Where will it stop?

7 07 2009

The accusations of disrespecting or insulting the monarchy have been an established part of the reactionary arsenal of Thai politics for several decades. In recent years, all of the major contending political elements claim to have been supporting or protecting the monarchy while opponents are accused of damaging the monarchy.

Since the 2006 palace-backed military coup, and especially following the advent of the Democrat Party-led government in December 2008, as PPT has been pointing out, the charges of lesè majesté have been highly political in their application.

With the victories of the pro-Thaksin Peua Thai Party in by-elections over the past few weeks, and with the UDD trying to get a million signatures to petition for a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra, lesè majesté allegations are flowing thick and fast.

To be honest, PPT is having trouble keeping up with them all. In the past few weeks, we can count newspaper reports of allegations against some 40 persons, including a number of foreign journalists.

Now a reader of the Bangkok Post (7 July 2009: “American Embassy plays the wrong tune”) in a letter to the editor signed by “Shocked Thai Citizen” points an accusing finger at the US Ambassador and his Embassy.

STC claims to have attended a 2 July celebration at the Grand Hyatt Erawan in advance of July 4th celebrations. As well as feeling that the ambassador’s speech was “lengthy and … condescending” for its mention of “regrettable violence and political incidents which occurred in Thailand last year and the true merits of American-style democracy,” STC reports shock at what happened next. STC says that “many guests were astounded to hear the Thai National Anthem, instead of the Royal Anthem, being played by the band before the toasts.”

PPT is ignorant of such matters, but would have guessed that the National Anthem was appropriate, but we ask readers’ more knowledgeable to email us on this protocol issue while we wait for the US Embassy’s response in the Post. The US Navy Band’s website states: “If there is an occasion where the National Anthem of Thailand is required, contact liaison or protocol officer before the ceremony to determine which version is appropriate.”

One website has it that: “Thailand is one of a few monarchies (like Denmark and Sweden) that have a separate anthem for the royal family, as opposed to the national anthem for the citizens. The Thai royal anthem is performed during state occasions and public meetings, as well as when a high-ranking member of the royal family is present for a function. The same site (www.nationalanthems.info/th.htm) adds that: “Following the military coup in Thailand in late 2006, there was an initial move to downgrade ‘Phleng Chat’ [the national anthem] to the status of a ‘national song’, making [the royal anthem] the sole national anthem. However, there was public outcry against this and the move was scrapped.”

Back to STC, who goes on to indicate why s/he is shocked: “The Thai National Anthem was composed by the People’s Party after the coup to abolish absolute monarchy in 1932 and is now usually played during the daily flag raising and lowering ceremony at government buildings and schools.” STC seems to imply that there has been an attempt to replace this anthem because of its link to 1932.

Then STC accuses the US Embassy of more than a breach of protocol: “One cannot imagine that this was an unintentional mistake…”. STC continues: “Surely the US Embassy knows that at present there are serious threats to our internal security. For instance, there is a movement initiated by the Red Shirts to demand that the Thai National Day be changed from Dec 5, the birthday of HM the King, to June 24, the day of the coup in 1932.” Finally, STC proudly proclaims: “We, therefore, condemn the action by the US Embassy as demeaning to the people of the Kingdom of Thailand, who revere their Monarch.”

Is it that royalists are so worried for the future of the monarchy that they must protect it from the country with the longest diplomatic relationship of any country in the West? Is Thailand’s closest ally from World War 2 to the present day now an enemy of the monarchy? Hardly, but the more manic royalists are clearly beside themselves with worry and anger that they may be losing the 77 year-long battle to regain their political position.



One response

13 07 2009
New: More on anthems, the monarchy and republicans « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] More on anthems, the monarchy and republicans PPT reported on a letter to the editor of the Bangkok Post by Shocked Thai Citizen complaining about the US […]

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