Royalist minds

4 02 2012

The opposition to Nitirat and discussion of the lese majeste law has been reported extensively. It has been pretty threatening, not least because some of the comment from high levels has been meant to strike fear and to silence people.

That’s why it is so encouraging to see some of those supporting freedom of expression speaking out and being reported. We acknowledge that doing this is a brave act as those speaking out risk public scolding and out of the limelight, threats and worse. Hate emails are especially common, and these usually include threats.

It is in this turbid, even rancid, atmosphere that The Nation reports on academics speaking out.

Most outspoken – at least that is how it comes across in the report – was political scientist Kasian Tejapira. He points out that some Thais “have not left the absolute-monarchy system.” He explains:

Some Thais still relate to the monarchy institution as if they lived under an absolute monarchy, leading them to become enraged when faced with people they think want to criticise the institution…. This outlook also causes them to regard anyone who wants to repeal or abolish the lese majeste law….

Comments like this, pointing out a conservative royalism, should not be controversial for they are absolutely obvious. The ultra-royalists would prefer an absolute monarchy. However, in the current atmosphere, Kasian will likely be seen as driving a stake into the hearts of ultra-royalists.

That’s even when he urges “those critical of the monarchy and the lese majeste law to refrain from using hate speech or strong words and bear in mind that they’re dealing with people who believe they love the institution ‘most’.”

In fact, though, most of the hate speech originates with those opposing Nitirat and lese majeste.

Panus Tassaneeyanond, a former dean of Thammasat’s Law Faculty pointed out that the media has fanned “hatred through the supply of one-sided information.” Panus agreed with Kasian:

He also acknowledged that many ultra-royalists did not care about details of the proposed amendment, and simply regarded supporters of the move as anti-royalists. The mentality of these ultra-royalists is that of people living under an absolute monarchy….

As PPT alluded in an earlier post, this conservative royalism is not so much a hangover of an earlier historical period as a constructed ideological position. We would place the effort to build royalism, while always there for the palace as it battled to re-establish its power and wealth after 1932, it was the Cold War that brought the military, the palace and the bureaucracy together to build royalism and nationalism into an anti-communist brew that had “loyalty” at its core.


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