More royal nonsense

11 12 2010

Two stories in diverse ways indicate the silliness and nonsense associated with the monarchy and its members both in Thailand and internationally.

The international dimension is provided by the Indiana Daily Student, the student newspaper at Indiana University, usually considered a reputable university in the United States, where it ranks 75th, alongside Brigham Young, Marquette and Delaware .

Hence, it is with some surprise that PPT reads that Indiana is to award an “honorary degrees to … Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand … at IU Bloomington’s 2010 winter commencement ceremony Dec. 18.” They will also award a honorary degree to Adam M. Robinson Jr., surgeon general of the U.S. Navy. Robinson has two earned degrees from IU. This is not the usual kind of university where the palace and Ministry of Foreign Affairs goes hunting for these honorary gongs. However, this post at the IU website adds some detail.

Sirindhorn will get an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. It is Robinson who will serve as the commencement speaker. McRobbie claims the degree recognizes “positive impacts … on the lives of so many people [that] have been immeasurable.” That is true, for it is impossible to measure any royal impact in Thailand on pain of jail for several years. He says that Sirindhorn is “known throughout the world for her efforts to expand and improve public education all across Thailand, especially in remote and rural areas,” adding: “Her leadership and long-standing devotion to the cause of extending quality education opportunities to all Thai citizens have brought about dramatic improvements in the lives of so many in her country…”.

McRobbie adds the titbit that the link between IU and Thailand has existed for some time, possibility explaining why the royal degree seekers targeted IU: “Here at IU, we take pride in the fact that since the days of Herman B Wells’ presidency, several members of our faculty have lent their expertise and support to educational development in Thailand.” Further, it is stated that: “For decades, IU has had a close relationship with Thailand. IU faculty members and experts have helped to develop modern Thailand by working to establish leading universities, contributing to the development of the K-12 educational system, supporting the growth of its modern health and dental care, and offering guidance as it developed governmental policies.”

The next statement points to a relationship with the royals that PPT has not previously known: “Many of these advances would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Thai royal family, particularly Crown Princess Sirindhorn, said Charles R. Bantz, chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.”

IU then reproduces the usual syrup about the role played by Sirindhorn in education, cultural activities and so on. What is amazing to us is that there has never been any critical assessment of these alleged roles or why a figurehead figure should get all the credit for the work of others. PPT’s last post on Sirindhorn is here. There is little recognition of Sirindhorn’s political role (here also).

The second and local dimension is a Bangkok Post story that seems to take royalism to the nth degree of silliness. It is reported that “Post Element Co, a licensee of Computer Arts Thailand magazine, has introduced the country’s first online game on Facebook, aiming to promote His Majesty the King’s sufficiency economy ideas.”  Because it is royals involved, it is usually thought that sponsors are easily located. This time it is “Nok Air and Muang Thai Life Assurance, [that] have invested more than 25 million baht to develop Great King City, a bilingual game on the online social network.” However, the company appears to have come up short. It is “still waiting for three other sponsors to confirm their support for the project. Revenue left over after production and marketing costs will be donated to the Chai Pattana Foundation.”

As in so many of these things that celebrate royals, there is an element of drawing on the ideas of others: “[t]he game uses some ideas from Farmville, the world’s most popular farming game on Facebook, and Sim City, a town building game.”

Maybe the site will get visitors, but what are Thais interested in? Well, one “survey” of sorts is what they Google. This is what the Bangkok Post says: “The red shirt rallies, a Korean boy band and a country song about a prodigal son top the list of Google searches by Thai users over the past 12 months.” Further:

In the news section, the term satanakarn sua daeng (red shirt situation) tops the list, followed by khao nam tuam (news about floods) and “Ja Pien”, referring to Col Sompien Eksomya, the policeman whose murder in Yala in March triggered a wave of sympathy across the country. Coming in fourth is yoob pak prachatipat (disbanding the Democrats) while “Seh Daeng”, the nickname of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol – the outspoken soldier shot dead on May 13 during the red shirt rally – places fifth. Ranked sixth is “Arisman nee”, translated as Arisman flees….

The picture seems pretty clear.


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