Royals walking backwards

6 05 2020

The state’s propaganda outlet, the National News Bureau of Thailand is doing its best to boost the absent monarch’s profile. In a recent story the royal response to the virus outbreak sound as though it is the former king at work. Back in the days of the 1997 economic crisis, King Bhumibol asked poor Thais to tighten their belts and save the rich though notions of “sufficiency.” It was mostly the middle class who latched onto his notion of “walking backwards into the klong,” developed romantic notions of rural life and then supported yellow-shirted causes into the 2000s and beyond.

This crisis seems to have the royal household struggling for new ideological hooks, so they are falling back on 1950s and 1960s ideas of developing a “model farm project under a Royal Initiative” that is said to provide “agricultural knowledge for local residents” impacted by the virus crisis. Quasi-military “Royal Thai Volunteers” are mobilized to tell the “local residents” what is best for them.

Locals pushed back(wards) Clipped from National News Bureau

Several big shots “presided over the development of the model farm project under the Royal Initiative of … Queen Sirikit … in Angthong province.” First time we’ve heard anything about the Dowager for a while. In the few times she’s been seen in recent years, she seems to be in a semi-vegetative state. Later on in the report King Vajiralongkorn’s name is added to his mum’s, saying they have “provided a model farm project to aid the citizens of the area.”

Trainees made to feel grateful. Clipped from National News Bureau

The virus, it is reported, “has had a wide impact on citizens.” And, as the report rightly says, this is because “[m]any have become unemployed and face a financial crisis.”

The project is said to “provide careers and alleviate the burdens of daily life, by having these citizens learn specialized agricultural methods and be able to adapt them for use in their households, becoming better able to support their families.” Maybe if the king and his military didn’t such the country dry, along with their tycoon buddies, the “trainees” might have had a better life.

The big shots get the glory. Clipped from National News Bureau

In this project, though, it appears the sucking out of the surplus continues as the “villagers become agricultural attendants, the project is able to produce and develop new products for further study and for sale.” Who gets the proceeds is not clear. Who actually pays for the project is equally opaque. We guess it is the taxpayer.

There’s a bunch of similar stories around that we are too bored with to bother commenting further apart from mentioning the Pid Thong Lang Phra Foundation, which is a royal-sponsored initiative that also promotes the sufficiency philosophy and which also tells us that there are now PhD programs in sufficiency economy. That must be one of the least serious PhDs around and would certainly not encourage critical thinking. We had never heard of it but it gives out 300 fellowships a year! Its training a cadre of royalists! We guess soldiers and bureaucrats like it.

All of this activity is meant to make the absent Vajiralongkorn appear less remote, vacant and self-indulgent.


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