Why is she in Switzerland?

1 06 2020

In a brief update to an earlier post, PPT mentioned order issued for officials to ensure that the the absentee queen is acknowledged on her birthday. Queen Suthida is King Vajiralongkorn’s major wife, but lives separately from him, staying at a resort in Switzerland. Like the king, she spends almost no time in Thailand.

Suthida in the uniform, earrings and makeup of a General

In a report on the orders issued to all governors, taxpayer funds are to be poured into “celebrations” for the truant, Khaosod reports that Wednesday is a declared holiday and that Queen Suthida’s 42nd birthday “can take place as the coronavirus situation has subsided.” The instruction “calls for a ceremony expressing loyalty to … the Queen in front of the provincial City Halls, where a large portrait of the Queen must be installed.” In addition, the “Queen’s flag should be put up along with the national flag as well as … banner[s] in the color of purple and white,” said to “represent” the queen. It also ordered that “[l]ight decorations will be on display in certain public areas for a month.”

There is no limit to the availability of public funds when it comes to celebrating the monarch and his official queen, even if neither of them spend much time at all in the country.

It is not clear why she has to spend her time in Switzerland when the king appears to ignore her, seemingly spending all his time with his harem in Germany.





Seeking safety in cyberspace

31 05 2020

At Quartz, there’s discussion of efforts to find safety on line. By “safety” is meant avoiding visits from the police and military for what one reads and writes online.

It begins by quoting Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an independent commentator and associated with the Thai Netizen Network, who discarded Twitter: “Say goodbye to Twitter and meet at Minds.”

Many are now “wary and distrustful of Twitter over a recent string of developments on the platform that sparked privacy concerns.”

After Facebook became unsafe, patrolled by state and reporting to authorities, with several arrested and charged with lese majeste, Thais turned to Twitter.

Now, they worry about Twitter:

The most proximate cause was an update to the platform’s privacy policy on May 19, set to take effect globally next month, allowing Twitter to share device-level data like a user’s IP address with business partners. The policy update came just days after Twitter launched an official Twitter Thailand account, with an accompanying blog post noting that Twitter has partnered with local NGOs and the government. To Thai Twitter users, that was a huge red flag, sparking fears that incriminating user information could be shared with the government.

Sarinee said the “newly set up official Twitter Thailand account was ‘very tone deaf, boring… using official language’…”. For many, when a Twitter spokesperson said the company is “committed to serving an open and public conversation in Thailand and will continue to be transparent” it sounded something like an admission that it is now working with the repressive state.

The, in February, “a Thai Twitter user was arrested for allegedly posting a tweet that insulted the monarchy. It was the first arrest directly linked to a tweet…”. Other users, some of them critical of the monarchy, began to get “visits” from the authorities.

Some users have turned to Minds. It is described this way:

Minds has become popular for its commitment to privacy, decentralization, optional anonymity, radical transparency, free speech, and user rewards in contrast to the surveillance, secrecy, censorship, and algorithm manipulation occurring on many proprietary social networks.





From the archive: Political repression

30 05 2020

A reader recently sent us a PDF from about 1978, campaigning against political repression in Thailand. As the cover of the 60 page booklet tells it, “Politics and violence. Political prisoners. Suppression of trade unions. Government atrocities in rural areas.”

As a reminder of military and state repression over decades, we have posted it to our General Political Background page.





Patrolling Royalist Marketplace

29 05 2020

Khaosod reports that “a man was detained and questioned for his involvement in a popular Facebook page lampooning the monarchy.” The page is Royalist Marketplace, discussed earlier this month at New Mandala by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. Formed a month or so ago, it had 436,830 members when we looked today.

Royalist Marketplace “routinely mocks the monarchy with its satirical posts.”

The man stated that he was later released. There are also reports that several others had been detained, “asked to sign an agreement pledging not to make any critical comments about the monarchy in the future,” and released.

One of these detainees “said eight police officers took him away from his home without warrants, questioned him about the group and his political opinions, and ordered him to delete his posts in the Royalist Marketplace.”

In his New Mandala piece, Pavin stated that Royalist Marketplace is “a platform for discussion on all things monarchy. Content is mixed, ranging from business advertisements, serious discussion on the monarchy, to parody and sarcasm.” Of the latter, he gave examples:

One member sold a used teak bed, using a photo of the bed on which King Ananda Mahidol was found dead in 1946. Another member offered a building dismantling service, referring to the dismantling of the house of the former royal concubine, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, after her falling from grace.

There’s plenty to parody with the current absentee king.

Discussion that is more serious sees:

… members unpick a variety of issues submerged deep at the core of the institution: the future succession, the power of the Crown Property Bureau, the declining reverence of the institution, the increasingly absolutist nature of the monarchy.





Why is he in Germany?

29 05 2020

News from the BBC:

Why has Thai king been staying in Germany during lockdown, MPs ask

German politicians have asked the country’s foreign ministry to explain why the king of Thailand has spent several weeks in a luxury Bavarian hotel during the coronavirus lockdown.

King … Vajiralongkorn has been staying in the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in Garmisch Partenkirchen, a town close to the German-Austrian border.

