At Prachatai Pravit Rojanaphruk picks up on a picture PPT also commented on, where ultra-royalist/neo-fascists referred to an alleged incident involving the king’s photo and a foot.
Pravit says this equation of the king/monarchy with religion and god-like qualities is one of the “newer manifestations of the increasingly religious dimension of how some ultra-royalist Thais regard the monarchy institution, especially HM the King.”
We disagree that this is new, but do think that the battle for hearts and minds in recent years, that has increasingly come to focus on the preservation of the declining monarchy has seen an intensification of the cult of personality.
Pravit notes that:
In a country where politicians are often regarded as corrupt and evil, many royalists feel there is a need to inject a sacred dimension into society as opposed to the supposedly evil and profane corrupt and self-serving politicians. The monarchy institution, and particularly the current HM the King, is thus regarded by ultra-royalists as ‘sacred’.
PPT recalls an article by Thongchai Winichakul some time ago in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, where he made similar points relating to the denigration of politicians as venal and evil versus the alleged sacredness and goodness of the monarchy. Download that article here.
Of course, this is all propaganda, and Thongchai explains the history of the process of ideological development. But that this is all a fairy tale is hardly the point for the ultra-royalists who feel rudderless without the symbolic father figure to lead them in their battle with the evil and venal.
Pravit states that:
Many ultra-royalists think you cannot criticize God and laws such as the lese majeste and Computer Crimes Act will ensure that few will challenge the discourse of the King being purely good and benevolent.
We know that to be true and that lese majeste has become a convenient means to try and protect and prolong a declining social order. This is a rearguard action ultimately doomed to failure but is now an act of faith. This is because of the eye-opening events of recent years that has shown the royal image to be nothing but childish propaganda.
Pravit is right in his observation that: “The notion of good and virtuous person is hierarchical, as it stands in opposition (and above) that of bad as well as ordinary people.” At the same time, the basic failure of a monarchy in a democratic society is that in its very existence it is a medieval notion of hierarchy.
Update: A reader points out this YouTube video of Thongchai discussing “hyper-royalism.”