With a major update: Zen Journalist on death of Ananda

6 03 2013

LandonAndrew MacGregor Marshall has posted another installment in his search of documents regarding the death of King Ananda Mahidol. PPT won’t post anything from it as readers can get to the account here. The new information is Margaret Landon‘s account, written in 1971, that has the current king shooting his elder brother. She claims this information is from a source close to the royal family.

PPT imagines that many will discount Margaret Landon as a reliable reporter based on her earlier and greatly debated accounts of things royal in Thailand.

Update: At the version of this story posted at Zen Journalist (ZJ) blog, more detail is provided. The author makes this statement:

The [official] investigation deliberately excluded a fourth possibility: that Ananda was accidentally shot by somebody else. This fourth possibility is the truth. Ananda Mahidol was shot and killed by his brother Bhumibol. It seems inconceivable that the killing was premeditated. It was a terrible tragic accident or aberration, and it has haunted Bhumibol Adulyadej ever since.

He notes a cable from the U.S. representative in Bangkok:

The Prime Minister spoke to me very frankly about the whole situation and ascribed the King’s death to an accident, but it was obvious that the possibility of suicide was in the back of his mind. He was violently angry at the accusations of foul play levelled against himself and most bitter at the manner in which he alleged that the Royal Family and the Opposition, particularly Seni Pramoj and Phra Sudhiat, had prejudiced the King and especially the Princess Mother against him.Doll

Part of the reason for suspicion being directed to Pridi, apart from simple prejudice against a leader of the 1932 revolution, is mentioned in a British document (right). (If the clips look small in your browser, just re-load the page and you should be able to view it.)

In addition, in a later cable this is stated:

The Department may also be interested to know that within 48 hours after the death of late King two relatives of Seni, first his nephew and later his wife, came to the Legation and stated categorically their conviction that the King had been assassinated at the instigation of the Prime Minister. It was of course clear that they had been sent by Seni.

SangwanSeni, like the royal mother, hated Pridi, not least for his pivotal role in 1932. Her view is shown in the snippet, right, from a British document, reproduced in the ZJ post.

The discussion which follows is important for understanding how the death of the king was politicized in quite remarkable ways. It has long been known that the Pramoj brothers and the nascent Democrat Party used the death to oust Pridi. However, at least for PPT, the claim that follows in new and plausible:

Meanwhile, increasingly alarmed about Bhumibol’s refusal to return from Lausanne, and concerned that his complicity in Ananda’s death would disastrously weaken him as a monarch, leading royalists including Democrat Party leader Khuang Aphaiwong, and the Pramoj brothers Seni and Kukrit, hatched a plan to announce that Bhumibol had killed Ananda. They hoped to force him to abdicate in favour of Prince Chumbhot.

The source for this is Kenneth Landon. ZJ then states:

The plan was foiled by military strongman Field Marshal Pibul Songkram, who deposed the Khuang government in a coup in April 1948. Pibul wanted to keep Bhumibol on the throne, believing that the secret of his accidental killing of Ananda could be used to manipulate him.

The account then moves to Margaret Landon’s note mentioned above.


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5 responses

7 03 2013
The opposition to amnesty | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] The Democrat Party as usual, doesn’t want any amnesty for “those in violation of the penal code and the lese majeste law and those who were guilty of corruption…”. The latter means Thaksin Shinawatra and the stand on lese majeste is the usual royalist nonsense that goes back to the very foundations of the party. […]

7 03 2013
The opposition to amnesty | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] The Democrat Party as usual, doesn’t want any amnesty for “those in violation of the penal code and the lese majeste law and those who were guilty of corruption…”. The latter means Thaksin Shinawatra and the stand on lese majeste is the usual royalist nonsense that goes back to the very foundations of the party. […]

10 12 2014
Palace coups | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] who shot the king’s brother is not made. It is now a widely-held view, as it was at the time amongst diplomats, that the present king shot his brother, probably by accident. Second, the claim made seems to be […]

8 06 2017
Dealing with death | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] By “passing,” they elide the whole deal: gun shot death, the accusations by royalists and the Democrat Party that Pridi Phanomyong did it and his exile for life and the execution of three innocent people for the “murder.” King Bhumibol never explained his role, although others reckon he was responsible. […]

8 06 2017
Dealing with death | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] By “passing,” they elide the whole deal: gun shot death, the accusations by royalists and the Democrat Party that Pridi Phanomyong did it and his exile for life and the execution of three innocent people for the “murder.” King Bhumibol never explained his role, although others reckon he was responsible. […]




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