Clown royalists and the monarchist laundry

11 03 2021

The Bangkok Post had a report that, if it wasn’t from royalist, neo-absolutist Thailand, would seem odd, even crazy. It is about a nutty minor royal, MR Priyanandana Rangsit, “taking legal action and seeking damages of 50 million baht from writer Nattapol Chai­ching and publisher Fah Diew Kan (Same Sky) for alleged slander.”

Minor princess Priyanandana, is “a granddaughter of the Prince of Chai Nat” and in the name of her princely grandfather, has lodged “a complaint with the Civil Court against Mr Nattapol, his two PhD thesis advisers and two executives of the Fah Diew Kan publishing house for disseminating false information.”

All of this stems from the work of royalist/yellow-shirted academic Chaiyan Chaiyaporn at Chulalongkorn University, who spent his time combing through Nattapol’s thesis seeking any error he could identify. He accused Nattapol of “false references,” in the thesis one of which was to a:

Bangkok Post article published on Dec 18, 1950, which said the Regent [Prince of Chai Nat] had been expanding his political role by frequently attending cabinet meetings led by prime minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggram. This move was said to have made Field Marshal Plaek unhappy and that he responded by demanding that he be allowed to sit in meetings of the Privy Council if the Regent continued to interfere with the administrative and legislative branches.

The Post later denied it had reported such information, “and said the article merely reported that several cabinet members had voiced concern over 50 senators being appointed by the Privy Council without the government being consulted.” Nattapol has admitted that error in referencing. As far as we know, the Post has not reprinted the article online and we have been unable to find an archive.

In any case, the claim that Phibul had problems with Rangsit and, at the time, actively worked against the royalists and their political machinations is hardly news. But what’s going on here is a royalist laundering of critical scholarship that tells the real story of the royal insurgency against the remnants of the People’s Party.

We were struck by the parallels with current writing on the British monarchy. This one seemed relevant:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish [Thais], it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.





Royalists, academics and palace propaganda

10 01 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on advice to protesters. That advice was well-meaning. At the Asia Times Online, however, academic Michael Nelson of the Asian Governance Foundation, writes the protesters off: “[Gen] Prayut [Chan-ocha] does not seem to be in danger. The royal-military alliance seems to be unassailable…”. He adds: “The protesters, though big on Facebook, also have little backing in the population. And now, the government is getting tough with them…”.

That seems somewhat premature, even if the regime has the “benefit” of a virus uptick and can use the emergency decree to good ill effect. In any case, as far as support is concerned, we recall the Suan Dusit survey in late October that seemed rather supportive of the protesters. Things might have changed given the all out efforts by the regime and palace, but we think the demonstrators have had considerable support.

Another academic is getting into the fray to support the regime and palace. At the regime’s website Thailand Today, pure royalist propaganda by “Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai” is translated from The Manager Online. For obvious reasons, the regime loves the work of this royalist propagandist who tests the boundaries of the term “academic.” But, then, Chartchai is “an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA,” a place that has played an inglorious role in recent politics and where “academic” seems a loose term used to describe a person associated with NIDA.

Royalists ideologues posing as academics have been well rewarded. Chartchai is no different. His rewards have included appointment to the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee and its National Reform Council. In these positions, he opposed any notion of an elected prime minister and supported the junta’s propaganda activities on its constitution. He has also been a propagandist for “sufficiency economy,” a “theory” lacking much academic credibility but which is religiously promoted as one of the “legacies” of the dead king.

Self-crowned

His latest effort is a doozy. Published in November 2020, “Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age” is a defense of a neo-feudal monarchy. It seeks to dull the calls for reform by claiming that King Vajiralongkorn “has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.”

This sounds remarkably like the royalist defense made of King Prajadhipok after the 1932 revolution, suggesting he was thinking about granting a constitution before the People’s Party, a claim still made by royalist and lazy historians. In the current epoch, if the king is “reforming,” then the calls for reform are redundant.

