On a few things royal I

5 12 2020

There are a number of royal “stories” that caught our attention today.

The first was a gaggle of stories about the dead king. Of course, 5 December – the dead king’s birthday – was made especially important by palace propaganda and before he became ill, on his birthday eve, the palace would round up the great and the good and the captive audience would sit through the king’s often incoherent ramblings. It would be left to the media to try and interpret the meaning of these sometimes long homilies.

The Bangkok Post outdid most other media that we looked at, with four lengthy propaganda pieces. One was a PR piece about the Bangkok arm of the former junta, the BMA, recalling that the day is also father’s day. That came about after an order from military dictator and double coup leader Sarit Thanarat who made the king’s birthday National Day in 1960. Then there are almost obligatory stories on the late king’s interventions in the nation’s water policy, including his backing of huge dams, sufficiency economy, reproducing all the usual blarney from the world’s richest monarchy, and education, in a country with what is now an awful education system, so bad that its students have revolted.

The passed king is said to have “spent decades trying to combat the twin crises besetting Thailand: droughts and floods,” yet these problems persist and plague the nation every year. Chalearmkiat Kongvichienwat, a deputy director-general for engineering with the Royal Irrigation Department describes the late king as “a great hydrological engineer.” We should recall that the king only had a high school diploma and that his “reputation” as an “engineer” was manufactured by palace propaganda and RID, which gained huge amounts of cash for its projects.

RID observes:

… there are 3,481 royal water projects in which the department is involved. Among them, 3,206 projects are already complete.

They comprise 1,277 projects in the North, 758 in the northeastern region, 498 in the Central region and 673 in the South. These royal projects when completed will provide water to 589,000 households living on 4.90 million rai. The projects can store a total of 6.771 billion cubic metres of water.

Some 87 of the 275 remaining projects are expected to be completed by 2024 and 188 are in the pipeline.

That’s a lot of money. We wonder how many continue to operate and at what cost to environment, locals and taxpayer. The propaganda value for the king and palace was inestimable.

There’s no mention of the dead king’s support for dictators, coups, or the military.

A second story line that is appropriate for today is from Bloomberg at The Japan Times. It is focused on royal wealth: “Thailand’s taboo-breaking demonstrations are about more than the right to criticize the monarchy without fear of going to prison: Protesters want taxpayers to control investments and real estate worth tens of billions of dollars.” It has some of the existing information, but there is some additional information.

On the current king’s PR efforts, a third story line caught our attention. As is usual, there are royal pardons and sentences are cut for thousands of inmates. Also usual is the handing out of bags of charity goods to victims of natural disasters, said to be from the king, and usually accompanied by royal portraits. In this case, it was flood victims in the south. The Army claims that “[m]ore than 300,000 households in 90 districts in 11 southern provinces have been affected by flooding…”. The king “donated 10,000 relief bags to flood victims in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, where at least 13 people have died in recent flooding.” Clearly, a symbolic effort by the world’s richest king.

Then we saw, at The Nation, a series of photos about a recent royal outing-cum-PR exercise. It has the king and queen, accompanied by Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati, the Princess Rajasarinisiribajra and Chao Khun Phra Sineenat Bilaskalayani,” attending a religious event for the dead king “at the Royal Plaza in front of Dusit Palace…”. Given all the recent social media attention and some news reports of rifts in the palace, between queen and consort and between princess and consort, we wondered if they didn’t look rather happy together in this photo, suggesting that some of the speculation might be overcooked:

Happy family outing? Clipped from The Nation

Finally, we want to suggest that readers might want to watch a BBC video story about the students and their revolt against the monarchy.


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6 12 2020
On a few things royal II | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] we mentioned the the RID’s royal projects – almost 4,000 of them, all taxpayer funded. Today, the Bangkok Post reports on even more […]

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