Monarchy propaganda as fake news

25 01 2022

The Bangkok Post has published palace propaganda. We know they have little choice in the matter, but we also guess the tycoons who run the paper also love this kind of fake news.

As we write this post, the story has become inaccessible. It remains a searchable story at the Post, and might come back, but there’s also an excerpt here.

With King Vajiralongkorn turning 70 later this year, the military is busy not just crushing opposition to the monarch and regime, but is promoting him and link between monarchy and military.

Reminiscent of elements of then Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s royalist rant in 2019, the Post article promotes the martial monarch.

It reports that the Royal Thai Army “will upgrade Ban Mak Khaeng Thed Phrakiat Park in Loei,” building a “sculpture of the King, and open[ing] a museum to portray the historical moment when the King, who was Crown Prince at the time, fought alongside troops against communist rebels in Ban Mak Khaeng…”.

Such a propaganda effort promotes monarch, monarchy, military and the bond between monarch and military.

The park was first constructed “by the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) of Loei to mark the battlefield in which [Vajiralongkorn]… joined soldiers in fighting Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) insurgents in tambon Kok Sathon of Dan Sai district” in 1976.

As the Post story notes, the “1970s was the height of the Cold War, when communist revolutions toppled governments and monarchies in Laos and Cambodia and when relations between the Thai monarchy and military were reshaped by dramatic and rapid shifts in domestic politics.” The best example of that relationship was the royalist massacre of students on 6 October 1976.

Vajiralongkorn had hurriedly returned from counterinsurgency training in Australia to be there for the massacre and he took up arms with the military to fight the battle against those identified as opponents of the military and monarchy.

The Post reports that: “On Nov 5, 1976, King Rama X, who was [a] … captain at that time, received a direct order from … King Bhumibol Adulyadej … to contain the situation [the anti-CPT fight in Loei].”

A myth in training

Lt Gen Chanvit Attatheerapong, director of the Army Tourism Promotion Agency – who knew there was such a thing – declared: “As a soldier, when the king had fought alongside army troops, it was a moment of incomparable rejoicing for us soldiers. And he [the king] is courageous…”.

It is important to both king and military to create stories of the king-as-soldier in a period when the ruling elite is reliant on  the military-backed regime.

The propaganda is myth-making as “villagers, police and soldiers who witnessed the events tell the magnificent story of the bravery of … the King.” From a soldier taking part in a fire fight, the then crown prince is re-made as a hero:

Pol Lt Suvin Viriyawat, a 69-year-old retired police officer, said the CTP insurgents had nearly managed to surround and cut off a police stronghold….

However, they never thought His Majesty the King would arrive to support his troops. Due to the mountainous area, the chopper could not land, so His Majesty the King suddenly hopped down with his seven royal guards onto the heated battlefield. “His Majesty the King said he was just a soldier, no need to be formal, just carry out our duties. He was so kind to us and ate alongside us too,” said Pol Lt Suvin.

“If His Majesty didn’t show up, around 20 survivors of the 48 might not be alive as we were surrounded with limited supplies for eight days. It was like we were drowning and His Majesty pulled us up. We survived because of him,” he said.

With such embellished stories, ISOC and the Army want to display the martial king, the brave soldiers and the people as one. Such propaganda is believed to be critical for the maintenance of the ruling elite. And, it blots out the critical role played by royals and royalists in the murder of civilians.


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