Reflecting the good king-bad king narrative, in a remarkable contortion, Chartchai warns that the bad king should not be compared with his father. He declares this “unjust” and “unfair.” The bad king is “preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.”

That’s exactly the palace’s propaganda position on Vajiralongkorn.

How has Vajiralongkorn “sought to reform the monarchy”? Readers may be surprised to learn that the king has been “adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices.”

Of course, this is recent and the palace’s propaganda response to the demonstrations. Before that, the king worked to distance the palace from people. Not least, the king lived thousands of kilometers from Thailand.

A second reform – again a surprising construction for propaganda purposes – is the “reform of the Crown Property Bureau…”. The king officially taking personal control of all royal wealth and property through new, secretly considered, laws demanded by the king is portrayed as intending to “demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.”

There’s been no public discussion of this CPB corruption and nor is there any evidence that there is any transparency at all. In our research, the opposite is true.

We are told that the king’s property acquisitions were also about corruption and “public use.” The examples provided are the “Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage” and military bases in Bangkok.

The Royal Turf Club was a which was a “gathering place for dubious but influential people” and has been “reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities.” That “public use” is a recent decision, with the palace responding to criticism. Such plans were never mentioned when the century old racecourse was taken. It is also “revealed” that the military bases that now belong personally to the king will be for public purposes. Really? Other “public places” in the expanded palace precinct have been removed from public use: the zoo, parliament house, and Sanam Luang are but three examples. We can only wait to see what really happens in this now huge palace area.

Chartchai also discusses how “[r]Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.”

Now we understand why all the Rajabhats have been showering the queen with honorary doctorates. The idea that this king – who was always a poor student and didn’t graduate from anything – knows anything about education is bizarre. How the king gained control of the 38 Rajabhats is not explained.

What does this mean for the protests? The implication is, like 1932, those calling for reform are misguided. Like his father, the king “is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.” Is he under the constitution when he can have the regime change it on a whim and for personal gain?

Chartchai “explains” that “the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself…”. He goes full-throttle palace propaganda declaring the monarchy a bastion of “independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.” As such, Thais should ignore the calls for reform and properly “understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.”

For an antidote to this base royalist propaganda, readers might enjoy a recent and amply illustrated story at The Sun, a British tabloid, which recounts most of Vajiralongkorn’s eccentric and erratic activities.





Updated: Mad, mad monarchism

29 12 2020

Two stories at the Bangkok Post in recent days demonstrate how monarchists have gone completely bonkers.

The first story is about Lt Gen Soraphot Nirandorn, an old man with a terrible comb-over who claims to be the son of a member of Khana Ratsadorn, or the People’s Party. Ordinarily, that affiliation would not guarantee interest in Soraphot.

But in the royal and royalist efforts to roll back the 1932 revolution, Lt Gen Soraphot’s seeking of “forgiveness” for his father, prostrating “before the statues and portraits of King Rama VII, King Rama VIII and King Rama IX…” gained attention.

He says his father, Maj Sawek Nirandorn, or Khun Nirandornchai, one of some 194 “promoters” of the 1932 revolution, “felt remorseful that he as a soldier had violated the oath of allegiance.” He added that: “When serving on a committee examining royal assets, he did something inappropriate. His last wish was to seek royal forgiveness, but he died before he could do it…”.  Sawek doesn’t have much of a role in the standard histories of the period.

According to Lt Gen Soraphot, his father “left the military and was appointed by Khana Ratsadorn to take charge of the construction of the Democracy Monument and was also appointed as a member of a committee examining royal assets from 1932–1948.”

Some of the details here seem a little screwy, but that could be the reporting or the old man’s poor memory, but his angst seems to have to do with land. When asked “if he would return the assets, Lt Gen Soraphot said he has no objection but will have to ask for consent from the rest of the family.”

For those interested in the story of the land scandal of 1937, download Virginia Thompson’s Thailand A New Siam and read pages 93-95. There it is stated that 33 of the 34 persons named as having ripped off land returned it. Unlike the silence that surrounds royal seizures of land today, back then, there was a furious debate.

