The 1932 spirit

27 06 2022

For those interested in the non-governmental response to the 90th anniversary of the 1932 revolution, there are a few stories to notice, with brief comments below.

Of course, the royalist government response is to ignore the event as if it never happened.

Thai Enquirer has a photo essay on the rally to celebrate the day. Some of the photos are quite something, and together they show how 1932 is intimately linked with contemporary struggles for democracy and monarchy reform. All of our photos here are clipped from Thai Enquirer.

Thai PBS reports on a seminar at Thammasat University’s Pridi Banomyong International College on 24 June, held “to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1932 Revolution.” Those attending and speaking included Sulak Sivaraksa and newly-elected Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt.

Various groups organized activities and events on June 24 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the revolution which turned the country from absolute to constitutional monarchy. While academics and politicians discussed the future of Thai democracy at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus, youthful groups and activists gathered at Lan Khon Muang Townsquare, calling for the restoration of the revolutionary spirit, reform of the monarchy, abolish the lese majeste law, as well as make June 24 the National Day….

Thammasat University student activist Parit Chiwarak told Thai PBS World earlier that students and political activists had grouped together under the name of People’s Party 2020 a couple of years ago to carry on the revolutionary spirit. Their objective was to remove the gulf between Thai citizens and the established elite.

“One of the six principles laid out by the 1932 People’s Party is equality, which has never been achieved,” he said.

The report notes that in 1960,Thailand’s National Day was changed by the then military dictatorship, and in concert with the king, from 24 June to the then king’s birthday on 5 December. That change was just one part of the restoration of the monarchy that continues through the 20th century.

Monarchy reform and democracy activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “said in a phone interview that she and her associates continued to demand reforms to the monarchy, despite being prosecuted for lese majeste under Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

In another event, former red shirt leader and Puea Thai politician Nattawut Saikua, in a talk show hosted by the Pridi Banomyong Institute, “said the people’s movement which fought for democracy before and after the 1932 Revolution shared the same spirit — to have equality and democracy.” He added: “I do believe that such a fighting spirit has been transferred from generation to generation,” acknowledging that “red shirts admired and expressed their gratitude to both People’s Parties, in 1932 and 2020.”

There’s more in the article.

Meanwhile, at Khaosod, there’s an op-ed by Pravit Rojanaphruk, commenting on the long period of divisions between royalists and anti-royalists. He begins:

The 90th anniversary of June 24, 1932 revolt, which ended absolute monarchy, was only celebrated by those who believe Thailand has yet to achieve genuine democracy and aspire for more freedom and rights.

Conspicuously absent were the government, including Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, and royalist conservatives who did not observe the day and probably would rather forget that June 24, which falls on Friday this year, was not just arguably the most important day in modern Thai political history once a national day and a public holiday celebrated from 1938 to 1960….

For royalists who wish to see the monarchy … play a greater role in Thai society, to see the military continue to act as the state within a state, to limit the powers of politicians and the electorate whom they distrust, June 24, 1932 was a day of infamy….

Pravit notes that other countries “settled their differences through a bloody revolt.” He prefers a peaceful road to a democracy that provides for and accepts differences.

That’s all fine and good, but Pravit does not mention that the military has been all too willing to spill the blood of those who stand in their path and those who they consider challenge the monarchy and their Thai-style democracy. It has killed hundreds and jailed thousands.





Letter from the Central Women’s Prison

26 06 2022

A few days ago Practatai posted on a demand by the 24 June Democracy group that demanded the Ministry of Justice investigate a prison doctor’s alleged harassment of Nutthanit Duangmusit or “Baipor,” a monarchy reform activist currently detained pending trial on Article 112 charges.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said “that Nutthanit told her lawyer that she was threatened by a prison doctor named Chatri, who was performing a physical exam on her and Netiporn, another detained activist.”

That was dismissed by the Ministry of Justice.

Netiporn or Bung (l) and Nutthanit or Baipor (r), clipped from Prachatai

TLHR then published a letter from the two, which Tyrell Haberkorn has translated online. The letter written by Netiporn or Bung Sanesangkhon and Bai Por on the 90th anniversary of the 1932 revolution. They are detained without bail on lese majeste charges “after peacefully conducting a public poll.”

