Red Bull royalty

19 12 2010

From Bangkok Post

A couple of days ago, in a post regarding the king and the visit by Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber, PPT observed: “There’s also a whiff of the royals wanting to ‘take back’ Rajadamnoen and Khok Wua from the red shirts. This does it with an alleged royal heritage to a racing prince on ground where the royal family has landholdings.”

The Nation reports on the event held at Rajadamnoen (the Bangkok Post has a story also), and makes this point more clearly, with a Headline reading: “Wonder and thunder on the Street of Kings.” The message is clear and it is repeated through the article. The very large royal involvement is also highlighted, suggesting a much closer relationship between Red Bull and its owners, the Yoovidhya family, and the monarchy.

The story begins by stating that “[t]housands of people, both Thai and foreigners, gathered along Rajdamnoen Avenue yesterday to be part of the historic Street of Kings Rajdamnoen Red Bull Bangkok 2010 event. The traffic around the area was completely shut down at about 1.30pm” [No complaints about that, from The Nation or police, unlike when red shirts rally.]

Apparently, the “best spots” for viewing it were the “Phan Fah Leelat Bridge …[and] Khok Wua intersection” along with the Democracy Monument, all significant sites of red shirt demonstrations in April 2010. Since then they have seen smaller assemblies remembering the crackdown there and the deaths of red shirts at these spots.

To further reinforce the event as a royalist celebration, there were “three parades from Red Bull.” The first was a “the train to honour the king.” It included a “band to honour HM the King, who is well-known for his proficiency in playing jazz. The second “was a parade of students and people wearing pink shirts, as pink is a lucky colour for the King. They all carried and waved Thai flags.” The third was associated with Red Bull and its hired and sponsored celebrities.

The royal symbolism of these parades is then reinforced by a remarkably high profile royal event where “Princess Chulabhorn Walailak presided over the event at Maha Jessada Bodin courtyard pavilion. Mrs Saipin Phaholyothin, a Red Bull executive, offered a garland, while Mr Saravoot Yoovidhya, the managing director of Red Bull Beverage, presented the program agenda and Chalerm Yoovidhya, chairman of Redbull Co Ltd (London), offered a souvenir to the Princess.” It is reported that “The Princess pressed the button to open the way for the first Formula 1 race-car on the streets of Bangkok.”

From Indiatimes

To drive home the connection between this event and the symbolic driving out of red shirts, royal and Democrat Party Governor of Bangkok “MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra reported on the objectives of the event, which aimed to celebrate HM the King’s birthday, as well as to show a good image of a peaceful Bangkok to people around the world.”

A separate report states that “Red Bull and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) jointly organized the event…”.

Apart from the remarkable royalism of the whole thing, there is an eerily 19th century tone to the report, mixing local dignitaries from government, rich Sino-Thai and ethnic Chinese tycoons, wonders from abroad and royals. But that is probably how the event was meant to be, symbolizing and making public the links between royal wealth and that of a leading capitalist in a style that recalls absolutism.

And, a footnote on crowd size. PPT knows this area pretty well and was there several times during red shirt rallies in March this year. Hence, we are accepting of a Thai News Agency report that has this claim: “Over 100,000 fans experienced a Formula One car racing (F1) demonstration on Rajdamnoen Avenue Saturday afternoon as part of the celebrations for the King’s 84th birthday in 2011 in the ‘Street of Kings Rajdamnoen Red Bull Bangkok 2010’ show.” We’ve looked at as many pictures and as much video of this event as we can, and if the crowd was really 100,000, then we need to revise all of the March and April official estimates of the size of the red shirt rally, doubling or even tripling them.


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