Neo-feudalism and the military

23 08 2019

In most countries that have a professional military, the forces have become hi-tech and high-skilled that are generally focused on providing security of borders and beyond borders.

Thailand’s military is far from that professionalized military. In fact, it is a force that is mostly concerned with internal security, making it a highly politicized organization, led by bureaucrats rather than well-trained professionals and bent on molding the political order to its preferred shape. Coups, torture, repression, military-backed political parties and corruption are its stock-in-trade.

Monarchs and military

For most of the last 70 years, the military’s politicization and political dominance has involved the monarchy. And, for most of that time, the military has been the dominant partner in that political coalition.

But that balance has been changing as the monarchy has aggregated ideological, political and economic power to itself.

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.

Clearly, King Vajiralongkorn considers himself a soldier and he no longer sees his constitutional position as head of the Thai Armed Forces as symbolic. He’s given the military special attention and he’s taken control of several now-former military bases and of some forces. According to Khaosod, the king is now engaging in efforts to stamp his mark on the military more broadly.

That report, reflecting its source, is somewhat vague, but reveals that a “team of 100 soldiers will be introducing a new training program devised by … the King to the army nationwide…”.

Suthida in the uniform, earrings and makeup of a General

It is claimed that these 100 officers “were trained under the new protocol by the King’s royal guard corps…”. The royal guards are claimed to be an elite corps, mainly through their proximity to the palace rather than for any particular military skills or training. It is better known for its brightly colored uniforms, spiffing ceremonial hats and for having the heavily decorated king’s wife and official concubine as leading generals (neither with any military background).

It is claimed that the “novel program” of 10 weeks’ duration and which comes without any detail, “was reportedly introduced by King Vajiralongkorn in order to enhance soldiers’ physical endurance, nutrition, psychology, and motivation.”

It is “added that the policy was endorsed by army chief Apirat Kongsompong.” Would he do anything else? He’s also a neo-feudalist but we wonder if his military ancestors are somewhat taken aback by having a now aged part-time soldier, trained mostly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, directing how the “modern” army should be trained?

As the report points out, “[s]ince taking the throne in late 2017, … the King has been introducing changes to the armed forces, such as new salute, new haircut for police, and new police uniform color.” All that is window-dressing, but this seems rather more “interesting” as the king seeks to make the army his army.



One response

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 […]

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