The two have “been denied bail five times during their 53 days in detention [as of 24 June 2022]. They are both on hunger strike[s] in protest of the denial of bail. Haberkorn’s translation is pasted below:

Letter From Bung and Bai Por, on hunger strike in Central Women’s Prison after Fifth Denial of Bail

Today, 24 June 2022, is the 90th anniversary of the transformation of rule [from absolute to constitutional monarchy], but it is seems as if our country has not changed at all.
Today, there are still 22 political prisoners being detained. And today is the 23rd day that Bai Por and Older Sister Bung are on hunger strike. Prior to this, Older Sister Bung could not consume anything other than water and her condition gravely deteriorated. Yesterday, we submitting our fifth petition for bail, but it was denied just as each prior petition has been denied. The court gave the reason that the prison has the capacity to look after us well. Yet in addition to the condition of our physical bodies, our mental state under detention has not improved at all.
Prior to this, Bai Por still drank some fruit juice and milk. But after learning of the denial of our request for bail, Bai Por decided to only consume water and to refuse further treatment.
Now, Older Sister Bung can only consume water and must take medicine to treat her condition. Otherwise, she will vomit and faint on a daily basis. Today is the 53rd day that we are imprisoned. We yearn for freedom in the world outside. We yearn for the people we love. And we still fight in every second of every day.
Thank you for all of the encouragement and actions you have taken for us. Bung and Bai Por hope that we will be released and will see one another and continue the struggle together.

Bai Por and Bung, Thaluwang

Central Women’s Prison

24 June 2022





Updated: 90 years after 1932

24 06 2022

On this day, like may others, PPT remembers 24 June 1932. On that day, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

The inspiration of 1932 for the monarchy reform movement of recent years is crystal clear.

The palace, royalists and military have worked long and hard to erase it from the national historical memory. Indeed, much of the 9th reign was about erasing this memory and Vajiralongkorn and his regime cronies have obliterated statues, changed names, and more in an effort to bury memory of a time when monarchy wasn’t paramount.

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Banomyong. We have done it on most anniversaries since then. We won’t today, but readers can click the link above to see it.

That proclamation recalls the thirst for democracy that is the essence of today’s anti-monarchism.

The 24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely noticed in any official way. After all, democracy is the antithesis of the monarchy in Thailand.

This point is made by social critic and intellectual Sulak Sivaraksa in an interview with BenarNews. He states: “Before 1932, the monarch was above the law, and he was the only one. After the 1932 [revolution], everybody became equal, everybody was under the law, and that was the first victory…”.

But, looking back, Sulak is despondent: “In these 90 years, we are currently [at] the lowest point…”. He adds: “Gen. Prayuth [Chan-ocha] claims this is a democracy, but it’s a sham democracy…”.

He points to the military takeover in 1947 as an inflection point, where Thailand turned back towards monarchism: “the coup leader praised the monarch, who was until then still under the constitution. They turned the monarch to God-like and above the constitution because they thought only the monarch could fight against the communists…”.

Any hope Sulak has is with the young: “I’m only an old man, looking forward to young generations. I’ve seen young generations who are so brave to fight against dictatorship…. I hope that Thailand, while celebrating 100 years of democracy, will go forward and not backward as is happening nowadays.”

One of those associated with the contemporary monarchy reform movement is Arnon Nampa. He affirms that the 1932 revolution “was the beginning of the call for democracy and the start of the fight for democracy. It was precarious because those involved in the 1932 revolution risked their lives…”. Today it is Arnon and other activists and thousands of sympathizers  who “are willing, too, to risk losing their freedom or lives…” in the struggle for democracy and the reform of the monarchy.

Update: A reader writes about expanding authoritarianism in the West, noting examples of censorship of social media and harassing Julian Assange for showing the US state as murderers – and worries for his daughter’s future.