The second story is even more bizarre, with the monarchist management and owners of the newspaper deeming it necessary to “clarify” a story from 1950. Yes, that’s 70 years ago. Of course it is about the monarchy and it is also a “clarification” dripping with political intent.

Phibul

The Post finds itself caught up in a series of royalist attacks on the doctoral dissertation titled “Thai Politics in Phibul’s Government under the US World Order (1948–1957)” by Nattapol Chaiching. Nattapol refers to the Post for 18 December 1950 in claiming that the regent attended cabinet meetings and that this caused annoyance for Prime Minister Phibul who demanded that the regent follow constitutional rules.

The Post contorts itself stating that “the paper never reported such information…”. it adds: “In fact, the article ‘Premier May Sit In with Privy Council’ merely reported that several cabinet members had voiced their concern about the appointment of 50 senators by the Privy Council without consulting the government as stated in the full article below.”

That sounds a lot like nitpicking, and we can’t find the article the Post claims to reproduce. All of this is prompted by a nasty royalist campaign. For those who can read Thai, there’s an account of the royalist effort here. The campaign is aimed at a group of revisionist historians.

What is clear is that Nattapol’s basic point is correct. Phibul was working against royalists who were reasserting their power and, as usual, ignoring constitutional procedures. As Sorasak Ngamcachonkulkid has it in his 2005 thesis, “The Seri Thai movement : the first alliance against military authoritarianism in modern Thai history” (p. 539):

Soon after the 1947 coup, senior and traditional members of the royal family and the aristocracy came back to play a central role in politics. The two traditional elite groups began by extending their control to the upper House of the legislature. Although the military leaders attempted to place their own followers in the senate, the Regent, Prince Rangsit, ignored their request and appointed one-hundred senators from among the nation’s most venerable and highly-educated elite. Only eight senators were selected from the 1932 revolutionary group, and no senators were appointed from members of the recent coup. Of the 100 Senators, 90 of them were princes … and [from] the aristocracy….

As time went on, Phibul railed against the royalists, seeking to roll back their power grab and especially against the regent. Indeed, in 1951, when Prince Dhani was appointed regent, Phibul voted against him.

Our point being that the royalists are grasping at straws and again trying to put the genie back in the opaque bottle.

Update: In the context of the above notes, it is worth reading Voranai Vanijaka’s op-ed “2020: Khana Ratsadon VS the Chakri Dynasty Part 2.” It sets out some of the ideological underpinnings for Thailand’s journey back to royal absolutism.





Updated: The regime goes lower I

19 10 2020

It is widely reported that the regime is trying to censor news and even withdraw or block content that is about the pro-democracy uprising. See, for example, The Isaan Record. However, some of these reports have been removed. We are not sure what this means.

The censorship is aimed at media that have rallied behind the protesters and some that livestream the protests. This includes Voice TV, The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai. There is also a move to block the protesters official social media pages.

Such desperate and oafish moves are likely to fail, incite more protests and may be defied.

Update: There are now social media reports that the regime is sending out police to collect “dangerous” publications, including some academic works on the 1932 revolution. How low will it go?





Loss of moral and political compass

4 10 2020

Pridi Banomyong’s university is under the control of feeble-minded royalist administrators. Born of the 1932 revolution, Thammasat began in 1934 as the University of Moral and Political Sciences.

The news that political activists Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Arnon Nampahave been banned by Thammasat administrators from speaking at a forum marking the 44th anniversary of the Oct 6, 1976 massacre demonstrates that today’s administrators have no moral and political compass.

It is the students who maintain the university’s heritage.

An organizer of the forum, Krisadang Nutcharus said “the university executives had offered no explanation, only saying they felt uncomfortable with the presence of the three pro-democracy leaders at the forum.”

Of course, everyone knows that they feel uncomfortable because the three activists have called for reform of the monarchy.

Krisadang offered “his apology that the three will not be able to share their thoughts,” and observed that this ban “makes us understand the attitudes, views and cowardice of these executives…”.

