The health crisis of Thailand’s Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol has sparked national discussion on the future of Thailand’s monarchy.
Princess Bajrakitiyabha, also known as “Princess Bha” in Thailand, collapsed on Dec. 14 while training her dogs in Nakhon Ratchasima in Bangkok.
The 44-year-old was flown by helicopter to Bangkok’s King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, where she is currently receiving intensive medical care.
According to the Thai palace, the princess, who is now on life support, fell unconscious due to a sudden heart condition.
“Her royal highness’s heartbeat is controlled by medicine,” the palace’s statement issued on Monday said, according to NDTV. “The medical team has offered her royal highness medicine and equipment to support the work of her royal highness’s heart, lung and kidney.”
Princess Bajrakitiyabha is the eldest daughter of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn. She is widely expected to be the successor to the throne as the king’s only child from his first marriage.
The princess is reportedly a trained diplomat, lawyer and prison reform activist. She received two graduate degrees from Cornell University before serving as Thailand’s ambassador to Austria.
Thailand’s king has yet to declare his successor, but if Princess Bajrakitiyabha were to be named sovereign heir, she would make history as the first woman to ascend the throne in Thailand.
Princesses in the Southeast Asian country were allowed to be named monarch following a constitutional amendment in 1974.
Amid the news of the princess’ health crisis, rumors suggest that she is in a worse condition than publicly admitted.
The Thai monarchy has been under scrutiny in recent years due to harsh defamation laws, prompting pro-democracy protests across the nation in 2020. Public opinion and discussion on royalty have since been divided into loyal supporters and anti-royalists.
“Never before were we able to talk about the monarchy so openly and in such a way, protesting against it and calling for reform,” Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor of Thai politics at Japan’s Kyoto University, told Vice World News.
“I think that would be an indication of public opinion that the popularity and reverence of the monarchy in Thailand has been declining,” he added.