Time magazine on the challenge to the monarchy

15 04 2009

Time magazine (14 April 2009: “Bangkok Protests End; Thais Mull a Divided Nation”) has a report on recent political events which presents an interesting  understanding of important elements of the struggle.

However, it fails to grasp the manner in which the monarchy has been operating over several decades in Thailand under the present king and his palace advisers.

The report reproduces all of the usual palace propaganda regarding the monarchy. For example, it is stated: “For more than six decades, Thailand’s Buddhist majority has been remarkably unified under the country’s King.”

It is as though the journalists have not read anything of the history of political struggles in Thailand. They are able to forget the anti-monarchism of the king’s early reign, the communist insurgency and a range of other schisms in Thai society over six decades. We recommend PPT’s historical documents. They might even browse some of Time’s own archive.

“Considered above politics, the 81-year-old monarch rarely comments on political matters and instead stands as a suprasymbol of Thai cohesion.”

Had Paul Handley’s book on the king has never been written, perhaps the journalists could be excused for this repetition of propaganda. That the book is widely available means they have no excuses.

“His picture graces most every restaurant and business in the land, and a giant billboard of his visage with the words “Long Live the King” greets visitors at Bangkok’s airport.”

Again, the journalists mistake propaganda for something else. PPT doubts they would be so blind to propaganda about “revered leaders” in places like, say, North Korea.

“For years, millions of Thais wore yellow every Monday in a voluntary show of support for the King, who was born on the first day of the week and is represented by the golden hue.”

Well, from 2006, anyway, when the government of Thaksin Shinawatra declared thatcivil servants should wear yellow in honour of the king’s 60th anniversay on the throne. For a year or so, this became compulsory wear in many places of employment.

PPT doesn’t doubt that many Thais feel considerable affection to the only monarch they have ever known. However, as the report shows this has changed. To believe that this change has been totally sudden and surprising suggests that these journalists ears are seldom anywhere near the ground or the grassroots.



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