Recalling regicide

9 06 2012

Later today the king will, according to The Nation, “preside over the inauguration of a monument built in honour of his older brother, late King Rama VIII.” The event commemorates the gun shot death of King Ananda Mahidol on 9 June 1946.

It seems from the report that the event is sponsored by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration as Governor and minor prince Sukhumbhand Paribatra will preside and attend the whole day’s event. Sukhumbhand wouldn’t be minor if, in earlier days, his line had been chosen following the abdication of King Prajadhipok.

For the king, commemorating his brother’s still unexplained death, seems to have been a particularly important. The Nation tells readers only that Ananda “passed away.” Of course, everyone knows that the dead king was shot, so the failure to mention it is another of those “sensitivities” that may not be spoken of. If one does speak, it can land you in jail for a very long time.

More than that, the death remains unexplained but still resulted in the execution of three men who were undoubtedly innocent.This is yet another example of the bias of the judiciary when dealing with the monarchy.

Some details of the death are available here (a PDF), here, here and here.  In 1948, former Prime Minister Luang Thamrong Navasawat confided details to U.S. Ambassador Edwin Stanton (a PDF), and that cable remains well worth a read. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand has posted an audacious post that points to the “censorship surrounding the gunshot death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946.”

Back to The Nation’s report, where it tells readers that a ‘permanent exhibition [about King Rama VIII’s life] will be set up in the hall under the statue,’ Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said yesterday.”

This is another of those royalist nonsenses. Yes, he was king for a decade (1935-46), but for almost all of that time he was a minor and away from Thailand, so the exhibition must be a kind of personal homage, although we expect the palace PR machine will try to conjure some achievements. We don’t expect to see any comments about regicide or the books that have seriously examined it (in fact, they are banned).

Almost as a footnote, for today’s big show, the phrai “living in the area have also been encouraged to tidy up their premises for the occasion.”

There’s been a lot of tidying up on this matter for six decades. Things like death and censorship have long been in place in distorting the historical record, but as people get older, they usually cogitate on things like merit and lack of it.


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24 06 2012