With 3 updates: Media, students and monarchy I

22 08 2020

The mainstream media has lost touch with political events. Some say this is due to political censorship/owners’ censorship and the rightist political alignment of many outlets. Others say that it has to do with the lack of resources and skilled journalists. Whatever the reason, it is mainly social media that is carrying the news.

The missing news is even greater in the English-language media, despite efforts by Khaosod English, Thisrupt and Thai Enquirer.

Look in vain for workers protesting in solidarity with students, for those protesting workers being threatened by thugs dressed in black and with military-style haircuts, for Parina Kraikup essentially calling for state violence against school kids and for continuing critical discussion of the monarchy.

One story that promises to rile ultra-royalists has appeared in the rightist media is Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s questioning of the Budget Bureau on the huge and growing flow of taxpayer funds to the palace. He pointed out that even in a declining economy, the palace was getting almost 17% additional funding.

As far as PPT knows, this is the first time for decades that anyone has raised questions in an official forum about the funds flowing to the palace.

Update 1: A reader pointed out that we had posted nothing from the Khon Kaen rally a few days ago. That reader recommended Isaan Record and this video:

Update 2: While not reporting on the rally, Thai PBS now reports that the black-attired thugs shown above were “contracted” to “Thawatchawin Kopatta, a former candidate for the Kao Klai Party,” who “admitted that he had taken the two men to the protest to make sure that speakers did not touch on the Thai Monarchy, as he had promised the Superintendent of Samrong Nua police station he would do.” Thawatchawin added:

Thawatchawin said the incident was a misunderstanding by the two men in black shirts, who thought the speaker, Ms. Chuthatip Sirikhan, president of the Student Union of Thailand, was referring to the Monarchy, when she talked about the budget of the Office of the Royal Household, and they tried to stop her by seizing her microphone.

The question of who the thugs are has not been made clear. Police? Military?

Update 3: Better late than never, Thai PBS has also reported Thanathorn’s questioning of the Budget Burea. We reproduce most of the report below:

Thanathorn did something unprecedented on Thursday as an advisor of the House committee scrutinizing the 2021 budget bill.

He questioned the justification for an increase in the budget for agencies under the Royal Office – the organization directly under His Majesty the King. Thanathorn described the increase as “alarming” given the current economic situation and wanted an answer….

Normally, budgets for royal agencies are approved with little or no deliberation out of respect for the monarchy. But not this time — with Thanathorn’s presence in the budget committee.

Thanathorn is known for his strong stand on the monarchy which he believes should be more accountable.

Thanathorn noted in his Facebook post on Thursday that normally, top executives of government agencies would be required to be present to defend their budget before the House committee. But traditionally, no administrators of the Royal Office have ever appeared before the committee. And in line with past practice, the Royal Office was on Thursday represented by officials of the Budget Bureau.

Thanathorn said the budget allocated for the Royal Office for 2021 is 8.9 billion baht which he noted would be a significant jump of 16.8 per cent from the 7.6 billion baht for this year.

He described the increase as “alarming”, considering the fact that the overall national budget for 2021 represents an increase of only 3.1 per cent. He noted that the Budget Bureau officials spent only two minutes presenting the budget and without giving any details.

And looking back over the years, the outspoken politician said budgets for the Royal Office have been increasing at startling rates, outstripping those of inflation and economic growth.

Thanathorn said he questioned the officials of the Budget Bureau whether such increases would be appropriate. And whether they would in any way diminish the honour of the monarchy.

“As the people are still suffering from economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic, such a sharp increase in the budget for the Royal Office would only have a negative impact on the honour of the monarchy,” he said.

Thanathorn said he recommended that an increase in budget for the Royal Office be limited to 3.1 per cent – the same increase rate for the overall national budget.

“My intention is to help make the royal institution to continue to be held in high esteem by the people,” he explained.

He said by agreeing to cut down the budget for the Royal Office, the royal institution would be seen as sharing the suffering of the people – and that would further enhance the honour of the monarchy.

Among the major agencies within the Royal Office are Office of His Majesty’s Privy Council, Bureau of the Royal Household and Royal Security.

However, despite his plea, Thanathorn said the House committee endorsed the budget for the Royal Office without any changes.



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