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.

Feudal plaudits

22 02 2018

Some time ago, PPT posted on the king’s ordering celebrations of winter that took on a feudal tone. That post mentioned that the public was encouraged to wear “traditional clothes” and 19th century fashions. We were not aware that there was a dress competition.

Khaosod reports on that competition. It says that Culture minister Vira Rojpojchanarat made awards for the best costume.

In a regime that is unable to understand notions like nepotism, conflict of interest, corruption but which understand hierarchy and feudal notions of “good people,” deciding on the winners was not a difficult task. For Vira, if there were no royals in the competition, then the award had to go to the next level of the “good” and the “great.” He decided to give “awards to five fellow cabinet members and spouses including junta chairman [Gen.] Prayuth Chan-ocha and his wife Naraporn Chan-ocha.” Other winners were Vira’s colleagues “Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Finance Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.”

Some might draw some meaning from the awards going mainly to non-military cabinet members.

Gen Prayuth and his colleagues dressed up to answer the king’s call, so obviously, as the top dogs, they deserves the prizes. See them in all their vainglory in the pictures at Khaosod.

Ultra-royalism means ultra-stupidity

10 02 2018

The ultra-royalism that has infected Thailand since about the time of the 2006 coup has resulted in bizarre lese majeste cases and equally outlandish behavior by royalists as they manage their “loyalty.”

The latest royalist peculiarity involves Chanthaburi governor Withurat Srinam who has offered his resignation for his misuse of a “royal” word.

The governor has “come under fire after putting the royal term in two of his orders to officials in preparation to receive ministers during a mobile cabinet visit in Chanthaburi on Monday and Tuesday.” He is reported to have used the word rab sadet, meaning to receive, for The Dictator and his junta cabinet.

In most constitutional monarchies there is no “royal language.” But Thailand is an oddity. And the politicization of the monarchy both by ultra-royalists and opponents of the military and monarchical state has made things royal more important and “sacred” than they have been for more than a century. Ultra-royalists patrol the narrow boundaries of “loyalty.”

So in this strange world of ultra-royalism and neo-feudalism, we now find Interior Ministry permanent secretary Chatchai Promlert having to decide whether to “approve the resignation…”.

That decision also puts him in the firing line. Ultra-royalists may detect insufficient loyalty should he make a sensible decision and tell the governor to get back to work.

That senior officials should even have to deal with such antediluvian buffalo manure is a measure of how far Thailand has fallen into a royalist abyss.

Sulak, lese majeste and double standards

26 01 2018

Two prominent intellectuals, both aged, have been in the news of late. The different paths of their cases say something more about the double standards operating in the justice system.

The first is Sulak Sivaraksa, and we have posted on his case, here and here. Sulak has recently been reported as “explaining” his actions on his most recent lese majeste case and how the charge came to be dropped.

He has written that he “had no other choice but to petition the King to encourage the junta to end a prosecution against him for lèse majesté.” He refers to something he calls “royal grace” being involved. What he seems to mean is that the king told the junta “to end the lawsuit…”. This is not the first time that the palace has been involved in dropping charges against Sulak. The publicity his cases have generated are damaging for the throne although, as a reader who was involved tells us, the palace liked to let it be known that it was lenient because Sulak was a little mad.

The junta initially ignored or rejected pleas, many of them international, leaving Sulak “no choice but to ask Rama X for help.”

Sulak, who has previously taken a partisan approach to the law, claiming that the law should be used against those who do not have the interests of the monarchy at heart, this time “urged the junta to release those convicted under Article 112 during the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign.” But not the new king’s reign? Odd, as we thought he had supported Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

On the day he was acquitted, Sulak told media that, “I believe the barami (glory) of the King protected me. The King did so many things behind the scenes. In my case, if not for [the King’s] barami, I would not be freed, because the Prime Minister is a jerk and is someone who never thinks of doing anything courageous. He is scared. If not for royal barami, my case would never end.”

Bottom line: he got off. We would like to see other lese majeste victims treated in this manner.

The second is Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University and a long-term junta critic. Police have issued a summons for “sharing a fake news report about a purse of Prayut[h Chan-ocha]’s wife.”

On 23 January, police from the Technology Crime Suppression Division summoned Charnvit Kasetsiri to report to police today. As the report explains, “Charnvit was accused of disseminating forged computer data likely to cause damage to a third party, a violation the Computer Crimes Act. If found guilty, he will face up to five years in jail, a fine of up to 100,00 baht, or both.”

The accusation involves a social media discussion that saw Naraporn Chan-ocha accused of carrying a two-million-bath Hermes handbag, “while it is, in fact, a product of Thailand’s Royal Folk Arts And Crafts Centre and costs no more than 10,000 baht.”

Bottom line: The junta can lie its pants off (think election dates) but sharing a post (later corrected) about The Dictator’s wife is a crime.

We think the charges against Charnvit should be dropped too. Will they be dropped or is this just another effort to silence critics (of the “wrong” kind)?

The justice system now operates with double standards at the core of its feudal-like operations.

Mad monarchists off the leash

25 01 2018

As has been the case in Thailand for several decades, whenever the political temperature rises, monarchists become politically aggressive. In fact, Thailand’s modern history could be rewritten on the theme of royalists versus the people. In almost every instance in the past 50 years or so, it has been the minority of monarchists who have eventually triumphed, often with the support of a royalist military more than willing to massacre opponents in the name of nation, religion, monarchy and the protection of the neo-feudal social order.

There’s no doubt that the political temperature is now rising. The focal point is General Prawit Wongsuwan’s watches. There’s also no doubt that military junta views this as a story it needs to silence. It has real trouble doing this with its anti-democrat “allies.” It has less problem threatening its “real” opponents, seen as red shirts and Thaksinites.

Khaosod reports that activist Akechai Hongkangwarn, threatened a few days ago, has been assaulted by a man identified as Rittikrai Chaiwannasan. While earlier taken away by police, he seems to have been quickly released and continued on his stalk of Akechai and physically assaulted him.

Akechai was “returning from holding a protest to denounce the deputy prime minister over a series of undeclared luxury watches” when assaulted. He says his attacker beat him, “repeatedly punched him in the face, causing him minor injuries.” He adds that the thug shouted, “You anti-monarchist” and “you are doing it for redhirts…”.

Akechai is convinced the junta and its allies are behind the attack, which he says was “well-planned and involved more than one person as the man knew the time and place he was getting off [the bus].” He asks: “I wonder why they have to resort to this level of violence…”.

In fact, it is standard practice and not dissimilar from earlier attacks on those thought to be “anti-monarchist.” In the past, many such attacks were planned in the military and specifically by its Internal Security Operations Command or ISOC.