Woof, woof. Things royal and political

11 02 2011

Veteran reporter Hamish McDonald has a great little story at The Age in Melbourne, where he refers to “Thai politics becomes a dog’s dinner.” We thought we’d just put the whole story, together with the cartoon. Of course, it draws on the Wikileaks cable of a few days ago (see here and here) and several earlier leaked cables:

Military promotions are closely watched in Thai political circles, understandably given the coups periodically mounted in Bangkok. How then to evaluate the news that one Foo Foo, a miniature poodle belonging to Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, has been elevated to the rank of Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force?

We learn this in a cable from the former US ambassador to Thailand, Ralph Boyce, reporting his farewell calls on the royal family at the end of 2009, brought to us courtesy of WikiLeaks.

Foo Foo had attended a jazz festival gala dinner with his master, ”dressed in formal evening attire complete with paw mitts”, Boyce said. ”At one point during the band’s second number, he jumped up onto the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own. The Air Chief Marshal’s antics drew the full attention of the 600-plus audience members, and remain the talk of the town to this day.”

Royal doings assume more importance in Thailand than here. The king takes an active interest in government formation, as well as being a semi-sacred figure in the official Buddhist hierarchy. The current monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has been on the throne more than 60 years. His prestige is immense; public affection enormous. But at 83 he has been ailing after a reported stroke and makes only rare public appearances.

The Crown Prince is viewed with misgivings, after a tearaway youth that doesn’t seem to have ended at 58. His behaviour continues to raise eyebrows, especially when a video circulated last year of a poolside birthday party for Foo Foo, at which his Royal Consort, Srirasmi, sat bare breasted.

The monarchy has meanwhile become political ammunition in the battle between the ”Red Shirt” supporters of the populist former telecom tycoon turned prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and the ”Yellow Shirt” backers of a more traditional elitism who wave the royal colours.

Other US diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks suggest the royal house itself is also somewhat divided. Three of the most senior officials close to the king – the former prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the Privy Council and a former army general, Anand Panyarachun, another former prime minister and air chief marshal Siddhi Savetsila – were quoted by the new US ambassador Eric John last January as saying they prefer the king’s popular daughter, Princess Sirindhorn, as successor.

The three elders were worried by Thaksin’s cultivation of the Crown Prince, by paying off his debts and providing a luxurious new house in Bangkok. Vajiralongkorn preferred to spend time in Munich with his favourite consort, rather than with his official wife and children in Thailand, and had kept a succession of air hostesses as his mistresses.

The ambassador quoted Anand as saying the Crown Prince would succeed his father according to the law, but there could be ”complicating factors” if the prince proved unable to stay out of politics, or avoid embarrassing financial transactions.

“After a pause, Anand added that the consensus view among many Thai was that the Crown Prince could not stop either, nor would he be able, at age 57, to rectify his behaviour,” John reported. But no one could raise ”such a delicate topic” with the King.

The revelations can’t be discussed openly, but are causing turmoil. Thaksin was removed by military coup in 2006, tacitly backed by King Bhumipol, but his Red Shirt backers and his banned Thai Rak Thai party keep bobbing back. They are especially strong in the Thai rural hinterland, where Thaksin’s extension of welfare broke an old pattern of patronage used by Bangkok elites.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, appointed as Prime Minister in December 2008 with backing from the Yellow Shirts after some opaque Constitutional Court manoeuvres, wants to hold elections this year to reinforce his legitimacy. But there is no guarantee he will win.

Meanwhile, authorities use a new computer crime law combined with an old lese majeste law to silence debate about the alleged misuse of royal power. Nearly 200 people have been arrested in the past four years, and lengthy jail terms of up to 18 years have been given.

The atmosphere has darkened since the appointment of General Prayuth Chan-ocha as the new chief of the Royal Thai Army last October, when he declared the army’s main purpose was ”protecting the country’s sovereignty and the monarchy”. He followed up by warning that the army would intensify arrests for anti-monarchy postings by Red Shirts. ”Do not whine, because we have warned you many times,” he said. ”From our grandparents’ generation down to the present, we have been looked after by the monarchy, no matter which king.”

The political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak noted in the Bangkok Post this week that Prayuth was indicating ”internal challenges that he has not elaborated” and ”may have unnecessarily drawn a line in the sand and defined the fault line of Thai politics around the monarchy.” Prayuth had gathered around him in top posts his old colleagues from military academy and the 21st Infantry Regiment, known as the ”Queen’s Guards” (the Crown Prince being Queen Sirikit’s favourite). Such concentrations have led to coups.

