Dhaka: The King of Thailand King Maha Vajiralongkorn has caused outrage after he took a 9,000km flight to attend a dinner party last week. King Vajiralongkorn is currently weathering the coronavirus pandemic in Germany. However, his latest trip to Bangkok represents a violation of those quarantine rules. Not to mention the lack of environmental consciousness posed by the journey.
Very few would ever contemplate crossing continents to attend a dinner party. Yet, that’s exactly what the Thai King did last week. According to reports, the country’s King escaped his quarantine to attend a lavish party held in celebration of Chakri Memorial Day on April 6.
It appears that King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s social calendar stops for no pandemic. The King is currently quarantining outside of Thailand - not even in Asia. King Vajiralongkorn is keeping himself and 20 of his mistresses in a four-star hotel resort in the German Alps.
As a result, his dinner service was not merely a short drive away, but many, many countries away. Thai Airways took the Thai King from Munich International Airport (MUC) to Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok on a flight of more than 8,500km.
However, no celebration dinner would be complete without someone to go with. For this reason, the King is reported to have also arranged a flight between Germany and Switzerland to pick up one of his four wives. Queen Suthida, an ex-flight attendant, has been staying in Switzerland for the duration of the quarantine pandemic but was still invited to the Chakri Memorial Day dinner in Bangkok. The Thai Prime Minister and Head of the Military met the group on their arrival.
However, the King did not stay in Thailand for long. Promptly as the dinner ended, he flew his entourage back to Munich to continue his isolation.
In times like these, it’s understandable why there has been animosity towards the King’s movements. Despite Thai law prohibiting many speaking out against the King for fear of a three to a 15-year jail term, many have been questioning his behaviour. It is clear that the King has flouted some of the quarantine restrictions that should apply to everyone, regardless of socio-political status.
However, an equally pressing issue is the environmental detriment that such an extravagant flight poses.
There is still an environmental impact of operating empty flights.
Airlines operating near-empty flights have been the topic of some conversations recently amid the coronavirus pandemic. While CO2 emissions have dropped due to grounded aircraft, operating empty flights does not suddenly become an acceptable practice.
Flying a few passengers, if not for emergencies such as repatriation, still represents a wasteful use of resources. The knock-on effect is that our environment must deal with the consequences of surplus CO2 emissions. For example, the Boeing 777-300 that normally operates Thai Airways’ flights between Munich and Bangkok produces 4,693kg of CO2 emission one way. That puts a round trip at over 9,000kg of CO2 deposited into the atmosphere.
Despite what may seem like apparent counterarguments for breaking COVID-19 quarantine, King Maha Vajiralongkorn seemed largely unphased by his action. Instead, at the party, he spoke about the importance of the government solving the pandemic. In addition, he said information about the virus needed to be communicated more effectively.