He added that in 1976, “the young had sacrificed their lives during the massacre to protect rights and democracy. He said they fell because they had differing opinions.” The current administrators reject this history in favor of repression, military-dominated government and feudalism.





A tale of two demolitions

22 09 2020

The Crown Property Bureau’s voracious appetite for land isn the so-called royal precinct has finally gobbled up the Si Sao Thewes residence, which had belonged to the Royal Thai Army.

The Bangkok Post reports that the residence is now demolished. This follows the death of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the former prime minister, president of the Privy Council, and incessant interfering old man who lived there, on the taxpayers’ account, from 1979 to 2019.

The army is reported to have “returned the historical residence and grounds to the Crown Property Bureau in 2019…”. This is a bit like how the national zoo was “returned” to the king in 2018. This grasping is so the king can build an enormous palace. Given that he resides in Germany, this is just an erection to show how superior he is. But perhaps he’ll move back when the new palace is completed. He’ll be well into his 70s then.

Indicating that the Army was “pushed” into giving up the land, the report states there had been a “plan to turn a building situated on one side of the grounds and used as the army club into a museum of valuable woods.” As army chief, “Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha … presided over the laying of a foundation stone for a new army club there.” Soon after, that plan was shelved and the lad was gulped up by the CPB.

(We should correct the Post story. It states that Prem left the premier’s position “[a]fter eight years … refusing to stay on for another term, saying ‘I have had enough’.” True, he did say this, but the real truth is that many in the political class wanted him gone. Ignoring the conflict to make Prem “revered” is a nonsense.)

Related, as they protested the monarchy’s land grabs, the demonstrators on the weekend declared Sanam Luang to be Sanam Ratsadorn and planted a people’s plaque.

Clipped from Khaosod

Within hours, the plaque was gone. It is reported: “The plaque appeared to be removed some time after 10pm, when Sanam Luang was closed off from the public, and before 5am, when the gates reopened.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Police had already stated that “they considered the plaque illegal, since it was placed there without permission from the authorities.”

On cue, Fine Arts Department director Sataporn Thiengtham jumped about spluttering that “the group behind the plaque … broke the laws that protect historic sites.” When asked if he wasn’t babbling double standards, he denied this.

As the report points out, stooge Sataporn’s “department took no action when several key monuments associated with the 1932 revolution that toppled the absolute monarchy disappeared in recent years.” This included the “commemorative plaque on the Royal Plaza…”.

All of this is about the king’s neo-absolutism and his need for wealth and land.





Updated: Defying regime, military and monarchy

11 08 2020

Some of the media seems flummoxed by the ongoing attacks on the regime and monarchy and are reverting to “form.”

Thai PBS, in reporting that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “feels uncomfortable with the rally at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus last night, during which some speakers touched on ‘sensitive issues*’,” promoted the story that the rally had “provoked widespread criticism of the University.”

Thammasat University appears to have panicked and has reportedly “offered an apology for the alleged transgression, which was blamed on non-student protesters.” It is said that “Dr. Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a vice rector of the university, said … he regretted any breaches of the law, allegedly committed by non-student protesters…”. We haven’t heard of any charges, so Prinya seems to have jumped the gun. He did say he had “attended the protest site from 7pm to 8pm … which he found to be orderly and peaceful.”

He added that he had later learned of alleged “breaches of the law” which he described as “some speakers had used some improper wording,” which it is claimed “provoked some public uproar.” From PPT’s survey of social media, the demonstration of 3,000 to 10,000 students (depending on source) also drew considerable public support.

Cod Satrusayang, in an opinion piece at Thai Enquirer sounds staggered that “[f]or the first time in my experience and perhaps the first time since the mid-70s, Thais were willing to address, confront and talks bout the institutions* that many had deemed too cherish and too sacred for so long.” We guess he might have missed the red shirt rallies in 2010. He says the large crowd of “students, workers, activists and everyday citizens cheered and applauded as leader after leader gave speech after speech about the need to transform the country into what could best be described as constitutional royalism.”

