BANGKOK — Thailand’s Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn has asked the government to strip his wife’s family of their royally issued surname, the latest development in a high-profile crackdown that involves senior members of the police force.
The move came after at least three relatives of the crown prince’s wife, Princess Srirasm, were arrested last week as part of the corruption probe.
The probe has attracted national attention in Thailand, where the private lives of the royal family are kept discreet. But many questions remain unanswered, primarily because of strict lese majeste laws that carry a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for insulting the monarchy.
In a letter dated Friday but released over the weekend, the crown prince ordered the “cancellation of the royally bestowed family name ‘Akrapongpreecha,’” which was issued after the pair married in 2001. The brief letter, which was sent to the Interior Ministry, gave no explanation for the action.
National police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri confirmed the letter’s authenticity.
Srirasm is the crown prince’s third wife and was last seen in public a week ago at a royal ceremony alongside her husband. They have a 9-year-old son, who is a presumed heir to the throne.
The crackdown has included the arrest of at least eight police officers, who face serious charges ranging from bribery and extortion to defaming the monarchy.
Thailand’s police department has a reputation as one of the country’s most corrupt institutions.
The junta that has ruled the country since toppling an elected government on May 22 claims it is prioritizing the fight against corruption, but critics say graft remains institutionalized and the army’s real goal is to cripple political rivals led by self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.
The crackdown comes at a sensitive time for the monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, in poor health.
Worries about the king’s health and succession have contributed to Thailand’s political instability over the past eight years. As the wife of the crown prince, Srirasm would potentially become the next queen of Thailand.