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.





A royalist ode

21 11 2021

According to Royal World Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn, his queen and his favorite consort have been briefly back in Thailand before returning to Switzerland and Germany. In Thailand:

… King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida of Thailand, with … Princess Bajrakitiyabha, … Princess Rajsarini Siribajra​ and Princess Sirivannavari, along with the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Bilaskalayani presided over the ceremony of changing the seasonal attire for the Emerald Buddha into winter attire. The tradition of changing the robes seasonally; Rainy, Winter, and Summer, held at the Temple of Emerald Buddha….

There is quite a lot to think about in this event. First, why did he and his huge entourage decamp to Europe just a little more than a week ago, to return for just day? Was he trying to be out of the country when the Constitutional Court was promoting absolutism? Or is he just being his usual erratic and dull self? Second, why is the royal family unmasked, especially when they have been in Germany, where the virus is raging. Third, who pays for these expensive jaunts to and from Europe? Finally, why do royalists continue to turn out and support a king who has made it clear he’d rather not be in Thailand? The latter question sent us to poets, with apologies to Thomas Ford:

There is a king erratic and (un)kind,

Was never a face so pleased my mind;

I did but see him passing by. And yet I’ll love him till I die. His gesture, motion, and his grimaces,

His lack of wit, but his voice my heart beguiles,

Beguiles my heart, I know not why,

Yet, I will love him till I die.





Further updated: Pushing back against absolutism II

15 11 2021

The pushback continues, with protesters taking “to the streets of Bangkok on Sunday to voice their disapproval and anger over efforts to curb the campaign for royal reforms…”. As Deutsche Welle put it: “On their way, they marched to the German embassy in an attempt to send a signal to Thai King … Vajiralongkorn, also called King Rama X, who frequently travels to Germany on lavish trips.”

It explains that “hundreds of people took to the streets of Bangkok’s main shopping district to criticize the [Constitutional Court] ruling…”.

Protesters occupied Pathumwan intersection rejecting the Constitutional Court’s absurdity and demanding reform of the monarchy.

At the rally, Thatchapong Kaedam told fellow protesters: “We are not overthrowing this country. The reform is to make it better…”. DW reported that may of those rallying had signs asserting “reform does not equal overthrow…”. Others “tossed effigies of Constitutional Court judges off a bridge, later burning them…”.

Clipped from VOA News – a Reuters photo

As the protesters “began moving toward the German embassy in the Thai capital. Police tried to stop protesters from nearing the embassy, with authorities firing rubber bullets…. Three people were injured, and at least one protester sustained significant wounds and was brought to a local hospital…”. Even so, three representatives from the rally “were allowed into the embassy premises to hand in the [anti-absolutism] statement.”

VOA reported that a statement made when the demonstrators reached the German Embassy insisted: “The king’s increased powers in recent years are pulling Thailand away from democracy and back to absolute monarchy…. This is a fight to insist that this country must be ruled by a system in which everyone is equal.”

This may be just the start of renewed confrontations.

Update 1: Several outlets, including The Nation, report 2-3 injuries, including: “At 5.10pm, a gunshot sound was heard. One male protestor was reportedly shot at the chest with a rubber bullet. He was rushed to the hospital by medic staff.” There was some debate about the bullet – rubber or lead.

Update 2: Prachatai has a detailed report on Sunday’s rally that deserves attention. One element of it that caught PPT’s attention related to shootings:

As the march moved through the Chaloem Phao Intersection, it was reported that a protester was shot in the chest while standing near the Institute of Forensic Medicine on Henri Dunant Road. The protester was reported to be around 20 years old and was taken to Chulalongkorn Hospital.

It is unclear who shot the protester and which type of bullet had been fired. However, according to a member of the We Volunteer protest guard group, gunfire was seen coming from inside the police headquarters, and a protester retrieved a casing of what seems to be a 12 gauge shotgun bullet.

