Us and them

3 11 2014

The military dictatorship has made at least two things clear during its post-coup period of absolute power. First, it is determined to promote royalism. Second, it is determined to wipe out Thaksinism. The two processes are, of course, related. This is made clear in two stories at Khaosod.

The first story at Khaosod is about royalism and its promotion.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has long been close to the palace and especially the queen, has declared that “Thailand will begin a year-long celebration of Princess … Sirindhorn’s 60th birthday starting next January…”.Sirindhorn

The portly princess has her 5th cycle birthday on 2 April next year. Normally there is a week or so of “celebrations” forced upon all Thais around the time of her birthday. However, the military dictatorship is engaged in a major propaganda campaign promoting royalism, and they know that Sirindhorn is one of the few who can be used.

The king and queen are hanging on to life, Chulabhorn is sick and widely disliked. The prince is little interested. And all of the various offspring are apparently uninterested and not considered to be worthy of promotion.

After reporting that there will be a year of non-stop propaganda, the newspaper says that “Sirindhorn made a public appearance yesterday at a military academy in Nakhon Nayok province, where she briefly participated in a marathon organised by the armed forces.” The “briefly” is significant. At her age and weight, it is not a great idea to be jumping about lest another royal end up in hospital.

The second story at Khaosod is about blotting out Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Dictator “has asked the media to ‘cooperate’ by not publishing news about the controversial former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.”

Prayuth reckons that “news and photos of Thaksin could cause conflict in society.” He warned: “please don’t make me use laws or power or force. I ask you to engage in conservations and find solutions for the problems that have been building up in the past.”

Thaksin_Yingluck

A Khaosod photo

Why does he demand this censorship, which he described as “not censorship” under the dictatorship?

Prayuth explained: “The media should not publish news about that,” meaning Thaksin and Yingluck’s trip to China, adding, “Don’t publish photos of persons who violate the law. That is all. Why are you still featuring news [about him?].”

Not reporting on those who have not violated the law would make for a blank newspaper. For example, if “violating” does not mean a court conviction but just “violating,” then most of the cabinet, military and police leaders, much of the National Legislative Assembly, and other bodies appointed by the junta could not be reported.

Wiping Thaksin from Thailand’s collective hard drive seems to involve history and school texts and now the media. More important for the junta and its allies is dismantling “Thaksin’s extensive network of supporters.” As the newspaper reports, “Hundreds of politicians, activists, and academics perceived to be sympathetic to Thaksin were summoned and briefly detained by the military after the coup, while a handful of Thaksin loyalists have fled the country to avoid persecution.”

The picture the junta wants is of a Thailand that has probably never existed, a fairy tale kingdom where Thaksin never existed, where the monarchy was loved by all (or at least not actively opposed and ridiculed), and where the corrupt in the military are never questioned about their unusual wealth.


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