This year was dominated by controversy and a new royal baby in the Asian royal sphere. The Thai King saw mass protests against his reign while he resided in Germany, the Emperor of Japan fended off complaints for the lack of engagement with the public, and Bhutan welcomed a new royal baby.
Thailand’s monarch primarily resides in Germany, but when a mass shooting took place in Thailand, he covered the costs of the victims’ funerals. However, his good deed didn’t last long as news broke in March that while in Germany, he rented an entire hotel to stay with his harem. By April, he’d left his harem to return to Thailand for Chakri Day. Protests outside his hotel in Germany followed in May.
By August, there were mass protests against the government and King Rama X’s reign. Protestors used the Hunger Games salute and had a Harry Potter-themed rally. They wanted a new constitution, the resignation of the Prime Minister and a curb on the King’s ever-increasing powers. In a worrying sign of the King’s paranoia and the lengths his supporters will go to, critics of the monarchy living outside Thailand received suspicious packages to let them know they were being watched.
The following month, the King reinstated his consort (the first concubine in generations) to her role after stripping her of her titles and roles late last year. The demonstrations against his reign continued to grow as the protestors risked it all to have their voices heard. In October, the German Foreign Minister said he was against the King reigning from Germany, and Thailand banned gatherings of more than five people in an attempt to stop the protests against Rama X once he returned from Germany. This didn’t stop demonstrators from tearing down the King and Queen’s photos, however.
The King decided to address the protestors in November saying he “loves them all the same” and that Thailand is “the land of compromise.” In December, the United Nations urged Thailand to change the lèse majesté laws in the country which carries up to a 15-year prison sentence for insulting, threatening or defaming the royals.
While the year started fine with Emperor Naruhito delivering his first New Year’s speech, no one imagined what 2020 had in store. Succession remained unstable and will remain unstable until a change is made. While the government began an informal study regarding the succession, they never took any action as the year progressed. However, good news was announced as the Emperor and Empress Masako’s State Visit to the UK was planned for the spring, but COVID’s impact began to show in February when the Emperor’s public birthday celebrations were cancelled.
The following month, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the State Visit to the UK was cancelled while the Imperial Household announced where the Emperor and Empress’s daughter, Princess Aiko, was going to university after graduating from high school. In April, Crown Prince Akishino’s ceremonies to mark him becoming the heir were postponed, but in May, the Crown Prince Family donated 300 handmade medical gowns to help the healthcare field. Japanese pundits also started calling on the Imperial Family to use social media to interact with the people like their European counterparts.
November saw the Crown Prince finally be declared as heir to the throne in the traditional ceremony, and it was revealed the government was considering allowing female members of the Imperial Family to head their own branches. The year concluded with the announcement that there would be no public New Year celebrations at the Imperial Palace.
In Bhutan, the year began with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck hosting participants of the 13th Scouts Leadership Training while the world waited for the new royal baby’s birth. In the meantime, the Crown Prince celebrated his fourth birthday.
The following month the new royal baby, a prince, was born, but the King shut the borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In June, the first images of the new family of four were released ahead of the announcement that the new baby would be called Prince Jigme Ugyen Wangchuck and go by Prince Ugyen Wangchuck.
The King and his father, the former monarch, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, toured the country to encourage their citizens recovering from the pandemic. The country had a reason to celebrate in October as the King’s younger sister married the Queen’s younger brother. The following month Coronation Day was celebrated with new photos of the King and his family. In December, the King had to address his people for National Day via video and radio as COVID began to spread quickly again. Queen Jetsun Pema ordered that services be available for victims of domestic violence, as well.
Brunei didn’t make many headlines in 2020. However, sad news came from the country in October as the Sultan’s son, Prince Abdul Azim, died at the age of 38.