Meanwhile, former Pheu Thai MP Dr Tossaporn Serirak said that he saw a crowd control officer raising his gun, after which there were several loud bangs and the protesters dropped to the ground. Hearing a shout that someone has been shot, he went to the scene and found that 2 protesters were shot. He said that the protester who was shot in the chest could not breathe as the bullet had penetrated his lung, and that both were taken to the Chulalongkorn Hospital and are in stable condition.

iLaw reported that a total of 3 people were shot at close range, and at least 2 were injured. One person was shot in the chest and another in the shoulder….





Pushing back against absolutism I

14 11 2021

Student councils across the country have rejected the Constitutional Court’s ruling that pro-democracy leaders aimed to overthrow the system of government. Their joint statement said:

The 23 student organisations disagree with the court’s ruling. We insist that the 10-point manifesto for reforms of Thailand’s monarchy will help the monarchy remain in Thailand graciously under the democratic regime. Proposals for the reform of the royal institution [monarchy] will also help free it from criticism that would otherwise tarnish it.

Contrary to the kangaroo court’s statements, the students insisted that “protesters were exercising their right to freedom of expression and demonstration, which is protected by the Constitution.”

Pointedly, the statement observed: “The protesters never had any intention of overthrowing the government like the coups d’etat in the past…”.

A Bangkok Post editorial observed that the Constitutional Court’s decisions are politicized:

It’s undeniable that such a verdict, which has intensified sentiments against the court, has raised fears about what comes next as both royalists and factions in the opposite political spectrum roll up their sleeves as divisiveness grows.

Interestingly, that editorial turns on Article 112 and challenges royalist interpretations and cheering about the court’s ultra-royalist decision:

The court verdict should by all means not derail a motion to amend Section 112 or lese majeste before parliament that is being pushed by the Move Forward Party.

The highlight of the party’s proposal is the removal of the infamous law from the chapter of national security to a new chapter on the King’s honour, which if effective, will see the penalties significantly reduced.

The court verdict, stringent as it is, should not hamper the right to freedom of expression, as mentioned in the constitution.

As change is unavoidable, it’s necessary all involved parties realise the need for mechanisms that allow healthy and constructive debates over the amendment of Section 112 and also reform of the monarchy.

Like it or not, all, including the royalists, must realise the lese majeste law in its original form, not bare-handed activists, is a threat to the revered [sic] institution.

Of course, royalists, the current palace (albeit mostly based in Germany), and the military-backed regime all know that their political dominance demands political repression based on monarchy.

Actions demanding political and monarchy reform are indeed likely to continue. As ever, these activists test the waters of repression before plunging in.

Immediately after the court’s ridiculous decision, someone hacked that court’s website, labeling it a kangaroo court. The site was quickly taken down, and the last time we looked, was still offline. Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn “said that the Court outsourced its website maintenance to a private company, which may not have set up adequate security measures, allowing outsiders to obtain the site username and password.” He added that “the authorities know who is behind the incident…”. Another account by the minister was less sure: “We believe the hacking was done to discredit the court and had been planned in advance…. The investigators are checking on the IP addresses of those who logged into the system during that period.” They soon arrested a man in Ubol who they alleged was responsible.

Immediately after the court’s decision, small rallies and actions began.

Protesters gathered in front of the Criminal Court under the name “Ratsadon” on Friday to “push their demands for reform of Thailand’s monarchy” and to demand the release of protesters held in custody without bail. They “read a statement in English, in an attempt to communicate with the international community. It highlighted their desire to reform the royal institution’s budget allocation, to allow criticism of the monarchy and to reform the country’s controversial lèse majesté legislation.”

Meanwhile, on “11 November, 4 people were arrested for attaching a ‘Reform does not equal overthrow’ sign and a ‘Repeal 112’ sign to the shop door of Sirivannavari Siam Paragon.” This is a pointed linking of royal wealth and privilege to the Constitutional Court’s absurd ruling and a rejection of the base use of taxpayer funds for subsidies to royal businesses.

Another rally begins shortly in central Bangkok.





