Of monarchy, repression and a bloody reign

23 10 2017

In a timely and brave op-ed stimulated by the ludicrous lese majeste case being brought against Sulak Sivaraksa, Pravit Rojanaphruk at Khaosod makes some excellent points.

In what follows, we want to add some points that he couldn’t or didn’t make.

On Sulak’s case, facing “15 years in prison under the anachronistic and draconian lese majeste law,” is simply buffalo manure as the feudal law does not “protect” a “a king who ruled and died four centuries ago.” Pravit continues:

What will become of Thai history, the study of history, and ordinary people’s understanding of the past if we cannot questions historical events that have to do with a past king or queen? Should we stop calling it history altogether and refer to it as illuminated texts only for rote memorization and recitation without question? There can be no study of history if some questions about the past cannot be asked. We will truly not know ourselves if we cannot gaze back critically.

In fact, in the minds of Thai nationalists, the real Naresuan is already a fabrication. Nowhere do we learn much about the nature of his reign.

Jacques de Coutre is one of the first Westerners to visit Siam, staying for eight months in 1595, during Naresuan’s reign. He portrays the king as a brutal, once burning 800 men he considered had refused to fight the Burmese. Another time, in a fit of fury he is said to have executed 1500 officials. In his memoir, de Coutre portrays Naresuan as a cruel despot, torturing and killing children as well as adults, often in gruesome detail. Naturally enough, it is this despot that the modern military venerates and “protects.”

For details, readers may peruse Dirk van der Cruysse’s Siam and the West, 1500-1700, chapter 2.

Pravit refers to the current unthinking veneration of monarchy:

Listen to royalist songs or read widespread texts praising the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and one cannot fail to notice the common ticks of describing love for “our king” as held by “all Thais.”

There is no space to even acknowledge Thais who think differently about the institution or allow themselves to express themselves. You either have to flee the kingdom and never return or face a jail term here for expressing something otherwise….

It’s a sad state for Thailand. This is a country where many people do not want to look straight in the mirror. They want comfortable stories that are tear-jerking or push safe emotional buttons to reinforce a preferred image. Anything that disrupts that prevalent narrative must be censored, silenced or made illegal.

The hagiographic drivel of recent weeks is to be expected with the death of a monarch made a god by those who wanted to use him, ally with him, worship him and earn from him. Nowhere do we learn much about the nature of his reign.

This past reign drips with the blood of the Thai people. An exaggeration? Not really. For some time we have had the banned report 60 Years of Oppression and Suppression in Thailand (opens a PDF banned in Thailand) at our downloads page a compilation of political assassinations and extra-judicial killings since 1947.

The compilation begins:

This document brings together some of the evidence of the fearful tension that underlies the power struggle between the Institution of Monarchy and the Parliament of the People, tension that must be faced with dispassionate reasoning by all sides if the governance of Thailand is to mature in the name of peace and sustainable development.

Between these two competing forces there squats the greatly over-grown, hugely self-important Royal Thai Army – playing the game of ‘protecting the Monarch’ from ‘corrupt government’.

Our decision, after April-May 2010, to attempt to fill the void of public data about the fallen heroes of the people’s struggle for democracy gradually became an eye-opener – even for the seasoned activist, not just because of the number of top-down political assassinations but because of the consistency of the top-down brutality throughout the 6 decades of the current kingship.

The military “protects” the brutality of the past and the present using lese majeste.


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25 10 2017
Good rich king, bad rich king | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] While we recently posted on the ninth reign as a bloody era where thousands of citizens were disappeared, jailed, tortured and killed by the state, usually operating in the name of the monarchy and, for the most part, supported by the king, other commentaries seem to be eulogizing that reign. […]

25 10 2017
Good rich king, bad rich king | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] While we recently posted on the ninth reign as a bloody era where thousands of citizens were disappeared, jailed, tortured and killed by the state, usually operating in the name of the monarchy and, for the most part, supported by the king, other commentaries seem to be eulogizing that reign. […]

30 10 2017
After the funeral, more of the same | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] We could go on and on and on…. After all, the ninth reign saw thousands of state crimes against the people. […]

30 10 2017
Updated: After the funeral, more of the same | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] We could go on and on and on…. After all, the ninth reign saw thousands of state crimes against the people. […]

2 11 2017
Thailand’s future politics I | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] DPA/Bangkok report begins with a now common mantra idolizing the dead king and forgetting that his bloody reign was associated almost entirely with support for and from a murderous […]

2 11 2017
Thailand’s future politics I | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] DPA/Bangkok report begins with a now common mantra idolizing the dead king and forgetting that his bloody reign was associated almost entirely with support for and from a murderous […]