Margarete Bause, a Green party member of parliament, said a ban on tourism should have prevented the king from staying there.

The hotel – which boasts of panoramic views of the Alps – is “currently unavailable” for bookings, according to its website.

King … Vajiralongkorn is a frequent visitor to Germany. He has made no comment.

Note: The link supplied above is likely to change as the BBC moves the story from its News web front page.





It’s still a military regime III

29 05 2020

Without a hint of shame, the regime continues to display it military-ness.

The Bangkok Post reports on the “kickback scandal involving state quarantine contracts” which it says the Defense Ministry states is “being investigated by police…”. Great, you might think, the longstanding kickback system is getting some attention. But is it? And how is it being done?

Defense spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich explains that it is his ministry that conducted the “preliminary probe [and] had found evidence the accused had demanded ‘commission fees’ from hotel operators in the eastern region so their facilities could be chosen as state quarantine centres.” He added that a person with the initial “Phor” is one of those revealed by the Ministry of Defense’s “probe.”

This is all very smelly and very fishy. Why is the Defense Ministry the first line of investigation? Is the Ministry responsible for the quarantine centers? Well, no, it is the joint responsibility of that ministry and Public Health. Has Public Health been investigating? And why the buffalo manure about initials?

While Lt Gen Kongcheep said his “ministry had submitted evidence to police for further investigation…”, PPT reckons this could well be about pre-emptive posterior protection. One suggestion of that is when the Lt Gen declares that “the accused individuals acted on their own and their alleged misconduct had nothing to do with the organisations with which they are affiliated.” That screams cover-up.

Then there’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who has pretty much been sidelined in the virus response after his initial loudmouthed failures, and who has “denied public health officials were involved in the kickback scandal but said the ministry was ready to investigate any tips.” This also screams cover-up.

And, then, there’s the whole issue of the Ministry of Defense leading such matters. That screams military regime.

As if to prove that Thailand remains under the regime’s thumb, and using the virus as an excuse, Prachatai reports that police in “Songkhla Province have turned down a request to hold an anti-seawall public gathering at Muang Ngam beach, claiming it would violate the Emergency Decree on Covid-19 control. Many people still went to express their objections on the beach where the construction is taking place, while police took video recordings and photos.”

Prachatai also reports that on the “6th anniversary of the 22 May 2014 military coup, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) launched a new report on Thailand’s human rights situation As if the NCPO Never Left: Six Years after the Coup and the Persistence of Human Rights Violations, highlighting ongoing violations of freedom of expression and freedom of association which have persisted since the end of the NCPO regime.” Abuses are rampant.

Thailand remains a country under the military jackboot.





Updated: On Vajiralongkorn watch

28 05 2020

For those who wonder what the king of Thailand is doing while “isolating” in Germany and ignoring the country where he reigns, The Daily Mail has some details:

The King of Thailand swapped his royal attire for cycling gear as he took his harem out for a bike ride near a luxury German hotel – where he has converted an entire floor into a ‘pleasure palace’.

For months, 67-year-old Maha Vajiralongkorn has kept himself out of the public eye in the luxury resort of the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl, in a ski town near the Austrian border.

He has been busying himself on the hotel’s fourth floor which has allegedly been converted into a a ‘pleasure palace’ for the monarch and his concubine, Bild reported , decked out with ‘treasures and antiques’ from Thailand.

The King’s ‘sex soldiers’ are said to be assembled as a military unit called the SAS, like Britain’s special forces – with the same motto, ‘who dares wins’, the paper said.

The new photograph shows the King making a rare appearance outside the hotel walls, escorted by some of his 20-strong harem as they cycled through the Bavarian Alpine hills near Unterammergau.

Clipped from the Daily Mail

The story continues:

They were flanked by several Mercedes buses and a limousine as they made their way to the Pürsching car park in Unterammergau, a bike ride that takes around two hours.

Upon arrival three caravans were already waiting for Vajiralongkorn, one which served as a changing room for the monarch, Bild said.

A kneeling servant adjusted the King’s cycling trousers and positioned the bike ready for ascent, Bild said.

Then it gets more interesting, reporting that “Vajiralongkorn’s prolonged stay in Germany has caused outrage among locals and government officials.” It says his stay has been raised in the local legislature:

Katharina Schulze, parliamentary group leader of the Greens, asked the Bavarian government to explain why the King has been allowed to stay in the country amid the coronavirus lockdown, especially given that his trip is unrelated to business matters.

Schulze’s office told Bild they had not received an answer to their question.

No doubt a parliamentarian questioning the king’s actions is novel for Vajiralongkorn.

Update: While the king is cycling through his concubines in his hideout in Germany, his major wife, known as Queen Suthida is separated from him. She stays at a resort in Switzerland. Like the king, she spends almost no time in Thailand. But that’s no impediment to the “celebrations” for her birthday in a few days. The Bangkok Post reports that the Ministry of Interior has ordered that the absentee queen be “celebrated” with “pictures … [of her] placed in public, decorated with purple and white outside city halls and on key roads for the month…”. Books will be put out and we assume that thousands of officials will be ordered to sign them. More taxpayer money drains away.