Updated: Rolling back democracy from its birth I

11 12 2021

Yesterday, as has been the case for several years, Constitution Day passed largely unnoticed. There is a report of a ceremony where “Parliament president Chuan Leekpai … urged Thais not to become disheartened with the current state of Thai politics and have confidence in the democratic system.”

There is no democratic system, and Chuan seemed to be making a point in line with the royalist version of history that views the first constitution as having been “granted” by King Prajadhipok on 10 December 1932.

But this is something of a perversion of the truth. As Eugenie Mérieau pointed out a while ago, the 10 December version represented one of the first compromises made with royalists that led the country to where it is today, as a military and monarchy dominated state that is anti-democratic.

The initial constitution of 27 June 1932 was far more radical than that of 10 December 1932. The recently toppled king hastily scrawled “provisional” on it and a political struggle led to compromise that gave the royals a whiff of a chance at engineering a political comeback. Inter alia, the June charter stated,

Article 1: The supreme power in the country belongs to the people.

Article 4: The person who is the king of the country is King Prajadhipok. The succession will proceed in accordance with the Royal Household Law on the Succession of 1924 and with the approval of the Assembly.

Article 5: If there is any reason that the king is unable temporarily to carry out his duties, or is not in the capital, the Committee of the People will execute the right on his behalf.

Article 6: The king cannot be charged in a criminal court. The responsibility for a judgement rests with the Assembly.

Mérieau explains that the “two texts of 1932 were fundamentally different” and explains:

he June 1932 Constitution had 39 articles drafted by Pridi. Devoid of a preamble, it proclaimed the people’s sovereignty in Article 1. It created a regime of assembly, in which the executive was an emanation of the legislative power, in other terms, a parliamentary system. The executive could not dissolve the unique chamber, and the system put in place enshrined the supremacy of Parliament. It provided for a transitory period: during the fi rst phase, Parliament was to be fully appointed by the People’s Committee, then, during the second phase, half the assembly would be replaced by elections, and finally, whenever the Thai population would have reached sufficient levels of primary schooling, the entire assembly would be elected (Article 10).55 The text proclaimed constitutional supremacy (Article 31) without specifying any specific mode of constitutional revision or organ dedicated to the interpretation of the Constitution. Meanwhile, the King’s powers were severely curtailed, and there would be an organ dedicated to the interpretation of the Constitution. Meanwhile, the King was neither sacred nor inviolable and could be ‘tried’ by the Assembly (Article 6).

In contrast,

The December 1932 Constitution was much longer, and resembled in large parts the text of June: it proclaimed the people’s sovereignty, provided for a unicameral assembly composed of both elected and appointed members according to similar transitory provisions. However, it changed the system from a regime of assembly to that of a parliamentary system. The King acquired the ability to dissolve Parliament (subject to countersignature by the Prime Minister) and the Assembly could dismiss the Prime Minister following a no-confidence vote. It clearly established constitutional supremacy (Article 61), and the Assembly was granted exclusive powers of interpretation over constitutional dispositions (Article 62). Finally, it laid down specific modes of constitutional revision (Article 63). Some of the King’s powers were restored, although the countersignature requirement persisted. Significantly, it made the King both sacred and inviolable; the Assembly no longer had power to put him on trial (Article 3).

The royals and royalists began rolling back Thailand’s democracy from its birth.

Update: For examples of how Constitution Day has been corrupted to become a royal ceremony, read the Thaiger “report” on why the day is “controversial.” For some reason this outlet feels the need to recount pre-constitutional history going back several centuries. It then mangles history. In one paragraph it manages to change a revolution into a plea to the king (“Then in 1932 the Army, police, and Bangkok’s ‘elite’ approached the King Prajadhipok Rama VII to demand he cede some of his powers.”) and then manages to garble the king’s response: “The King … refused…”. But that kind of “perspective” propagated by palace propaganda for decades, comes to this:

The 10th of December each year is remembered for the granting of Thailand’s first constitution by King Rama VII, following the country’s transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. Politicians and government officials today celebrated this special occasion by paying their respects to King Rama VII.