He makes some reasonable comments on why it has taken so long for a proper discussion of the monarchy and politics. But he then returns to form, sounding not that different from the military’s various claims of “plots,” claiming “cheerleaders [are] egging the students on to carry out their own grievances…”. He singles out Pavin Chachavalpongpun who “called in to talk about the monarchy and its role in Thai politics.” Cod seems to think that exiles have it easy and that they should be activists in Thailand. He seems to forget that several exiles have been  tortured, abducted, and murdered in exile and he neglects that going into exile is usually a last resort.

He goes further, declaring “what is wrong is cheerleading the students on, knowing full well how the Thai state has historically handled such situations, while not prepared to face any consequence of their own.” This is nonsense and potentially incites rightists and other royalists. And, we’d guess that most students involved would reject all notions that they are the dupes of others. In fact, that’s an ultra-royalist shibboleth. Perhaps Cod is pissed that it has been exiles who have, until now, been the only ones who could raise the very issues that the students now consider.

What was said at Thammasat. In an AP report at Khaosod that “[s]tudent leaders … delivered an unprecedented challenge to the country’s constitutional monarchy on Monday, strongly criticizing the king and demanding changes to lessen what they believe is its anti-democratic nature.” It states:

… the protest’s direction turned when a student went on stage, read out the 1932 proclamation that ended the absolute monarchy in what was then called Siam, and declared that in fact it lives on despite the country’s nominal status as a democracy.

A number of speakers then took the stage and detailed perceived problems with Thailand’s monarchy….

Many in the crowd cheered, clapped and flashed three-fingered salute that has been adopted by Thailand’s pro-democracy movement. Yet others in the audience appeared stunned by the content of the speeches.

The report notes that “[a]iring their grievances in direct language normally expressed in whispers, the speakers criticized the king’s wealth, his influence and the fact that he spends almost all his time in Germany, not Thailand.”** Arnon Nampa told the students: “We shouldn’t have to speak using symbols. Direct discussion is best. That’s what I think, so I choose to speak directly, out of respect to my own dignity, to that of the listeners and of the monarchy…”.

Demands were made:

… The rally ended with another leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, reading out a manifesto with a list of 10 demands for reforming the institution of the monarchy.

Among them were separation of the king’s personal wealth from the royal palace’s vast fortune held by the Crown Property Bureau; forbidding the monarchy from playing any role in politics or endorsing any military coups; abolishing the excessive glorification of the monarchy; and investigating the deaths of critics of the monarchy.

Reflecting on the trepidation of people like Cod, the AP report observes: “Such open defiance of the taboos around speaking ill of the monarchy will infuriate ultra-conservatives and the military, who are unlikely to let it go without a response.” All the more so when activists announced that “a new protest would be held on Wednesday — the Queen Mother’s birthday…”. The king is likely to be in town as well.

*Royalist terms for monarchy and, sometimes, the monarchy.

**The king is scheduled to return to Thailand tonight, for another visit of just a few hours.

Update: The rally planned for today (Wednesday) has been postponed. The special king’s TG taxpayer flight is due in Bangkok just before 8 am today. His daughter, Sirivannavari, has arrived after a delayed TG flight (scheduled as a repatriation flight) from Frankfurt; it hasn’t just been the king and queen swanning about in Europe.





Monarchy and conflict II

3 08 2020

Prachatai has an important post that reproduces a 24 June op-ed from The Manager Online defending the king. It is remarkable that, on the anniversary of the 1932 revolution felt the need to “defend” the king. Prachatai notes that this piece “is one of many responses to negative sentiments towards monarchy as anti-government protests grow.” The threat of rightist violence has increased. As Prachatai notes:

The opinion piece came out amid proliferating protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, many elements of which are seen by many as involving the monarchy. The protests also took place in July, which is the month of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. Many have asked the protesters not to involve the monarchy, including former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the leader of the Kla Party [and former Democrat Party boss and PRDC supporter] Korn Chatikavanij, and the rector of Rangsit University [and ardent yellow shirt], Arthit Ourairat.

