The military dictatorship hates political demonstrations. Except when it is the junta that is encouraging and facilitating them.
Since US Ambassador Glyn Davies made some reasonably innocuous comments about the draconian lese majeste law, mad monarchists have been demonstrating. At the same time, the regime has organized and facilitated demonstrations in several provinces.
The latest report of a junta protest is in the Bangkok Post. An anti-ambassador protest was mounted in Nonthaburi.
The protest at the Provincial Hall yesterday was small and said to be a group named “Seri Non Khon Rak Nai Luang” who considered the ambassador’s speech “highly unacceptable.” As the snipped photo below shows, officials were there to receive the protesters. At the same time, social media accounts suggest the protesters included officials and soldiers. We noted the use of the Bike for Dad shirt, most of which have been allocated to officials.
The “protesters” are reported to have “warned” of further consequences, supported the junta and declared that they were “worried Mr Davies’ words could be misinterpreted by some people who may subsequently dare to flout the lese majeste law.” They added that they were fearful that the “US may support people or independent organisations which study this [controversial] topic with no fear…”.
That pretty much sums things up: the lese majeste law is meant to instill fear and silence critics.
Lese majeste, mad monarchism, the Bike for Dad fiasco and its body count and fear pretty much sum up a Thailand that is out of kilter even with many of the world’s authoritarian regimes.
This lack of balance derives directly from the feudalized nature of the country’s monarchy.
Update: As regular readers will know, we sometimes comment on Shawn Crispin’s conspiratorial-lade commentaries on Thailand’s politics. His most recent outing, with relevance to the above post, takes a successionist position and transfers it from domestic to international politics. In a piece at The Diplomat, oddly written to imply that US ambassadors run their own agendas on Thailand, he states:
Beijing and Washington have aligned with competitive royalist power centers, with Deputy Prime Minister [General] Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s defense ministry pushing for deeper strategic ties and more arms deals with China, the advisory Privy Council keen to repair ties to the U.S., and premier [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] prevaricating while leaning fitfully towards China during bouts of U.S. criticism of his rule. Some analysts sense the strong nationalistic reaction to Davies’ speech may have been orchestrated by the regime’s pro-China element to derail Davies’ charm offensive before it gained momentum.
PPT can only guess at what’s happening in the palace, as must all pundits, but it seems odd to align the Privy Council with the US side. After all, the “pro-China” Princess Sirindhorn also visits the US on a regular basis and is considered aligned with the Privy Council. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, allegedly on the other side and said to be supported by Prayuth, has little interest in China or the US, and is said to be opposed by the Privy Council, at least in the successionist account. This read-the-tea-leaves argument gets so involved that it is tied in knots.