At the parliament today, the House Speaker Chuan Leekpai led members of the House of Representatives and senators to join a religious ceremony honoring King Rama VII, or His Majesty King Prajadhipok, at his royal statue inside the government complex, in celebration of Thailand’s Constitution Day.

Members of political parties, parliament officials, and executives from King Prajadhipok’s Institute, also participated in this ceremony.

The People’s Party and the 1932 revolution are written out of official history, as its monuments have been demolished by a palace and regime that prefer absolutism.





Thailand’s first constitution

24 06 2021

In celebrating 24 June and the 1932 revolution, PPT reproduces Thailand’s the country’s first (interim) constitution. King Prajadhipok signed it, but scrawled “draft” on it, a first effort to undermine the new regime and setting in train Thailand’s never-ending tinkering with constitutions.

Pridi

Pridi

This translation is from Pridi on Pridi. Apologies for any errors in transcribing it:

PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM OF SIAM, 1932

King Prajadhipok issues a royal command as follows. As the People’s Party has called for him to be under the constitution of the Kingdom of Siam so that the country may progress, and as he has welcomed the call of the People’s Party, he graciously enacts a law with the following clauses.

SECTION 1: GENERAL MATTERS
Clause 1. The supreme power in the country belongs to the people.

Clause 2. The persons and groups mentioned below will execute power on behalf of the people as specified in the constitution that follows:
1. The king (least)
2. The Assembly of Representatives of the People
3. The Committee of the People
4. The courts

SECTION 2. THE KING
Clause 3. The king is the supreme head of state. legislative acts, court decisions, and other matters as specified by law must be made in the name of the long.

Clause 4. The person who is king of the country is King Prajadhipok. The succession will proceed in accordance with the Royal Household Law on the Succession of 1924 and with the approval of the Assembly.

Clause 5. If there is any reason that the king is unable temporarily to carry out his duties, or is not in the capital, the Committee of the People will execute the right on his behalf.

Clause 6. The king cannot be charged in a criminal court. The responsibility for a judgment rests with the Assembly.

Clause 7. Any action of the king must have the signature of any one member of the Committee of the People that it has been approved by the Assembly, otherwise it is void.

SECTION 3. THE ASSEMBLY OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE
Part 1. Powers and duties.
Clause 8. The Assembly has the power to pass all legislation. Such legislation comes into force once promulgated by the king. If the long does not promulgate within seven days counted from the day of passage in the Assembly and shows reason for not agreeing to affix his signature, he has the power to return the legislation to the Assembly for reconsideration. If the Assembly passes a resolution the same as before, and the long does not concur, the Assembly has the power to promulgate that legislation to have the force of law.

Clause 9. The Assembly has the power to take care of the affairs of the country, and has the power to call a meeting to dismiss a member of the Committee of the People or any official of the government.

Part 2. Representatives of the people
Clause 10. Members of the Assembly of Representatives of the People will be by time period as follows:

Period I. From the time this constitution is enforced until the time when members of the second period take office, the People’s Party which has a military force protecting the capital, has the power to appoint seventy persons as provisional members of the Assembly.
Period 2. Within six months, or when the country has been made normal and orderly, there will be two types of Members of the Assembly working jointly, namely:

Type 1. Persons elected by the people, one per province, or for provinces with over 100,000 persons, one member for every 100,000 inhabitants, and a further one if the remainder is more than half that number.
Type 2. Members from period 1 up to the same number as members of type 1. If the number is in excess, they shall choose among themselves who shall remain members. If the number falls short, those remaining shall choose any persons to make up the number.

Period 3. When the number of people throughout the kingdom who have passed elementary education exceeds half the total, or at the latest within ten years of the implementation of the constitution, members of the Assembly must all be persons elected by the people. Type-2 members will no longer exist.

Clause 11. The qualifications for those standing for election as type-1 members are:

i. passed a political course in accordance with a syllabus which the Assembly will establish;
ii. aged twenty years and above;
iii. not incapable or seemingly incapable;
iv. not deprived of the right to vote by a court of law;
v. of Thai nationality by law;
vi. those standing for election as type-1 members in period 2 must be approved by members during period 1 that they are not people likely to cause disorder.

