said.

The others, attached to palace guard units, were similarly accused.

The ousted consort, Sineenatra Wongvajirabhakdi, had been a senior officer in a palace security unit.

Sineenatra was stripped Monday of her positions and decorations for actions undermining the position of Queen Suthida, the king's official wife, for her own benefit. The palace accused her of coveting the queen's privileges, and not stopping her scheming even after being granted in July the prestigious title of Royal Noble Consort.

It has been almost a century since a Thai king has had a formally designated consort.

Sineenatra's whereabouts are not known.

Although not publicly stated, the timing and circumstances suggested that some of the officials' dismissals were related to the consort's ouster. One of the officers served in the same security unit as Sineenatra, and another was a certified nurse working as a royal page in the royal chamber — bedroom — the same profession the consort pursued before coming to the palace.

Queen Suthida is the king's fourth wife, after three previous marriages ended in divorce.

The breakup with former consort Sineenatra recalls Vajiralongkorn's 2014 falling out with his third wife, Srirasmi Suwadee, when he was still crown prince. In that case, several relatives were arrested shortly before the split-up was announced. Her parents were arrested for abusing their royal connection, and an uncle who was a senior policeman was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for corruption.

Srirasmi lost her royal titles and privileges, and was sent to live in what amounted to house arrest in western Thailand.

Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne in 2016 after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades.

Vajiralongkorn has proved to be a more activist king than his father, who ruled as a constitutional monarch, acting discreetly and at arm's length from administrative affairs.

The new king has assumed greater personal ownership and direction of royal finances, estimated to exceed $40 billion, and had several plots of prime real estate in the capital, Bangkok, revert to the palace's direct control. He has also asserted more power over the military and the governing body of Buddhist monks.