The piece is authored by Dr Arnond Sakworawich, an Assistant Professor in Business Analytics with qualifications in statistics and psychology at the Graduate School of Applied Statistics in the National Institute of Development Administration.

He has quite a list of op-eds in the media and seems a reasonably regular columnist for The Manager.

His previous claim to fame was as “director of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida)’s polling agency” when he “vowed to resign after [NIDA’s] top administration bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.” He was only director for three weeks.

More significantly, as Prachatai points out, in “2014, Arnond … was on stage of the PDRC mob which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government and gave rise to …[the] military regime.”

In the piece discussed at Prachatai, Arnond is driven to declare the absentee king a low-profile hard worker.  That hard work is defined as using “modern technologies” to “give orders to his royal servants and follow up on them.” A kind of couch potato hard work.

Arnond makes a claim for the king having an idiosyncratic work style: “With regard to the issue that people make accusations and gossip that King Rama X rarely works, I know that it is not true. In fact, His Majesty works very hard and uses many methods specific to His Majesty…”. He claims “he knows His Majesty’s working style from his observation of …[his] role in the Tham Luang cave rescue in June and July 2018.”

Our memory of the king’s involvement that event is of “phu yai” culture and political grandstanding, marked by royalist propaganda that even featured the king’s son and one of the first mobilizations for the king’s uniformed jit arsa “volunteers.” We also recall his interfering nature.

Arnond’s account is of the king having minions – “officials” – at the cave. Apparently he had them “record videos and take pictures to be sent to him, and write reports to him all the time via Line.” We can only wonder if these “officials” were getting in the way (after all, reporters were restricted in where they could gather). He also claims the king “sought equipment, contacted divers and experts from around the world by himself, and gave advice and assistance closely and followed up every step…”.

This is kind of a standard royalist narrative for Vajiralongkorn. We recall when they were claiming the king was secretly joining teams to clean Bangkok’s streets at night when the virus first appeared. Of course, he was carousing in Germany with his harem.

But that doesn’t stop royalists constructing an image; something that was especially powerful during Bhumibol’s reign. Aged readers will recall images of the now deceased king listening in on all kinds of radios on all kinds of issues and events nationwide, ready, like some kind of superhero, to swoop in and solve problems.

Channeling the Bhumibol image, the assistant professor says that, on the cave story, the king:

went without sleep following all aspects of the situation himself. He followed in his own way, that is, His Majesty did not want anyone to know what he was working on. The King likes to be silent, and likes it to be a secret. He does not make announcements, attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha statue in the most silent way.

Exactly how Arnond knows of the king’s alleged work at the cave or anywhere else is left opaque.

But some of what he says is just trite and trifling:

King Rama X uses modern communication devices, the internet and smartphones to give orders and follow up work (while many of us Thais are sending flowers of seven colours, saying hi for seven days, and sharing fake news and messages around without checking and using it for entertainment more than work.)”

Arnond repeatedly emphasizes that the king works secretly and silently. It is a claim that is, by its nature, impossible to refute or verify. It is also an attempt to “explain” why the king is so seldom seen doing anything much at all.

At work, using taxpayer monies

Arnond also defends the king’s absenteeism. He reckons privy councilors say that, “regardless of which country he stays in, the King works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

Asleep on his bike: The king “works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

And, even if he is lolling about in Germany, he’s got his men at work:

he clearly assigns different work for each Privy Councillor. “Some are responsible for the three border provinces in the South, some for public health, some for agriculture, some for security, and some for education. He assigns work in a military way….

If readers watch the royal news, they can see this as privy councilors are sent off to appear at events, making up for the king’s absence.

In contextualizing the propaganda piece, Prachatai goes on to note that the “monarchy is facing a growing challenge.” That’s a factual claim, but in Thailand, it is a bold statement.

It cites Royal World Thailand, a Facebook account that claims the king is “facing decreasing popularity with a growing number of negative views among the people, from normal critics to great malice displayed publicly which has never ever happened in Thai history.” It refers to “waves of haters and great malice” towards the king.