Opposing an absolutist monarch

3 07 2021

Security forces fired gunshots and tear gas to disperse pro-democracy demonstrations that saw people burning tires and barricading streets. The demonstrations were against a repressive government with loud calls for reform. They accused the king of feasting on public coffers to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Not Thailand and King Vajiralongkorn, but Eswatini (previously Swaziland) and its absolutist King Mswati III. King Mswati is said to be Africa’s last absolute monarch.

PPT thought this uprising says something about absolute monarchies, monarchs who prefer absolutism, and their opposition to political reform. Their responses to calls for real democracy tend t be met with violence. In Eswatini, according to reports, authorities have “imposed a strict curfew to contain the unrest…”.

Mswati has ruled for more than three decades, and “[a]nger against … King Mswati III has been building for years in the country. However, protests against him are rare.” They are rare because of his regime’s political repression and an ideology that protects the monarchy.

Another despot

Clipped from the Mail & Guardian

Like Thailand, the monarch’s Prime Minister said the “government has been following these protests” and had “heard their demands.”

But “Eswatini’s Youth has had enough of its king…”. One focus of their anger is the king’s “lavish lifestyle enjoyed by himself and his 15 wives…” who “occupy several state-funded palaces.”

Protesters are calling for change: “People want a democratic government where they can elect their own leaders, in particular, they want a republic so that the country can be led by a president…”.

They are also “demanding that all businesses owned by the royal family be seized or destroyed.”

The response from the king has been violent repression, calling out the military, and with the toll of deaths and injuries rising. One of the king’s daughters is rallying royalists, and saying that the protesters are inspired and infiltrated by foreigners.

Absolutist monarchs have much in common.





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.





Courts uphold military coups

31 01 2021

We are slow in getting to this story, and many readers will have seen it at Prachatai (with a date error in the final lines). We were going to write that this is a “remarkable story,” but nothing is particularly remarkable in a country that has an erratic monarch who favors neo-absolutism and a “civilianized” military junta that has maintained tight control since its military coup in 2014.

On 26 January, the Appeals Court “found Pholawat Warodomputthikul, 28, a former technician in Rayong, guilty under the sedition law for distributing leaflets expressing opposition to the 2014 coup.”

For opposing a military coup, made “legal” after the event by a pliant judiciary, “Pholawat was sentenced to 4 months in prison,” but “commuted the prison sentence to 2 years on parole.”

The leaflets reportedly stated:

“Wake up!!! and stand up to fight already … Everyone who loves democracy … Dictators shall fall. Long live democracy,” with an image of the three-finger salute, with the message “Liberty, equality, fraternity, oppose the coup.”

Most of the “leaflets were distributed in Rayong province, which, the court ruled, showed the intention to rally people who share Pholawat’s political ideas to oppose the government led by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the head of the junta which had seized power.”

The court “ruled” that such opposition to the [illegal] coup, “might cause disorder or violence among people to the point that it may have caused unrest in the country, and does not constitute honest criticism…”. In fact, it was absolutely honest and an action protected by the constitution had it not been trashed by the junta.

The court’s verdict mangled and conccoted to justify its support for military coups. Much of the court’s verdict, as it is reported, reads like it was put together by the junta itself.

Pholawat plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.





Updated: Real news and rumors

29 01 2021

There were lots of royal rumors being shot around over the past weeks or so. Some of them refer to allegations of unspeakable acts against Sirindhorn by her brother, King Vajiralongkorn. Since she was reported as breaking both ankles in a “fall,” rumors gripped social media until they finally became “fact” through international reporting.

We can’t say if this rumor has any truth to it. And, we wouldn’t imagine that we would ever know. Not only is the palace notoriously opaque, but fear is likely to be at play if there is any truth there somewhere.

What we do know is is that the notion of stumbling and breaking both ankles is odd, and the palace gave no explanation of what happened to her. Nor did it say much after Sirindhorn had surgery. That said, she is getting on in years, has long been overweight, and was recently seen riding about official functions on an electric mobility scooter. So it might be that she has brittle bones. But who knows?

