A while ago PPT posted on the decades of traffic jams that result from the closing of roads so that royal motorcades can roar past unimpeded by the hoi polloi. The quiet complaints – they have to be quiet for fear of lese majeste – about a sadej/เสด็จ are common. The number of royal cars charging through the police-emptied streets appear to have become even more annoying as, for example, younger princesses get the full treatment even when they go clubbing and shopping.
Nearly a month after that post, an AP report has been crafted about this and has been seen in several international newspapers, including the Washington Post. The report is pretty much the same as the original story that got our attention a month ago, but with a couple of new details about the handbook delivered to police last Friday.
The report explains that:
It overturns practices [of royal cavalcades] that quietly irritated the public in a country where open criticism of the royal family is illegal, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
We trust that readers of the report who aren’t usually interested in Thailand will note this point: Thailand’s monarchy is the most active in its use of laws that “protect” it from any criticism, no matter how true or minor.
The joke that is the royal process is made clear:
The palace hopes the changes will end a long-running joke about notorious traffic congestion in the capital of more than 12 million people.
“Every time there’s a traffic jam, everyone wonders if there’s a royal motorcade passing by,” palace official Chantanee Thanarak told a police training session at national police headquarters in Bangkok. “The royal family never meant to bother the public.”
Of course, the latter point is a yet another fabrication by the palace propaganda machine at the Office of His Majesty’s Private Secretary. The processions are meant as a demonstration of royal wealth, power and privilege.
Even the story that the king has personally asked for the new rules is questionable. As the report points out,
About a dozen members of Thailand’s extended royal family travel by motorcade, including 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the queen, their children and grandchildren. The palace said Bhumibol initiated the changes himself, though he has rarely traveled outside the hospital where he has stayed more than two years.
Actually, he’s been there for almost three years, so it has to be questioned why he would, after six decades of blocking traffic, have suddenly seen a light. PPT can only assume that, given all the criticism of the royals in recent years, that a bit of public relations is going on.
The report does have some interesting detail on the new guidelines that apparently go beyond traffic:
Shopping malls do not have to turn away shoppers if a royal family member appears. “But be careful not to let people get close to royal family members,” the manual says.
That seems a shot across the bow of the several royal children and grandchildren who deem it their privilege to shop without “their subjects” being able to bother them. Getting a new Hermes bag might be more challenging for the rich royals now.
The report states that:
The new procedures take effect now, and police are being trained on them. The 48-page handbook has photographs of how to close roads and manage crowds and includes palace phone numbers that authorities can call if questions arise.
While most sane people might consider it insane that 48 pages of instructions are required to move royals about, this is the state of privilege in Thailand. PPT imagines that the police who have to manage the new system will be scared witless about a cock-up, and will be unwilling to change if it means getting a royal kick in the pants.