Updated: Military and monarchy II

14 10 2022

We were interested in some aspects of a royal report at the Bangkok Post. It was one of those formulaic reports on royal doings – yet another monument to a dead king, presided over by his daft son. But a couple of lines caught our collective eye.

One was the “making up” of the apparent snub of the dead English queen.

More eye-catching was that the spokesperson cited by the Post was Col Wanchana Sawasdee, who is a deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence. Does the park come under the Ministry’s purview? We don’t know, but events like this certainly cement the ties between military and monarchy, as the “soldier king” appears to promote and lead the military.

He chortled about King Vajiralongkorn having “turned the Royal Turf Club of Thailand (RTCT) into the Chalerm Phrakiat Park in Dusit district in remembrance of King Rama IX and to bring about a huge new green space in Bangkok…”. The park is an ode to the dead king and covers 279 rai in Dusit district, and when finished will have “thousands of new trees will provide the capital with another much-needed ‘green lung’.” It is also going to be a large car park for a nearby hospital….

Col Wanchana is then credited with an unlikely quote: “Thursday’s historic ceremony reminded him of the ceremony conducted during the unveiling of the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn at the Royal Plaza…”. That was in 1908, so we guess the colonel is saying it is the start of a process of further deifying the dead king.

Col Wanchana also giggled about “rumours spread by some groups with an intention to provoke dislike against the monarch [who] claimed a new palace would be built on this land. The presence of the new park has proved them wrong, he said.”

There was indeed rumor about a “palace,” but as academic Duncan McCargo observed in 2018, the palace’s opacity led to “talk of a public park, a hospital or even a museum, [but] the Bureau’s plans for the spectacular 79-acre site remains unclear.

In the end, while Col Wanchana said rumors had been scotched, in fact, the expanded palace precinct that several speculated on, is coming to fruition. We can’t help thinking that Buckingham Palace and its precinct is a model, surrounding the palace with parkland as a giant vinaigrette.

Update: Very swiftly, a reader points out that we may be reading too much into the story citing the colonel. After all, that reader writes, the story is by the Post’s military reporter, Wassana Nanuam. True, but why is she reporting this event rather than the usual royal reporters?



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