A KING married four times with a penchant for piloting jets; a shrewd tactician with a hefty fortune and the army's loyalty-

Snippets from the closely-guarded life of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn who remains an enigma for his subjects.

The 66-year-old heir will be crowned today in a royal-ceremony as Rama X of the Chkari dynasty, more than two years after the death of his beloved father King Bhumibol, widely revered as a figure of unity and man of the people.

But little is known about the incoming monarch, Bhumobol's only male heir who spends most of his time abroad, lives in privacy and rarely addresses Thai public.

His inscrutable image is carefully curated by a trusted advisers, guards and strict press rules about how the royal family can be depicted in a country with some of the world's toughest lese majeste laws.

He is often represented performing royal duties or charity in the Thai official royal press.

Less guarded moments overseas have been relayed in the foreign media, but they have not been disseminated inside the kingdom.

''This great mystery - makes him distant,'' said a Thai businessman who once worked for the palace, speaking under condition of anonymity.

Vajiralongkorn rarely gives interviews, but in a sit down with BBC in 1979, he gave a nod to the conundrum of being born a prince.

''It's difficult to say what it's like to be a fish when you're a fish or what it is like to be a bird when you are a bird,'' a soft-spoken Vajiralongkorn said.

Pedaling and Protocol.
Born on July 28, 1952, Vajiralongkorn completed his secondary education in Britain before training in Australia's Royal Military College.

He developed a passion for flying, piloted fighter jets, and served as a career officer in the  Thai military, training for periods with the US, British and Australian armed forces.

In the twilight of his father's reign the then crown prince took on a more prominent  public role. A fan of the outdoors, Vajiralongkorn donned spandex to lead two choreographed mass-cycling events through Bangkok in 2015.

Vajiralongkorn is a study in in contrasts with his father, who toured the country with camera and maps in  hand much of his 76-year reign. [Agencies]


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