Further updated: Cultural monarchism

25 10 2020

With demonstrators again coming together in a “leaderless rally,” they answered King Vajiralongkorn’s declaration of political war. They are not afraid.

That notion of not being afraid has been taken up by at least one journalist. In an op-ed at The Guardian, Pravit Rojanaphruk has supported the demonstrators and he is right to observe that the target of their rallies is now the king and the overbearing monarchy. More importantly, he is, as far as we can tell, the first journalist to ditch the malarkey about the dead king being universally loved and revered. He is critical, stating:

Young Thai protesters want to make sure that if there is yet another coup attempt, King Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the throne after his popular father, King Bhumibol, died in October 2016, will not endorse it – as his late father did many times by putting his signature to orders effectively legitimising a coup. On average, Thailand has experienced one military coup every seven years since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Clearly, any last remaining hope they had was demolished when the king mingled with ultra-royalists and fascists.

It cannot be doubted that the recent protests have opened space for critical discussion of the monarchy. In our view, the space currently available is the widest since the 1940s. That it has taken so long for this space to be re-opened means that uprooting establishment monarchism is a huge task. Military, schools, art, architecture, religion, administration, areas of science and engineering, and popular culture are just some of the areas that have been distorted and crippled by the influence of staid and backward-looking monarchism.

In Chiang Mai, some have begun to push back against decades of taxpayer funded palace propaganda. A Twitter campaign calls “for students, staff, alumni and the general public to support a removal of the art display installed on the side of an exterior wall at its Faculty of Architecture” that is pure palace propaganda.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that the yellow-shirted administration at Chiang Mai University had had top publicly reject “a bid to remove the Sculpture of Light, an art display bearing the likeness of … King Bhumibol Adulyadej…”. (As usual, we have had to delete words that are royalist trip from this quote.)

The administrators went full-on royalist saying the dead king “was highly revered by students and staff.” Clearly not by all. It is evident that many will come to view the origin of the current problems as lying in the previous reign and the king’s right-wing, pro-military stance.

Getting ever more royalist, the administrators groveled, declaring how “indescribably grateful” they were for the dead king’s “contributions to the country…”. Do they mean military dictatorship? Further, they declared they “would not permit any act to be undertaken within its compound which degraded the honour of the late king in any way.”

Those calling for the propaganda to be removed said “some people were concerned about public space being allocated to art displays and everyone was entitled to express opinions over how the space should be used.” They called for political neutrality at the university and a return of space to the people.

Update 1: There’s more on challenging royalist culturalism at Thai PBS and at Thisrupt.

Update 2: Another account of how royalist culturalism is being challenged may be found at The Nation.


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27 10 2020
Challenging monarchism | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Pro-democracy protesters have dramatically changed Thailand’s political and cultural landscape. […]

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