Old aristocrats bemoan the Western press

2 03 2013

For several decades the old princes and aristocrats that circled the palace and promoted the monarchy and present king as the fount of all that was good for Thailand had it pretty much their own way. Supported by massive U.S. funding during the Cold War, the Western media, some of that also funded by the same source, engaged in reporting on Thailand that mirrored the palace’s blarney.

In recent years, however, the old royalist elite has become disgruntled as some media reports have begun to question the old received “wisdom” that amounted to posterior polishing and often was simply propaganda. Part of this questioning has to do with more information being available thanks to a handful of critical academics and journalists. Much of it has to do with Paul Handley’s effort in getting out a book that blew away some of the smoke and and reset some of the mirrors.

Some of the old royalists have become so angry that they have entertained some of the crankier ideas about international conspiracies and even turned on some former friends. Others have sought to wheel out Western flunkies who can still peddle the old palace nonsense with a straight face.

Sumet Jumsai


And so it is that we come to a letter to The Nation by one of the royalist elite protecting his and their patch. The letter is by Sumet Jumsai, who is listed as being at  Cambridge University where he has recently provided a seminar, and who usually has “na Ayudhya” attached to his moniker. In his letter he gets hot and frothy about an article in French by Bruno Philip in Le Monde and which PPT posted in English.

Sumet has been a staunch royalist but is one of those who some might see as a “liberal royalist,” once acknowledging that republicans exist in Thailand and adding that he doesn’t mind “so long as we are not taken to the guillotine…”. He added, tellingly, that the “spirit of the age, of the new generation who spurn the 19th century hangover…” and is “tempted to agree, seeing that our monarchist role model England has moved on, while we are marking time.” On another occasion he joined eight “people with royal lineage” to sign a letter sent to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asking the government to change the lese majeste law because it was doing damage to the monarchy.

In his latest bout of letter writing he wants to take on Le Monde: “The biased view of the article, as in much of Western reportage on Thailand, needs correction.” Essentially, Sumet tells the Abhisit Vejjajiva version of events of 2010, and bemoaning the fact that red shirts weren’t put in jail. Of course, they were, and by the eager Abhisit regime, but that fact gets in the way. He avers that the “red-shirt riots in 2010” were worse than the 2006 military coup.  And he rants about all the people killed who were not red shirts, again ignoring the facts of the body count in 2010.

Finally Sumet gets prickly about the article’s attention to the monarchy and king:

The article also tries to involve the King, putting him in the same camp as the military (at present controlled by the ruling government) and the Bangkok elite. In this regard it should be noted that the King has publicly declared that he is not above criticism and that he is against the lese majeste law, which he regards as detrimental to the institution. He even proposed that those arrested or jailed because of this law should be released. The question now must be why the present red-shirt government does nothing about it.

On the latter question, it is pretty clear why the present government doesn’t do anything substantial for those currently charged or in prison. However, Sumet ignores the fact that this government is not throwing this charge at every one of its political opponents and locking them up. That is not doing nothing, even if it isn’t enough.

Regarding the claim about the king and lese majeste, the last time Sumet and his blue-blooded lot made this claim, PPT wrote about this version of the king’s speech, and we challenged readers to make sense of it. Yes, the king talks about being wrong, needing to be criticicized and how he is troubled when people (foreigners?) go to jail for insulting him because he gets representations on it and Thailand is ridiculed. But the speech is essentially a criticism of Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party following the 2005 election landslide.



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