If the palace doesn’t say anything or give any depth to its reporting, then it can only blame itself when rumors go viral. But the international media should ask itself if reporting rumor is warranted.

Another story that did the rounds which, so far, is untrue, has been widely reported by tabloids internationally. The Daily Mail reported in one of its paragraph-length headlines: “Thai king ‘makes his consort his second queen as her birthday gift’ in historic move…“. Likewise, The Sun had a similar story, reporting this “fact.” Both “stories” were false and based on rumor.

On-again-off-again favorite consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi was not made second queen on her birthday. She did appear with the king in cheeky matching outfits to do the usual birthday stuff, releasing captive animals and so on. But no promotion.

At least, that’s how we understand it because such promotions are always made royal announcements. We suppose one could come out later and be backdated, but nothing emerged.

So why is the salacious part of the international media making rumor fact? And why do this when there are some juicy tidbits that have been officially announced.

We refer to the announcement on 27 January that the king had promoted both his next favorite consort and another one to higher military positions. The announcement was that Sutthatphakdi Borirakphuminth (สุทัตตาภักดิ์ บริรักษ์ภูมินทร์) was made a major-general and the more minor consort was promoted to colonel. Not much is known about Sutthatphakdi but BBC Thai has done the journalistic work and discovered all of the announcements about her over the years she seems to have been in the king’s inner circle.

This recent announcement suggests that Vajiralongkorn is unchanged by all the calls for reform and is continuing on with his neo-absolutist agenda. Maybe the media should be reporting on that and on the news that is real and confirmed about the king and his queens, consorts and wives. There’s enough material around to show that the king is an erratic, vengeful, and nasty person, unfit for any office.

Update: For a “story” that does get Sineenat’s non-promotion right, look at the South China Morning Post. However, the SCMP still feels the need to concoct a “story.” In this it is a “what if” line that is taken, with a claim that has PPT stumped: “Less than two years after her sudden pardon, the former military pilot may be named as King Rama X’s second queen according to unconfirmed reports – will Sineenat emerge as a style icon like Queen Sirikit, or a humanitarian beacon like Princess Soamsawali?” Well, it is less than a year since she was “pardoned,” but the notion that the portulent Soamsawali was a “humanitarian beacon” is quite baffling. How do they come up with this stuff?





King and consort

12 01 2021

Quite a bit of material is appearing that displays King Vajiralongkorn and his official no. 2 wife Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi.

In the most remarkable of these events was reported by Reuters. It states:

King and consort. Clipped from Daily Mail

Thailand’s palace has released photographs of King … Vajiralongkorn visiting prisons with his royal consort … as the royal family steps up public appearances following mass protests demanding reforms to the monarchy.

In a segment on the nightly royal bulletin on state and private TV channels on Saturday, the king and his consort – restored to her position last year after having been disgraced and stripped of her titles – are shown inspecting projects in jails across Thailand.

They are photographed sweeping floors and speaking to officials during the last two months of 2020, and the segment also featured interviews with inmates speaking about the benefits of the projects.

The odd thing about these images and reporting is that the king had previously jailed his love interest declaring her a terrible woman. It was only in September 2020 that she was reinstated and publicly declared “untainted.”

Clipped from Daily Mail

The Daily Mail refers to these appearances as “a publicity stunt for a new documentary” and published several unflattering photos of Sineenat.

PPT has seen a video that looks like a documentary, but missed the royal news. We have to say that the video we saw looked odd, with prisoners shown moving and working, but with all images of the king and consort being stills, some of which looked suspiciously like the images might have been constructed. That might be by the palace, but it’s impossible to know.

 

Clipped from The Straits Times

A couple of things are clear from this palace propaganda. One is that Sineenat is completely rehabilitated and roughly in the position she was back in mid-2019, before her temporary erasure. Second, it is clear that the demonstrations and protests have done nothing to alter the king’s neo-absolutist desires.





Updated: Mad, mad monarchism I

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.








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