The reason for this is because “the King assigns various officers to represent him in some duties, rather than doing them mostly by himself.” Arnond is seeking to turn this fact on its head.

Will this decline of the monarchy lead to conflict? Probably.





Updated: Opposing the regime

19 07 2020

The big news from Thailand on the weekend was the student-led demonstrations against the military-backed royalist regime in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Ubolratchathani. The demonstrations coincided with actions in Germany, targeting Thailand’s absentee king.

For the events in Germany, see ACT4DEM and PIXELHelper.

There are many reports available. Here, we will just summarize some of these.

As usual, the Bangkok Post reported “hundreds” of demonstrators, whereas the videos and photos published elsewhere suggest much larger crowds than the Post seems to want people to believe.

The Nation identifies the organizers in Bangkok as the “Student Union of Thailand and the ‘Yaowashon Plod Ak — Free Youth’ group” who, “at Democracy Monument on Saturday evening” expressed “their opposition to what they call Thailand’s ‘deep-rooted dictatorial system’.” They called on “the Prayut Chan-o-cha government dissolve Parliament…” and a new constitution. They gave the regime a 14 day deadline for dissolving parliament. Thet also called for the regime to “stop intimidating people.” The Nation reckoned about 1,000 people, which also looks light.

The protest was meant to continue until Sunday morning. However, there were a couple of incidents, with one man slightly injured and a “disturbance … when people saw the authorities trying to take a couple of protesters away for investigation for allegedly undermining the [r]oyal [f]amily. Other protesters came to their rescue and prevented them from being taken away.”

Before midnight, protest leaders then “asked the protesters to disperse for their own safety. They also confirmed on the Free Youth Facebook page that they were all safe.”

Thai PBS reported:

… Chuthatip Sirikhan, president of the Union of Students of Thailand and one of the protest leaders, told the crowd that some “men in black”, with crew-cut hair, had tried to use black cloths to cover surveillance cameras around the Democracy Monument….

The protesters raised many issues of concern: intimidation and repression by the regime, the Constitutional Court’s attacks on political parties like Future Forward, the enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the dragging of activist Tiwagorn Withiton to a Khon Khaen psychiatric hospital

AP reported “[s]everal thousand anti-government protesters” in Bangkok, calling the rally “the biggest of its kind since the government called a state of emergency in March…” over the virus. It notes that “[p]rotests against the government of former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha had been drawing increasingly large crowds at the time, but tapered off quickly when several coronavirus clusters were confirmed and the emergency law was invoked.”

Thisrupt has a short video report from early in the rally.

Several hundred police were mobilized:

Police ringed the monument and set up barriers to try to prevent the protesters from occupying it. Police loudspeakers played a recording of the text of the emergency law in an apparent warning that they considered the gathering illegal.

Al Jazeera reports that there “were also some veiled public references at the protest to the powerful Thai monarchy, despite a law forbidding criticism of the king. Such references would once have been unthinkable.”

Some signs and speeches at Saturday’s protest made veiled references to the monarchy:

“This is our country, but whose home is in Germany?” said one of the student leaders on a small stage set up on the street.

King Vajiralongkorn has an estate in Germany, where he spends much of the year.

A protest sign read “Lost faith is definitely not a crime!!! #Thiwakorn”, in a reference to a separate protest in Thailand’s northeast on Friday in support of a man who was committed to a psychiatric hospital after he wore a T-shirt saying he had lost faith in the monarchy.

Another banner said “The People’s Party Isn’t Dead” – a reference to the political party whose revolution ended absolute royal rule in 1932.

It is no surprise that it is reported that “Thai security officers are keeping a close watch on the political activities of the Union of Thai Students…”.

Update: Prachatai has an excellent report on the Bangkok protest, with some excellent photos, including the actions of the police to disrupt the rally.





Updated: Army declares royalist rebels “democrats”

25 06 2020

The 24 June anniversary has come and gone. Acknowledging that there has been an insidious and creeping rollback of the 1932 revolution, led by the king, the murderous Royal Thai Army celebrated the 1933 royalist restorationist rebellion, effectively declaring war on 1932. In essence, the Royal Thai Army has finally returned to being the King’s Royal Army. It has declared full-scale war on 1932 and democratic government.

