With a major update: New book on the current reign II

2 12 2011

A day or so ago, PPT posted on a new book on the monarchy. That book, “King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life’s Work,”  overseen by former prime minister and ardent royalist Anand Panyarachun.

In that post we pointed out that Anand promised “deep, previously unknown insights into King’s life and the monarchy with ‘no attempts to hide the truth or run away from debates’.” He said it is “not a sugar-coated description of the world’s longest-reigning monarch and the work in English was written by a group of experts with knowledge and long experience in Thailand.”

Now the first review is out, by Usnisa Sukhsvasti, at the Bangkok Post. As a reader points out to PPT, it is doubtful that any book on the king can get a good, critical review in Thailand. As if to prove that, Usnisa produces a syrupy, press-release like “review” that seems to say that nothing has changed. By relying on this review, a reader could only conclude that this book is nothing more than a bit of palace propaganda.

If Anand reckons this really is a “new” and “different” book, then Anand should be livid about such an old-style and hagiographical review.

The only effort that is made in the review is to “sell” the book as “credible.” We learn almost nothing about what is actually in it.

Update: The Sydney Morning Herald has something of a review of the book, claiming that “book has lifted a veil of secrecy surrounding Thailand’s monarchy…”. This seems to refer to wealth: “he book also documents for the first time that a unique and little known institution, the Crown Property Bureau, is one of the largest investors in Thailand, controlling assets valued at $US6.7 billion.”

The claim that it is the “first” to detail the CPB is wrong. This data is largely updated from Porphant Ouyyanont’s 2008 article in the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

Even so, the updated figures are of interest: “The bureau owns 8400 hectares of land in Bangkok, mainly in the historic part of the city, worth an estimated $US33 billion at 2010 prices. Across the country the bureau has 40,000 rental properties, about 17,000 in Bangkok, including government offices, slum communities, shops, markets and prime sites occupied by hotels, office blocks and shopping centres, the book says. Outside the capital the bureau owns a total of 33,400 hectares of land, it says.” Some of these numbers are new.

The book is then quoted as purveying a new palace line that “the assets belong to the monarchy as an institution which continues from reign to reign, not to the king in his private capacity.” As the king has the sole right to appoint and administer the CPB, this is like saying that any inheritance belongs to a family rather than a billionaire patriarch. It is dissembling.

The SMH is clear in reporting another manipulations of truth: that the king “has been a critic of the harsh lese-majeste laws” – this is a nonsense based on his 2005 speech. Since that speech, lese majeste charges and convictions have abounded.

The other rather eye-opening claim is that the “book details the mysterious death in June 1946 of King Bhumibol’s brother, Ananda Mahidol…”. It is stated that the cited “evidence” is that “the death was an assassination and discusses various possible suspects or conspirators, including three royal staff members, a Swiss girlfriend of King Ananda and a Japanese spy allegedly hiding in Bangkok at the time. The book lays out the facts of the death but makes no conclusion as to the cause.”

We doubt that it provides any new details on this and simply repeats the work of others, some of it bizarre. The palace certainly knows the truth but continues to hide it.


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5 01 2012
There is no question…

[…] the Bangkok Post. Political Prisoners in Thailand has, of course, already launched a volley or two of their […]

15 04 2015
A seminar on the Crown Property Bureau | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] to Porphant’s own 2008 study, but which is behind a paywall. Readers without access might find the  update he did for his bit in the sanitized big book biography [downloads a PDF that is not banned in Thailand] of […]

15 04 2015
A seminar on the Crown Property Bureau | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] to Porphant’s own 2008 study, but which is behind a paywall. Readers without access might find the  update he did for his bit in the sanitized big book biography [downloads a PDF that is not banned in Thailand] of […]




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