Clause 12. Election of type-1 members in period 2 shall take place as follows:

i. inhabitants of a village elect a representative for electing a tambon representative;
ii. the village representatives elect a tambon representative;
iii. the tambon representatives elect the members of the Assembly.
For Assembly election in period 3, a law will be passed subsequently on the procedure for direct election of members of the Assembly.

Clause 13. Type-1 members will serve for terms of four years counted from the day of assuming office. But when period 3 is reached, members from period 2, even if they have not yet been in the position for four years, must relinquish the position from the day that the period-3 members assume office. If a member’s position falls vacant for reasons other than the end of the term, the members shall elect another to fill the vacancy, but the new member shall hold the post only for the remainder of the term of the member who is replaced.

Clause 14. Persons of whatever sex who meet the following qualifications have the right to cast their vote to choose village representatives:

i. aged twenty years and above;
ii. not incapable or seemingly incapable;
iii. not deprived of the right to vote by a court of law;
iv. of Thai nationality by law.

The qualifications for representatives of the village and of the tambon are the same as those laid down in clause 11.

Clause 15. The election of representatives shall be by simple majority. If votes are tied, a second election shall be held. If votes are tied on the second occasion, a neutral person shall be appointed to give a casting vote. The candidates shall appoint the neutral person.

Clause 16. Apart from relinquishment at end of term, members must relinquish office if they fail to meet the qualification in clause 11, if they pass away, or if the Assembly decides that the member has caused damage to the Assembly.

Clause 17. Criminal charges against a member of the Assembly must be sanctioned by the Assembly before the court may adopt the case.

Part 3: Regulations for meetings
Clause 18. Members of the Assembly shall select one person as chairman to conduct the affairs of the Assembly, and one vice-chairman to act on the chairman’s behalf when the chairman has temporary reasons for not fulfilling his duty.

Clause 19. When the chairman is absent or unable to attend, the vice-chairman will maintain the orderliness of the Assembly on his behalf and will manage the deliberations according to regulations.

Clause 20. If both the chairman and vice-chairman are not in the meeting, the members attending shall elect a temporary chairman.

Clause 21. Arrangements for ordinary meetings are the responsibility of the Assembly. A special meeting may be held when requested by no fewer than fifteen members, or by the Committee of the People. The chairman or his substitute shall call the meeting.

Clause 22. Every meeting must be attended by no fewer than half of the total number of members to have a quorum.

Clause 23. Motions on any subject shall be decided by simple majority with each member casting one vote. If the vote is tied, the chairman shall have an additional casting vote.

Clause 24. Members shall not be held liable for any statement or opinion made, and shall not be sued for any matter arising from a vote cast in the meetings.

Clause 25. In every meeting, the chairman must command the Assembly’s officials to keep a record; submit it for the members to check, amend, and approve; and the chairman of the meeting must affix his signature.

Clause 26. The Assembly has the power to appoint sub-committees to perform any task, or to examine and report on any matter to the Assembly for further decision. If the Assembly does not appoint the chairman of a sub-committee, the members of the sub-committee shall elect their own. A sub-committee has the power to invite others to offer explanations and opinions. The sub-committee members and such invitees shall be covered by the provisions of clause 24. Meetings of sub-committees must be attended by no fewer than three persons to achieve a quorum, except in the case of sub-committees which have only three members, in which case two persons shall constitute a quorum.

Clause 27. The Assembly has the power to establish rules of procedure in accordance with this constitution (at the initial stage, the rules of the Committee of the Privy Council may be adapted, but only those that are not in conflict with this constitution).

SECTION 4: THE COMMITTEE OF THE PEOPLE
Part 1: Powers and duties

Clause 28. The Committee of the People has the powers and duties to act in accordance with the wishes of the Assembly.

Clause 29. If there is any urgent matter over which the Committee cannot call a meeting of the Assembly in time, and if the Committee sees it fitting to issue a law appropriate to that urgent matter, it can do so but must quickly submit that law for the approval of the Assembly.

