Going backwards II

24 01 2020

In our last post on the destruction of symbols of 1932, PPT commented: What’s next? The Democracy Monument? Changing street names? We think anything is possible under a king who wants more absolutism and mad military monarchists who cravenly lick his boots.

We got the answer within hours. An erasure of architectural style on Rajadamnoen Avenue as another effort to make Bangkok the monarch’s city.

Rajadamnoen now. Clipped from Wikipedia

Khaosod reports that the Crown Property Bureau, on King Vajiralongkorn’s orders, will “tear down buildings along a 1,200-meter stretch of the iconic Ratchadamnoen Avenue and rebuild them under a new architectural style…”. The CPB owns the buildings.

The CPB will “renovate 10 buildings on the avenue in a ‘neoclassical’ style, ditching the art deco look originally implemented in the spirit of a 1932 revolution that overthrew the absolute monarchy.”

Rajadamnoen now. Clipped from Wikipedia

For example, the Deves Insurance building, majority owned by the king, “is currently a six-storey art deco structure” but will be made neoclassical.

Why neoclassical? According to theCPB, “the new look will showcase ‘art, culture, and identity of Thailand’.” In other words, neoclassical is considered the style of the absolutist monarchy even if the Avenue has never had such a style.

As the report notes, “Ratchadamnoen Avenue is perhaps the most politically charged landmark in the capital; its history symbolizing the ebb and flow of the ideological struggles that define the last century of Thai politics.”

The monarchy is now reclaiming control of the properties and their style, and it can be expected that the politics will be removed from the avenue as it is made more firmly a royal avenue.

Royal vandalism. Clipped from Khaosod

After 1932, the revolutionaries “soon set out to fill Ratchadamnoen Avenue with buildings designed under art deco style… [A]rt deco was chosen by the revolutionaries to signify a break with the feudal past.” As historian Chatri Prakitnonthakan notes, “Buildings with this look came to represent democracy. It represents the ushering of the modern era…. It’s democratic architecture.”

The king and his agents, including the monarchist-military regime.

Chatri recognizes that “conservatives are not happy and hate this type of buildings,” and there can be no doubt that the king has been schooled in this conservative mode and his now using his economic and political power to obliterate symbols of 1932 and democracy.

And, of course, the report notes the fear: “In spite of the magnitude of the change coming to one of the most iconic landmarks in the Old City, few people are willing to discuss the issue.”

Officials responsible for maintaining building and construction ran and hid when asked about the CPB’s project. No official dares comment.

Others claimed that “they carry out whatever changes or construction as instructed by the Crown Property Bureau.”

Welcome to neo-absolutist Thailand. Watch for more such moves against symbols of 1932 as the monarch promotes cultural and political crimes.


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