One of the dominant discourses of recent years has been the royalist notion that the political world is populated by good and evil people. Promoted by aging princes and then by the current king, this discourse drew on a particular reading of Buddhism. It became a part of an ideological justification of a return of royalism that was to undo the ideals of the 1932 revolution.
When political contestation has been at its highest, as in recent years, “good people” are those who are loyal to king and monarchy. This also means that they are “moral people.”
It is in this sense that what might be considered evil in a normal world is magically made “good” and “moral.” Hence, mass murder conducted in the name of the king or of protecting the monarchy is made “good” because it is done for the “best” of reasons – loyalty to the crown.
Among the most notorious statements of this view was by Kittivudho Bhikkhu in an interview in late June 1976, who argued that while all killing involved some demerit for Buddhists, killing communists in protecting nation, religion and monarchy was killing bestial types rather than humans and he stated that “Buddhists must do it [kill communists].”
This notion also means that loyal royalists who murder students or political opponents deemed threats to nation, religion and monarchy can be excused or even lionized. This is why the loyal royalist but immensely corrupt General Sarit Thanarat, also responsible for the deaths of numerous opponents, can be a royalist hero.
In recent years, the royalist definition of those who are evil and immoral has included elected politicians who support Thaksin Shinawatra, red shirts and electoralism, for all are seen as threats to the monarchy. Military commanders and pliable royalist politicians who engage in corruption and the murder of politicians, however, are “good” and “moral” because they oppose these threats and kill and jail persons considered threats.
This is a long-winded way of getting to a Khaosod report that observes:
In a way, former army chief Udomdej Sitabutr, was cleared of the allegation that he is involved in massive graft, even before an inquiry by the Ministry of Defense yesterday formally let him off the hook.
Just hours before the announcement of the Ministry’s weeks-long investigation into Rajabhakti Park, the monument complex built under Udomdej’s watch and said to be mired in widespread corruption, Udomdej received a glowing endorsement from Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, the influential former Prime Minister and top advisor to … the King.
“Good” person Prem reportedly declared:
“I believe goodness will bring success to you, Dong,” Gen. Prem told Udomdej at his residence on Wednesday, calling him by his nickname. “I believe you are not that kind of person. I believe you are a good person.”
Udomdej told reporters “that he also chatted with Prem some more in private, and Prem repeated his confidence that the former army chief was not involved in any wrongdoing in the construction of Rajabhakti [Corruption] Park.” He added that Prem told him “he believes I didn’t do anything wrong…”.
The Khaosod report states:
Gen. Udomdej has been embroiled in the scandal since he admitted to reporters in November that he was aware of some financial irregularities in the one-billion baht project. According to Udomdej, the army hired private foundries to make giant statues for the park through a businessman who took a 10 percent cut from the budget. (Khaosod English is withholding the man’s identity to avoid a possible lawsuit under defamation laws.)
Admitting that there was corruption in the project he oversees means little when Udomdej is anointed as “good” by a senior “good person.”
Udomdej is not out of the corruption woods yet. Even so, Prem, like his cronies heading the military junta, knows that those pointing to the corruption are “evil” and “disloyal.” This means they must protect Udomdej and the junta and in doing so, they are doing more “good.”