Royalist fundamentalism

27 02 2012

Sumet Tantivejkul spent a good part of his working life at the National Economic and Social Development Board, the body responsible for setting the direction of the Thai economy since the early 1960s. Following that, he became a sidekick for the king, as  secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation.

In recent years, Sumet has been a staunch defender of his boss, sometimes speaking of the king as if he considered him saintly or god-like. He has been highly defensive of the king and his great wealth, lambasting “foreigners” for writing of the Crown Property Bureau and claiming that Thais should ignore this news as it just messed up their brains. In other words, critical knowledge of the monarchy wasn’t necessary, and Thais just had to believe the king and love him. More recently, Sumet has been outspoken against the reform of the lese majeste law. In fact, his opposition is a pretty good indication of palace thinking on the law: they want it.

Sumet was one of the first to speak publicly of a great fear amongst royalists that red shirts were about bringing down the monarchy. In fact that speech in 2009, is essentially recycled in a report at the Bangkok Post.

In this most recent report, he is reported as saying that “Thai people have to study His Majesty the King’s teachings and ideas and not just express their love for him…”.  He goes on:

We see the King but we don’t often look at him. We want to see him because he brings us happiness but we have never asked ourselves about all the things he has done.

This is another royalist claim that the people don’t appreciate the “gift” they have and do not heed him as they should heed a real saint. Nor do they understand his work and thinking well enough. It is royalist fundamentalism.

Like a fundamentalist religious believer, Sumet admonishes the silly children: “We would not be suffering today if we followed his ideas, trust me…”.

Sumet claimed the king “fully understood the social landscape of the country,” and like a tent preacher, claimed “[p]eople will find peace and be free from suffering if they follow the King’s virtues. Nothing is too difficult to do if our intention is strong…”. Hallelujah.

Like other yellow-hued speakers of recent days, Sumet, once a planner of Thailand’s rapid industrialization, now criticizes the “liberal system” for its rampant consumptionism. He thinks “excessive consumption” is a cause of global crises. Like the king, he talks of “greed.” Remember that this is a man who is taken about in light yellow luxury cars and serves a monarchy that has $37 billion and more in its coffers and takes hundreds of millions a year from the public purse. He’s talking about “greed.”

The king has all answers, because like a Buddha incarnate, he “teaches dharma, which is to be moderate. Each individual, organisation and country has to know one’s own ability or strength and find the middle path for oneself.” In other words, sufficiency economy under the sufficiency monarchy that has used its fabulous wealth “moderately.”

Sumet explains that: “No matter how wealthy we are, we cannot carry on if we don’t have ethics. It’s not important whether you’re rich or not but what is important is to ensure that every baht spent will bring about benefits and happiness…”. See, the sufficiency monarchy exists! And, of course, the sufficiency monarchy cannot be corrupt like all the plebeians.

The monarchy will save all. Believing in the king is presented as the Thai version of salvation. The saving of Thailand is in truly understanding the monarchy. This is royalist fundamentalism.


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