Denying constitutionalism, affirming neo-feudalism I

21 08 2019

“Modern” Thailand is looking increasingly like a neo-feudal kingdom. We know that the moniker “Kingdom” has become increasingly common as a kind of affirmation that Thailand has a monarchy. but that has usually meant a constitutional monarchy.

In the previous reign, the monarchy was steadily moved to a position of greater ideological, economic and political power and influence. In the current reign, which began under the military junta, more changes have been made that have further empowered the monarchy, including land grabs, new laws and constitutional changes.

Many of these changes have been enshrined in laws made in secret session by the junta’s appointed and puppet National Legislative Assembly. Others have a dubious legal basis in palace announcements (which the Constitutional Court has interpreted, in one case, as law).

Neo-feudalism enshrined

There’s also been the secretive destruction of symbols of the 1932 revolution. Such historical vandalism has been rightly interpreted as “announcements” of neo-feudalism.

The most recent “announcement” of neo-feudalism was Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s “solemn declaration before the King” legally meant to be made under Section 161 of the junta’s constitution. That section states:

Before taking office, a Minister must make a solemn declaration before the King in the following words: “I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

As everyone knows, Gen Prayuth read a different declaration:

I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.

Just for interest, a (random) look at other constitutions – here, the 1974 version – showed no difference in the required oath:

As far as we are aware, that oath has never previously been denied (at least when constitutions have been in place).

So, despite denials, this oath to the king rather than (also) to the constitution, is highly significant.

It is also clear that, if they can get away with it, Gen Prayuth and his regime (and the palace) are seeking to make the discussion of the unconstitutional oath go away, with no rectification and no winding back of this act of embedding neo-feudalism.

The Bangkok Post reports an opposition demanded parliamentary debate on the neo-feudal oath “will likely occur next month…”. This announcement came from the government’s Deputy Parliament President Supachai Phosu. It is said that it is “up to Parliament President [and member of the government coalition] Chuan Leekpai to fix a date for the debate, which will proceed without a vote.”

Whether it happens is open to debate. What is clear is that the parliament’s bosses are trying to delay and quieten things so that Gen Prayuth, his regime and the palace can get away with unconstitutional actions and the further embedding of neo-feudalism.

Meanwhile Gen Prayuth said “he is too preoccupied with work to explain” his actions.

Gen Prayuth made his oath ashe and the king intended. They seem confident that they can break the most basic law. As it was under the junta, Thailand remains essentially under a lawless regime.


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23 08 2019
Neo-feudalism and the military | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] That change has seen the military requiring the ideological support of the monarchy in pulling off its most recent political interventions. In this reign, while so far short, there has been a rapid development of royalist neo-feudalism. We have posted on this several times, most recently, here. […]

27 08 2019
Making the neo-feudal royal family | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] point of all of this seems to be to reinforce Thailand’s turn to neo-feudalism in the 10th […]

27 08 2019
Denying constitutionalism, affirming neo-feudalism II | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] this was not enough. The king wants more. He’s keen to remake Thailand as a neo-feudal political system with him at the […]

31 08 2019
King’s oath a secret | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] has three times posted on Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha being scripted to make a constitutionally-required oath that left out a sentence from the oath as set out in the constitution. The bit left out was: […]

3 09 2019
Constitutionalism and neo-feudalism | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] issues that have been avoided by the mainstream media when discussing Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s un/anti-constitutional oath given before the king, as premier and for his ministers. We will mention just a couple of points […]

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