A royal shemozzle III

29 05 2021

In a report in the Bangkok Post, Nithi Mahanonda, the secretary-general of the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy, is reported as confirming that the latest royal intervention is to save the collective crown’s ass. He reportedly stated that “the CRA would procure ‘alternative vaccines’ until those produced in Thailand were sufficient to protect against the pandemic.” The king’s Siam Bioscience is not and was never up to the job the regime and palace handed it.

As an interesting footnote, Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn has stated that it was the royally-controlled Siam Cement Group that “brokered Thailand’s acquisition of AstraZeneca vaccines…” and the technology for local production.

Nithi went on to say that “the CRA was required to comply with the laws governing the production and importation of vaccines, and the registration of medical supplies for emergency use.” More on registration below.Princess plaything

The announcement has been cloaked in a surreal “legal” argument that this procurement is “part of the CRA’s regular missions under the law governing its establishment.” That law does not appear to us to go that distance. But the legalities are manufactured faster than a vaccine approval. And, nowhere in its mission statements does the Academy claim to be in this area of work.

Despite the Academy’s claims to transparency, the website is mostly an ode to the ailing princess.

Nithi states the “emergency plan was approved by the CRA council to support the government through the academy’s research and academic capabilities and special contacts with foreign countries.” As a hospital, we guess that the Academy could have imported vaccines with state approval, but it is the state approval that the decree circumvented.

In our view, the announcement/decree has little legal or constitutional support. Yes, we know that slimy royalists and regime fixers like Wissanu Krea-ngam will have arguments for the legalities and he would probably have the royalist judiciary for support, but these are the same people who reckon heroin trafficking overseas doesn’t count under Thai law or constitution. When it comes to royals it seems there are no limits on their desires, whims, and fancies.

In general, the reporting and commentary on the royal intervention has been limited and misplaced. That’s not unexpected in royalist Thailand under the (semi-)military boot and the lese majeste law.

Much of the attention in the babble about royal intervention has been about the slap in the face this gives Genral Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government. Thitinan Pongsudhirak begins his commentary on an appropriate note:

Just as Thailand’s murky vaccine plan has gone from bad to worse, the plot keeps thickening. The latest development centres on the May 25 publication in the Royal Gazette of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy’s authority to procure Covid-19 vaccines within the country and from abroad as needed for public health benefits. As has been promptly noted elsewhere, this vaccine bombshell could be perceived as a snub to the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, particularly Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. Thailand’s effectively dual-track vaccine strategy is now likely to engender major repercussions.

Appropriately, Thitinan observes:

…the Chulabhorn Royal Academy and Siam Bioscience — a pharmaceutical company owned by the Crown Property Bureau are connected. On Wednesday, the director-general of the academy made a five-point statement to explain how his team will proceed. Yet, we have not heard much from Siam Bioscience.

He seems to believe that:

The Chulabhorn Royal Academy’s assertion at this time that it will find and obtain all available vaccines for Thai people suggests that its role is paramount. Its complete freedom above and beyond the Prayut government and its related laws and rules may be a power play to say that public health supersedes government longevity.

That may be true. But, the commentary skirts difficult issues associated with Chulabhorn’s royal decree. We think that the short-termism of commentary and in the responses of opposition political parties that focus on damage to Gen Prayuth and his hopeless lot dangerously myopic on yet another grab for power by the palace.

Worse, some of that commentary considers the Academy “another government agency,” which fudges on many levels. If it is a government agency, it would fall under law and constitution, but it doesn’t – or so it seems and so it acts. And which government agency can produce the miraculous vaccine approval that followed less than 24 hours after the royal decree announcing it would import the Sinopham vaccine! The reports were of the documentation only landing with the Thai authorities earlier this week. Miracles do happen, if you are a royally-constructed, taxpayer funded outfit that is a plaything for a princess, established to burnish her reputation and contribute to the monarchy’s propaganda.

But what of the law and constitution? We are not lawyers but we wonder about the royal decree, signed by a princess.

We searched the junta’s constitution and there are several relevant sections, including 172 and 175. They are worth considering.

Section 172 is about emergency decrees and might be relevant:

For the purpose of maintaining national or public safety or national economic
security, or averting public calamity, the King may issue an Emergency Decree which
shall have force as an Act.

The issuance of an Emergency Decree under paragraph one shall be made only when
the Council of Ministers is of the opinion that it is an emergency of necessity and
urgency which is unavoidable.

But this would seem to be the decree already in place for many months, so we do not think it applies to the latest royal decree, except as context (noted in the decree).

Section 175 states:

The King has the Royal Prerogative to issue a Royal Decree which is not contrary to
the law.

We guess this is why Thitinan says that “Royal Gazette publications [proclamations/announcements/decrees] take immediate effect with complete legality…”. But this decree is not issued by the king. And is circumventing the state legal or is it that any royal is sovereign? If there are any legal eagles reading this, let us know what you think.

For us, the ability of the king to proclaim anything he wants if not contrary to the law is worrying enough. Having any royal do this is even more concerning. Thailand is yet another step closer to the king’s desire for an absolutist regime.


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