Madam Secretary criticism affirms Thailand’s feudalism

19 11 2018

A couple of days ago we posted on the episode of Madam Secretary that includes commentary on Thailand’s monarchy and the feudal lese majeste law. Most controversial is the part of the episode that includes a call for the monarchy to be brought down. The episode is available here.

The episode opens with comments on Thailand from the main character, the US Secretary of State, who emphasizes the feudalism of the monarchy and a statement that “Thailand is a country where free speech does not exist.”

A religious studies professor who was born in Thailand has a monologue – a speech in Bangkok – that goes like this:

Thailand is a land of contradictions. A Buddhist nation that worships its own king as semi-divine…. This … country imposed on its people the worship of a man nowhere recognized in its Buddhist faith….

Where does it [Buddhist faith] say that one man and his family should be worth over $30 billion while many of his people starve and beg in the streets?

… I call for an end to this family’s rule over Thailand. Let the monarchy die when our king passes from this world and let the people of Thailand choose their own leaders, not false gods.”

She’s arrested for lese majeste and threatened with decades in jail while her friend seeks a pardon from a king portrayed as an angry and unsmiling old man.

While all this is fiction and the episode is not always accurate – it is a fictional TV show – the attention to the monarchy and lese majeste is pretty much as it was used, particularly after the 2014 military coup. And, parts of the episode were made in Thailand.

As expected, the regime has had to respond.

The Bangkok Post reports but cannot repeat any of the main material of the episode because Thailand is indeed a country where free speech does not exist. It also gets some things wrong, stating, for example that the episode “makes no mention of Thai reaction” when it explicitly does so and has a scene where Madam Secretary says the US has to prepare a response to the Thai reaction.

In real life, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reported to have “asked the Thai embassy in Washington to ‘convey our concern and disappointment to CBS’ over the Nov 4 episode.”

As expected, Ministry spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks complained that the “episode … presented the Kingdom of Thailand and the Thai monarchy in a misleading manner, leading to grave concern and dismay from many Thais who have seen it…”. We have no idea if the latter claim is true or not, but the portrayal of a lack of freedom of expression, the feudal and hugely wealthy monarchy and the draconian lese majeste law are not misleading.

And here’s where the Ministry and royalists dig themselves into a monarchist hole. In responding, the Ministry confirms the episode’s portrayal of the monarchy.

Monarchy, “ancient traditions” and neo-feudal property relations

5 11 2018

One of the things PPT repeatedly pointed out following succession was the attention the king gave to clawing back what he believes to belong to the monarchy and, specifically, the king.

Since accession, King Vajiralongkorn has overseen a rapid unwinding of arrangements regarding the relationship between crown and state that were put in place after the 1932 Revolution. These arrangements were to establish a separation of state and crown, not least in terms of the state’s funds and the those of the crown and the monarch.

The military junta agreed that the king could have total and personal control of the Crown Property Bureau, making that Bureau’s assets his personal property.

Before he came to the throne, it has been widely assumed that Vajiralongkorn was little more than a dumb hedonist. However, the efforts he has made to challenge decades-old arrangements that have long annoyed the royal family suggest that he has imbibed the anti-1932 bile that has circulated in the family. He’s showing that he follows a line of royal relatives who plotted and schemed against the People’s Party and its legacy.

The most recent change to these arrangements, reported at Khaosod, should send shivers through all property owners and businesses.

Yet another revision to the law governing the king’s assets has been promulgated.

The amended Crown Property Act “redefines the king’s possessions to include what the monarchy had accumulated under ‘ancient royal traditions.’ King Vajiralongkorn has the final say over what is included in the category.”

Further, the arbiter of disputes over, say, a plot of land, is none other than the king himself: “Any dispute over what assets are considered Crown Property under the royal ancient traditions must be referred to His Majesty’s judgment…”.

Presumably this means that, if he wants your land or other assets, the king can simply take them.

Some of this has been seen already (see here, here and here), but this retrograde law makes everyone vulnerable.

Feudalism is being restored in 21st century Thailand.

Lese majeste ≠ democracy

3 11 2018

In a rather bizarre junta “election” story, which we will post on separately, Foreign Minister and junta lover Don Pramudwinai defends the lese majeste law.