This month’s flare-up between Thai and Cambodian border troops over a disputed Hindu temple is also the result of Bangkok politics, according to Pavin Chachavalpongpun of Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Yellow Shirt activists crossed into Cambodian-held territory and got themselves arrested to create a nationalist wave for the election and paint Thaksin, who has been hosted during his exile by the Cambodian leader Hung [sic] Sen, as a traitor.

Meanwhile, if at the Crown Prince’s place, be careful about dogs. Chatting to the consort Srirasmi at the jazz dinner, US envoy Boyce recalled King Bhumipol talking animatedly to George Bush about his dog Thongdaeng. ”I mentioned having heard Princess Sirindhorn had a large dog, and I asked Srirasmi if she knew the breed,” Boyce reported. ”Srirasmi appeared immediately to freeze up; her body language changed, and she said curtly that she knew nothing of Sirindhorn’s affairs.”


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11 02 2011
Tweets that mention Woof, woof. Things royal and political | Political Prisoners in Thailand -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by NEWSpace, อิสระภาพ แห่งข่าวสาร. อิสระภาพ แห่งข่าวสาร said: Woof, woof. Things royal and political: Veteran reporter Hamish McDonald has a great little story at The Age in … http://bit.ly/gRFUjn […]

12 02 2011
19 12 2014
Thong Daeng, Facebook and lese majeste | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] The royal woofers are apparently very significant in a society that enforces ultra-royalism. For more commentary on doggy nonsense and ultra-royalism, see this post from 2009. This indicates that the madness associated with royal dogs has been afflicting royal posterior polishers for a considerable time. And, don’t forget the bizarre Woody incident with another royal tail wagger. […]

19 12 2014
Thong Daeng, Facebook and lese majeste | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] The royal woofers are apparently very significant in a society that enforces ultra-royalism. For more commentary on doggy nonsense and ultra-royalism, see this post from 2009. This indicates that the madness associated with royal dogs has been afflicting royal posterior polishers for a considerable time. And, don’t forget the bizarre Woody incident with another royal tail wagger. […]

7 02 2015
Updated: Lese majeste exorcism | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Yet in ultra-royalist Thailand, royal pooches matter. They get television coverage, they appear at dinners, official events and at birthday parties [clicking the link opens a video banned in Thailand]. All […]

7 02 2015
Updated: Lese majeste exorcism | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Yet in ultra-royalist Thailand, royal pooches matter. They get television coverage, they appear at dinners, official events and at birthday parties [clicking the link opens a video banned in Thailand]. All […]

3 10 2015
Money for royals | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] pocketing taxpayer tips? We guess they are: king, queen, prince and several princesses perhaps. We wonder if the recently departed poodle Fu Fu, which had rank in the military, was also paid a […]

3 10 2015
Money for royals | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] pocketing taxpayer tips? We guess they are: king, queen, prince and several princesses perhaps. We wonder if the recently departed poodle Fu Fu, which had rank in the military, was also paid a […]

12 12 2015
Military, monarchy and madness | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] The royal woofers are apparently very significant in a society that enforces ultra-royalism. For more commentary on doggy nonsense and ultra-royalism, see this post from 2009. This indicates that the madness associated with royal dogs has been afflicting royal posterior polishers for a considerable time. And, don’t forget the bizarre Woody incident with another royal tail wagger. There was even a report that Thong Daeng has been implicated in a lese majeste case! […]

12 12 2015
Military, monarchy and madness | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] The royal woofers are apparently very significant in a society that enforces ultra-royalism. For more commentary on doggy nonsense and ultra-royalism, see this post from 2009. This indicates that the madness associated with royal dogs has been afflicting royal posterior polishers for a considerable time. And, don’t forget the bizarre Woody incident with another royal tail wagger. There was even a report that Thong Daeng has been implicated in a lese majeste case! […]

19 12 2015
Monarchy, slaves and dogs | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] and others. We’ve seen dopey journalists eating cake with a princess’s yapper, the prince’s poodle promoted in the military and the king’s bitch made into a model dog and a model for the Thai people to somehow […]

19 12 2015
Monarchy, slaves and dogs | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] and others. We’ve seen dopey journalists eating cake with a princess’s yapper, the prince’s poodle promoted in the military and the king’s bitch made into a model dog and a model for the Thai people to somehow […]

10 10 2019
Hyper-royalism dogs Thailand | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] royalists and others. We’ve seen dopey journalists eating cake with a princess’s yapper, the prince’s poodle promoted in the military and the king’s bitch made into a model dog and a model for the Thai people to somehow […]




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