Challenging monarchism I

27 10 2020

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

One of the best examples is in newspaper reporting. Some outlets have gone full-on mad monarchist, but all are reporting on the monarchy as never before. It was only a few weeks ago that Thais relying on the mainstream media might easily have thought that the king and queen were living in Thailand. Almost no outlet ever mentioned much about the royals spending all their time in Germany and Switzerland.

That’s all changed.

These outlets have to report on events such as last evening’s march to the German Embassy in Bangkok. In reporting such events, the media find that they must say something about them. Sure, they still self-censor on the most radical statements and the students poking fun at the monarch and even purloining his recent statements to ultra-royalists as anti-monarchy memes. For example, when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the demand that he go, the Khana Ratsadon 2563 named the 26 October march to the German Embassy “Very Brave, Very Good,” with the note: “Because we can’t talk sense with the dog, we shall talk to the dog’s owner.” A huge banner read: “Reform the Monarchy.”

While not mainstream, like many other outlets, Thisrupt explained why the protesters were going to the German Embassy: “Today, Khana Ratsadon will march from Samyan Intersection to the German Embassy on Sathorn Road. Germany has been the residence of … King Rama 10 for many years. ”

The Nation reports: “Pro-democracy demonstrators submitted a letter to the German embassy in Bangkok on Monday asking its government to investigate whether HM the King is ruling from German soil.” The protesters stated; “The request is aimed at reinstating … the King to Thailand so the Palace is placed under the Constitution and Thailand can return to being a genuine constitutional monarchy…”.

A Thai PBS photo

Thai PBS reports: “Thousands of protesters ended their rally in front of the German Embassy on South Sathorn Road after submitting a letter addressed to the German government stressing their call for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign and demanding a probe into … the King’s frequent visits to Germany.”

Can anyone imagine such a reporting even a month ago?

Even anti-democrat ultra-royalists have had to acknowledge that the king they claim to revere prefers to spend his time living the high life in Germany. Their tiny rally at the German Embassy before the thousands of pro-democracy protesters showed up, begged the German government to ignore the “false information” about their usually absent king.

We don’t think the monarchy can recover from this. Of course, after its involvement in the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University, the monarchy took years to recover its ideological hegemony, mainly through military-backed government led by unelected premier and groveling royalist Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. In parliament, ultra-royalists like the reprehensible Paiboon Nititawan, an MP for the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, continue to wind the clock backwards, “accusing protesters of trying to overthrow the monarchy.”

Military supporters like Paiboon may want the extreme repression and bloodshed they’ll need to push the anti-royalist genie back into the bottle. We think the bottle is also broken.


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