Charity and propaganda

21 08 2015

Like almost everyone else, PPT has no idea who the Bangkok bomber (or bombers) is or what the motive was.

If we are to believe the contradictory news reporting, apparently the military dictatorship and its incompetent police are equally mystified. They say it can’t be international terrorists, it can’t be southern separatists, that there is a “network” – they always say that – and that, perhaps, “organized crime” is involved. Sometimes they link to “political losers” and red shirts. They don’t want international help but seem to call on Interpol. Meanwhile there are some political extremists but dictatorship supporters who seem seldom mentioned in long lists of possible suspects.

At the same time, we do know that disasters and such events provide an opportunity for one sort of propaganda that displays the monarchy and palace are charitable and sympathetic. This is an important plank in palace propaganda and is widely displayed on the media to reinforce notions that the monarchy is caring, knowing and charitable in a Buddhist sense. As one propaganda site has it:

It is true that the Thais love their King because of his great compassion, but they would consider the use of the term “philanthropist” to describe their King as inappropriate. To the Thais, a philanthropist is a wealthy person who is generous in donating money to charities.

Charity and propaganda - CopyOf course, during street demonstrations a few years ago, one of the events that was a part of the “eye-opening” events for many was that the charity function became politicized as the palace, the queen, privy councilors and other palace associates offered their support and charity to militant yellow shirts.

In the recent tragic events, the king and queen has been reported in The Nation as having “granted Bt90,000 in financial aid to each of the families of victims killed in Monday’s bloody bomb blast.”

In the vast fortune that is piled in the palace, this is a pittance, but it is the act of charity that is important for propaganda, and in all of these charity “grants,” there are pictures of the requisite loyalty display, with this photo being clipped from three at The Nation.

All of this is royal normal.

What seems a little unusual for us is that this report of royal benefaction is that it is the military junta rather than the palace that is making announcements. Those who see the monarchy as subservient to the military will see evidence for their position in this. The government spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said:

 Their Majesties would also pay for the medical cost that could not be reimbursed.

“Privy councillors have been assigned to take flowers to the injured victims,” he added.

The Dictator himself seemed a little out of sync with the charity notion, making demands for order in dealing with the emotional fallout from the bombing:

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha said the rites would be held in accordance with the beliefs of five religions. He urged those who wished to conduct rituals in memory of the victims to join the same event…. “Don’t hold the rituals separately as that may lead to other problems such as traffic,” Prayut said.

He does prefer (his) order in everything.


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