It did this, Khaosod reports, with a religious propaganda show for the royals and royalists who led the failed restorationist rebellion. This on the day that the very same Royal Army was actively preventing pro-democracy activists recognizing the 1932 revolution and the role of the people in opposing it and protecting the People’s Party revolution.

At Army headquarters, “monks held merit-making in memory of two rebel leaders Prince Boworadet and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram [Din Tharab].” While the report states that the “ceremony was … held in private and attended only by a few military officers, the Army released details.

Earlier, the two failed royalists had already been “honored” by the Royal Army with two rooms at the Army headquarters being emblazoned with their names: “The rooms were inaugurated in October by PM [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha and army chief [Gen] Apirat Kongsompong.”

The Royal Army released a statement, which we have loosely translated:

The Royal Thai Army merit-making ceremony for Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej [พล.อ. พระวรวงศ์เธอ พระองค์เจ้าบวรเดช] and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram [พ.อ.พระยาศรีสิทธิสงคราม], 24 June 2020

Today (24 June 2020) at 3:00 pm at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters Gen Nataphol Narkphanich [พล.อ. ณัฐพล นาคพาณิชย์], Deputy Commander in Chief of the Army presided over the dedication ceremony for Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and to make merit for Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram as a memorial to the virtue of these military officers who are loyal to the institution [monarchy] and who were also democratic soldiers.

1932 brought the change of government that is considered a major turning point in Thai history, moving from the absolute monarchy to a democratic system. The group of people who called themselves the People’s Party carried out a coup [รัฐประหาร] to bring down the monarchy. In 1933, the first rebellion [กบฏ] following the change of rule in 1932 occurred.  Led by Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram, it is known as the Boworadej Rebellion. They disagreed with the administration of Phaya Phahon [พระยาพหลฯ] which was dictatorial. They called on the government of Phraya Phahon to: preserve the monarchy; make the government more democratic by giving parliament more power and oversight; and prevent the People’s Party government from being a dictatorship. But, in the end, the rebellion was not successful with the government suppressing the rebels. The brave heroism of Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram must be seen as and act of loyalty and as sacrifice for the royal family, protecting the monarchy. They truly intended for the nation to uphold democracy.

Public Relations Division Office of the Secretary
24 June 2020

The factual inaccuracies don’t really matter. What matters is rewriting history in the regime’s/king’s preferred manner. It is in the manner of making democracy equal Thai-style democracy with the king as head of state.

Readers might peruse some writings on the royalist rebellion here, here (with a video), here and here.

Update: There’s some really interesting stories in the media regarding activist responses to 24 June. These include: Prachatai reporting on “[r]epresentatives from the People’s Party for Freedom (PPF), the 24 June Democracy Movement and the Greater Rangsit Area Labour Union Group submitted a petition to the House of Representatives demanding that the government declare 24 June as Thai National Day and reserve 23-25 June for celebrations as previously designated by the People’s Party”; Prachatai also reporting “the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) on Wednesday 24 June in remembering the 1932 People’s Party’s declaration and demanding amendments to the 2017 constitution”; Khaosod reporting on young activists: ““We believe that what the People’s Party did was correct…. Things that society told us aren’t always the truth;” and The Nation reporting on pro-democracy groups in the Northeast gathering to mark the 1932 revolution, where “Khon Kaen University students marched to the province’s Democracy Monument wearing white clothes and carrying mops and signs with the message ‘June 24, Siamese revolution, Clean democracy’, and ‘Will you excuse us? We’re practising to be democratic’.” In “Ubon Ratchathani, a ‘Run against Dictatorship’ at the Democracy Bridge was held to commemorate the turning point in Thai history…”. It is noted that the revolution was also marked in “Nakhon Ratchasima, Maha Sarakham, Surin, Sakon Nakhon, Udon Thani and Roi Et.”