We know that all regimes have defended this odious law. In the past, defenses have ranged from declaring lese majeste a part of Thailand’s cultural bedrock, comparing it with defamation laws, claiming it as essential for political stability, asserting that lots of countries have such a law, to claims about Thailand’s “uniqueness.”

Anti-democrat Don, however, invents a new and preposterous story. He claims that the draconian lese majeste law has popular support, seemingly making it a “democratic” law:

Some ambassadors discussed with me and raised the lese majeste law issue, and asked why there exists such a law which limits free expression. I asked whether their countries have no specific measures and said Thais are well aware of the lese majeste law…. If you count the number of people who oppose it, you will discover that it’s just a handful. So how can it be a problem when a majority does not see it as a problem?

This is nonsensical but, then, Don is a ridiculous propagandist for the military dictatorship and a feudal monarchy.

The fact is that as Thailand’s politics became more vigorous and divided following the 2006 military coup, arrests and imprisoning through accusations of lese majeste and acts against “national security” became increasingly common, reaching a crescendo under the military Junta that seized power in 2014 and continues to reule and oppress.

Lese majeste, sedition and the Computer Crimes Act are used by Thailand’s royalist regimes to denounce political opponents and protect privileges and positions.

Each grovel is a democratic setback

20 10 2018

The various UN agencies have been a happy hunting ground for palace officials and royalist toadies who seek honor after honor to be conferred on royals. One example was the great sucking sound attached to the launch of the UNDP’s report on sufficiency economy under the previous post-coup government. And the UN award invented for the previous king.

Each grovel by the UN before the world’s wealthy monarchs is a setback for democracy because it lauds feudal ridiculousness.

The latest report of groveling involves UNICEF. It is revealed that Princess Sirindhorn “has been honoured with a life-time achievement award … in recognition of her relentless efforts to improve the quality of life of children in Thailand.” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore declared that the princess had made “significant contributions and unwavering commitment to improving the lives of children in Thailand…”.

An AP Photo

We scratched our collective head on this and decided to determine what she is said to have done for kids.

So, we looked at a UNICEF report.

It says Fore gushed that Sirindhorn got the prize most especially for “her advocacy and Royal Patronage projects on issues such as combatting iodine deficiency, promoting good nutrition for disadvantaged children, promoting literacy and education activities and her focus on marginalized groups living in remote areas…”.

Well, she may have patronized such things, but the ideas, work and outcomes have almost nothing to do with this royal.

Sitting atop stuff in Thailand is the way the feudal system of patronage is. So UNICEF is rewarding feudal patronage.

There are a bunch of dedicated medicos who worked on IDD from a time the princess was a coddled baby. The same is true for nutrition. They should be rewarded, not a feudal figurehead. We could go through the whole list of “human development, including nutrition, health and hygiene, education, water resource development and agriculture” and point to scores of deserving people and not one of them is a pampered princess.

The 1983 “projects to improve access to and quality of education for children in the remote areas and marginalized communities” was essentially counterinsurgency and run by the murderous police and military.

Her Royal Highness has also led an Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control Project since 1990. Combined with significant efforts by UNICEF around systematic salt iodization by salt producing companies in Thailand, Iodine Deficiency Disorder rate in primary school children has continuously been under 5 per cent.

UNICEF should know better, but its people in Bangkok are dedicated and servile royalists.

The royal(ist) mess that is Thailand

3 04 2018

The success of palace propaganda, reinforced by decades of fascist-military domination, promoted by a royalist lapdog media, both state and private sector, and buttressed by draconian laws and belligerent royalist agencies like the military and ISOC, has been so sweeping that there’s little overt opposition these days (we note the linked article is no longer free to download). That which does exist has been firmly under the military boot in recent years.

Some wondered if the succession would temper there would be some cutting of the strings that tie Thais to the palace. Wonder no longer. Almost nothing has changed. As evidence, we cite two news stories from the last day or so.

The Nation reports that “Thai Heritage Conservation Week” is upon us. Like the recent noe-feudal celebration of the repression under pre-1932 absolute monarchy, this week royal posterior polishers get another chance to dress in feudal style – “traditional costumes.”

The useless Culture Ministry “kicked off the week with Thai Heritage Conservation Day on April 2…”. That day “has been celebrated annually since 1985, honouring … Princess … Sirindhorn, who was born on April 2, 1955, and her contributions to the conservation of the nation’s heritage.”

