Cult of personality

5 11 2016

At Khaosod, journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk asks:

Excessive and incessant praise and veneration, growing rituals of worship will likely elevate the late King into a demi-god and produce a King-worship cult, and a climate where the only thing one could possibly say about the late King is how great he was and how much you loved him.

What will this mean for Thailand in the long run? I can’t help but wonder.

PPT’s answer is that we already know. Thailand today is seeing nothing that it hasn’t seen for the past 3-4 decades as palace propaganda grew in intensity and became highly politicized.

The cult of personality was a creation that began to be promoted in the 1960s as a political tool for counterinsurgency. By the time of General Prem Tinsulanonda’s never-elected prime ministership, the promotion of the monarchy was taken to new levels. Prem supported the king in ways never seen since the overthrow of the absolute monarchy. Prem picked up all of the royal projects and funded them all with taxpayer monies. Legends were created with taxpayer funds, promoting the king as a demi-god.

Prem was rewarded with political support, lucrative corporate sinecures and a house and job for life at the top of a royalist hierarchy he did so much to create.

Every royal idea has been promoted as the greatest this and that. The king was promoted as great and good. No facts were allowed to stand in the way. School books and even university texts were modified to meet the need for portraying the king as a demigod. And, as we know, laws were strengthened and used to shut up those who found all this cult creating just a bit too stifling.

So Thailand has had a cult of personality for some time. What we are seeing now is an outpouring of this treacly fairy tale compressed in time. That too is a creation, paving the way for a new reign.

Those who thought the death of the “father” might lead to something different in Thailand are probably going to be disappointed as his image will be “protected” as a means to embed the new regime. Royalists are coming on board for the new reign. The cult of personality will remain, for the dead king, but that will be used to protect the military-monarchy regime going forward.


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21 11 2016