A royal shemozzle II

28 05 2021

A reader asks how it is that a person designated a princess, with no obvious constitutional or legal authority can issue a decree that appears to carry the weight of law?

We could simply say: well, this is ultra-royalist Thailand and strange, extra-constitutional happenings seem increasingly common.

The Bangkok Post observes:

His Majesty the King’s sister [Princess Chulabhorn] has approved coronavirus vaccine imports by an institution she sponsors, bypassing the government as it deals with surging infections and growing public anger over a slow and chaotic rollout.

As can be seen in this sentence, the princess is only a sister of the king and yet she may bypass government. As also noted in the sentence, she’s responding to anger about the government’s strategy. As everyone knows, from the beginning this strategy hinged on a “royal vaccine,” which now seems delayed (at best). In the Post’s words: the regime “relies heavily on AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured locally by a company owned by the king.”

This intervention was made without the knowledge of the health minister. Anutin is reported as “unaware of the royal order before it was published.” Notice that the Post as it as a “royal order,” as if Thailand is an absolutist regime. He is quoted: “I just saw the announcement last night…”. He then had to do the royalist-loyalist two-step: “But if it is a benefit to the country, we are ready.”

It was then level to the regime’s slimy legal eagle and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to try to clean up the constitutional and legal scraps, saying “the academy had to issue the announcement so it could qualify to import drugs and medical equipment and supplies.” That’s buffalo manure.

buffalo-manure

How high?

He added: “But this does not mean it can do so freely — it will have to comply with related laws in full, such as seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration.” We don’t believe him. The announcement gives itself the right to circumvent government, as it already has.

Wissanu then fumbled some more, saying “that the institute could do so only during the Covid-19 crisis and when the vaccine supply was inadequate.” In fact, other readings of the vague announcement suggest that the “institute” has wider self-awarded power than that.

He squared the circle when he “added the institute, like private hospitals, could deal with foreign companies to import the vaccine using its own budget.” The budget for the “institute” is provided by the taxpayer and it is not a hospital. And, if Wissanu is correct, then the announcement is not required. Nor is the “institute’s intervention needed when private hospitals have already contracted to supply and sell 10 million doses in addition to the state’s purchases and orders.

But the royals want to make some propaganda gains in a situation where the king’s company appears to be failing.

Who will sort out the constitutional and legal mess? We suspect that no one will and that the precedent will see royals having even more power to do whatever they fancy.

The students were repressed but they were right. The monarchy on its current course is seriously dangerous for Thailand.


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