We can’t immediately recall her “contributions” but there must be plenty claimed for her by palace propagandists.

More worryingly, The Nation also reports on the kerfuffle in Chiang Mai over the mansions being built on forested – now deforested – hills that will be handed out to judges and others in the Ministry of Justice.

What do the people opposing this project do to protest? They “will petition … King … Vajiralongkorn for help.”

A network of those opposed to the project will gather signatures before petitioning the king.

Why? Get publicity? Look doltish? Look loyal? Who knows and who can blame them in the current ideological straitjacket of royalism.

Apparently they “would also lodge a complaint with the Administrative Court in early May,” which seems far more grown up.

Yellow shirts among the opponents blame Thaksin Shinawatra and his clan for the problem. Perhaps that says something about the feudal fawning.

Part-time king and neo-feudal Thailand

5 03 2018

As recently mentioned, Thailand’s stay-away king recently returned to Bangkok after a couple of months based in Tutzing and enjoying the skiing.

While he’s been away, presumably he’s stayed in touch with his orders and how they have been implemented. Presumably he’s been happy with the Royal fair he ordered be held while he was away.

A bunch of Chinese outlets have run a story on this event, with our link to a version from China Global Television Network or CGTN, which is China’s international media organization, launched by the official China Central Television (CCTV) on December 31, 2016.

It reckons the king ordered the fair be held so that “people” have “a chance to celebrate their relationship with the royal, after a long period of sadness [the mourning for the dead king].” It adds that it was “[s]oldiers [who] put the finishing touches to exhibits ahead of the opening…”.

As with the previous king, Vajiralongkorn and/or his minion advisers know that the people-monarchy link is of enormous political value, so state resources are used to construct, mobilize and dazzle. The report states: “The fair, opened at the instigation of Thailand’s new King, celebrates the links between the Royal family and their subjects. And in the modern era, two monarchs are given particular prominence. The first, King Chulalongkorn, is revered as a modernizer and a reformer, who saw a future in the technological advancements of the West a century ago. The other is the father of current monarch, King Bhumibol, who died in 2016…”.

It may be a transparent propaganda strategy but the king is betting it will make him look good too.

In line with the military dictatorship’s winding back of the political calendar, the report observes that “[m]any of the exhibits … hark back to a simpler time 100 years ago when Thailand was far more advanced than its SE Asian neighbors but also life was much simpler. The political landscape wasn’t complicated by battling politicians and the people relied only on a kind and benevolent monarch.”

We get the feeling that this is the kind of neo-feudal Thailand that the king would feel most comfortable with. We have noted his plans for erasing the 1932 Revolution and re-establishing a huge royal palace area in central Bangkok. This has also recently been reported at the Asia Times Online.

As we know, visitors are urged to dress up in period costume to inculcate notions that the feudal past was the “good old days.”

The “good old days” were also a period when the modern military was brought into existance, and it was the royalist military under Chulallogkorn and Bhumibol that are celebrated when The Dictator is moved to the center of this neo-feudal world of monarchy-military alliance. This sees The Dictator getting fancy dress awards.

Respect The Dictator

2 03 2018

Not unlike Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan being unable to get his head around the notion that a bunch of puppet underlings can obsequiously ask for some details about his luxury watches, The Dictator is flummoxed and angry that activists have mocked him.

The military has been sent out to warn “pro-democracy activists against mocking Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha by wearing so-called ‘Yut-nocchio’ masks…”. The military thugs have also demanded that the activists “refrain from public speeches attacking the government [the military junta].”

Spoofing The Dictator now appears to be off limits.

Junta spokesman Maj Gen Piyaphong Klinphan stated: “The organisers must think hard about whether mocking the country’s leader that way is appropriate…”.

Spoofing and mocking leaders are centuries old practices that even included royals before the lese majeste law was so harshly used. But the junta mouthpiece declared “Gen Prayut is a respected figure in society,” saying “it’s not appropriate that they let their imagination go overboard with such parody…”.

Now Gen Prayuth is no shrinking violet and he portrays himself as a tough guy, so why the need to protect him from such antics. We think it has to do with the neo-feudal hierarchies that throwback regimes and royalists have normalized for “modern” Thailand, most especially in the military. The higher-ups demand that underlings and lesser persons know their place.