Clause 30. The Committee of the People has the power to grant pardon but must first seek royal approval.

Clause 31. The ministers of various ministries are responsible to the Committee of the People on all matters. Anything which infringes an order or regulation of the Committee of the People or is done without the sanction of the constitution, shall be considered void.

Part 2. Members of the Committee of the People and regular officials

Clause 32. Membership of the Committee of the People consists of one Chairman and fourteen other members, totaling fifteen.

Clause 33. The Assembly shall elect one of its members as the Chairman of the Committee, and that Chairman shall select fourteen other members of the Assembly to be members of the Committee. When this selection has been approved by the Assembly, it shall be held that those selected are committee members of the Assembly. If the Assembly considers that a committee member has not conducted affairs according to the policy of the Assembly, the Assembly has the power to invite that committee member to relinquish his duty and to select a new member as above.

Clause 34. If any Committee member for any reason lacks the qualifications laid down for members of the Assembly in clause 10, or has died, the Assembly shall select a replacement. If the Assembly has selected Committee members, and if that Assembly comes to the end of its term, the Committee shall also be considered to have come to the end of its term.

Clause 35. The appointment and removal of ministers is in the power of the king. This power shall be used only on the advice of the Committee of the People.

Clause 36. Political negotiations with overseas countries are the duty of the Committee of the People and the Committee may appoint a representative for this. The Committee must report negotiations on any point to the king. Ratification of any international treaty is in the power of the long, but that power shall be used on the advice of the Committee of the People.

Clause 37. Declaration of war is in the power of the king, but that power shall be used on the advice of the Committee of the People.

Part 3. Regulations of meetings

Clause 38. Regulations of the meetings of the Committee of the People shall be adapted as in section 3.

SECTION 5: COURTS

Clause 39. The revocation of a judgment shall proceed according to the law in current use.

Promulgated on 27 June 1932 and in force henceforth.
(signed) Prajadhipok
Ananta Samakhom Hall
3 July 1932





Pridi and The King of the White Elephant

23 06 2021

By Pridi Productions, The King of the White Elephant was made in 1940, as war approached in the region. It was essentially anti-war, reflective of debates in the country at the time. Some argue that the themes played out during the war and are reflected in Pridi’s own war-time role.

There are two versions of the film that have been restored. One is about 100 minutes in length:

The other is about 50 minutes:

There’s also a related book, by Pridi, available for free download.





Protesting on 24 June

22 06 2021

cropped-1932-plaqueThe regime’s police are warning protesters that they should not rally on 24 June. They are relying on the Emergency Decree but will also be looking to arrest rally leaders for lese majeste and sedition.

Protest groups are lining up to rally on the day that marks the 1932 revolution.

The New Generation of Democratic People of Nonthaburi is planning to demonstrate at the Democracy Monument at about 11am, demanding that the government resign. Another group – Samakkhi Prachachon – is led by red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, which plans to rally at Government House. A third group is planning to demonstrate at the October 14 Memorial at about 1pm. A fourth group – Prachachon Khon Thai – led by yellow shirt Nittithon Lamlua, also plans to rally in front of Government House at about noon. The latter group is calling for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to stand down.

In warning protesters, Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai said:

Those taking part in the protests should avoid gathering in large numbers. They might benefit from the political protests but the country as a whole will suffer from their action.

They should consider staging the rallies after the pandemic has subsided….

We doubt they would let anyone protest then, either.

Interestingly, Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman, has revealed “that since July 2020 a total of 150 people have been arrested on charges in connection with political rallies. They included people who instigated illegal gatherings over social media.”





Pridi and 1932

22 06 2021

Pridi on PridiWith that date approaching again, royalists are on alert.

As part of celebrating 24 June 1932, over the next couple of days, PPT is going to list some English-language sources that are available. One resource we consider indispensable is Pridi on Pridi, translated and edited some 20 years ago by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit.

Pridi on Pridi can be downloaded from Openbase in Thailand and from Library Genesis.

As writings by Pridi, some in new translation and some new translations, these contributions reveal much about Pridi, 1932, and his life.





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.








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