Updated: On birthday politics

5 12 2012

Nation 5 Dec 2012

If readers thought PPT was exaggerating when we posted on the politicized nature of the king’s birthday this year, they need only read today’s Nation for confirmation. That confirmation comes from the ultra-royalist Thanong Khanthong who, in the recent past, has penned some bizarre accounts of the monarchy. For him, nothing has changed since 2009, when we comments on his earlier scrambled logic and missing facts. We don’t propose to bore readers with an account of Thanong’s call to arms but simply comment on a few aspects of his diatribe, which the newspaper chose to cover on all of page 1 of the print edition.

Thanong’s main point is that Thailand is about to collapse and that only the Buddhist king can save the country. This is a common theme in yellow shirt propaganda and we don’t doubt that some believe it. There’s nothing new in this except to note that Paul Handley has explained how this ideology was constructed and enforced during this reign in his still-banned The King Never Smiles. The book is banned primarily because it counters this palace narrative.

Thanong tries to buttress this propaganda with his usual manufacturing of a convenient royalist history:

The Thai nation has been blessed all along with Kings who serve like a big umbrella. Each King is endowed with miraculous deeds, depending on the circumstances of the time because the King is born into the world to restore order and maintain happiness in the land….

The enduring Monarchy helps keep Thailand’s stability.

Of course, quite a few of Thailand’s kings have been murderous, evil, foolish, spendthrift and/or congenitally weak. In addition, monarchs have been responsible for considerable political instability. Yet Thanong can’t acknowledge such things for fear of bringing the gilded and extremely expensive edifice down.

In making these claims, Thanong is citing a congratulatory statement from the supreme patriarch. Now many might doubt that the invalid 99 year-old can say or write anything, but if he could, a careful reader might want to note that he holds his position thanks to the military and monarchy and their manipulation of sangha politics in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Of course, the people to blame for Thailand’s decline are “the shadowy figure of Thaksin Shinawatra” and his historical forebears, the “1932 … elite elements, tempted by a parliamentary form of government and power for themselves, brought down Absolute Monarchy.”  He adds: “As a result, the division within Thai society and politics is bitter and irreparable.”

The message is, quite simply, that absolute monarchy and associated military fascism is the only way to defeat the horrid parliamentary form of government that allows the majority to rule rather than a coterie of royals who claim divine links.

Thanong them gets deeply deranged as he repeats the mad conspiracy theories that inhabit the world of the extreme right in Thailand:

What will become of Thailand as the Supreme Patriarch and the King are ageing? There are threats of a civil war from within and a highly possible spill-over from a regional, if not global, war in the South China Sea and other parts of the world. Will Thailand survive against all odds as the gentle and kind nation of the old days again?

That’s the gentle and kind Thailand that sees the military regularly used to defend this gentleness and kindness by murdering political opponents and even those who just want an election and a fair constitution. However, for Thanong, amending the constitution, bestowed by a military dictatorship, is an evil act:

 the politicians are set to rewrite the Constitution to undermine the role of the Monarchy. But most Thais know that they can morally and spiritually count on the King, the Supreme Patriarch as head of the Buddhist monks’ order, Phra Siam Thevathiraj and all the other sacred beings to protect Thailand during this time of great despair.

Or they can steel themselves for the inevitable reaction that will follow from attempts to make Thailand a true democracy and that emanates from the royalist elite and their flunkies who cannot stand the idea that citizens have voice and rights.

Update: Thanong was so moved by the yellow shirt birthday bash that not only did he burst into tears but he has gone into print a second time in less than a week to extol the king and royalism. In part, this seems a reaction to a few foreign media reports that haven’t simply accepted the royalist dogma for, assigning himself as spokesman for all Thais, he concludes with this in his latest propaganda piece at The Nation:

… His Majesty the King is the most perfect human being of all – both in the way of the world and in the way of the Dhamma. It is because of these attributes that Thais feel immense joy in their hearts upon seeing him – an emotion that foreigners find hard to fathom.

Many Thais probably find it hard to fathom as well, except that they know that this is all about politics and the struggle for hearts, minds and treasure.


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