Funeral, significant others and the world’s gaze

28 10 2017

The Bangkok Post has one of those “maintain the royal myths” stories headed “World grieves in sympathy with sorrowful Thais.” The implication being that the “world” grieved for the dead king. Reading the story, it becomes clear that it is about Thai officials and Thais overseas remembering him, with the latter getting lots of prodding from the former.

It is true that some of the world’s media had some interesting spreads on the funeral. One striking set of pictures appears at The Daily Mail, one of the world’s most read news websites. While the salacious and strange are its standard fare, it doesn’t ignore a good story. And it found one in the funeral.

In an earlier post, PPT mentioned that some of the king’s concubines, in full military kit, were front and center at the ceremony. The Daily Mail noticed as well and had this long headline:

Thailand’s colourful new King brought ‘his mistress AND his former air stewardess wife’ to his father’s lavish cremation ceremony with both marching in bearskin hats

This is followed by several photos. This is snipped from one of these:

The caption states: “King Maha [Vajiralongkorn]’s alleged lover Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi screams an order as she takes part, marching in a military uniform…”.

Other significant points:
  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s wife Suthida Tidjai and his alleged lover Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi seen at service
  • Both women wearing military dress, with Tidjai in uniform of general and Wongvajirapakdi in that of colonel
  • Tidjai was never confirmed as wife of King Maha but was given honorific titles that imply they were married
  • She was spotted with the King boarding a plane while the monarch wore a crop top and carried a small dog…

Of course, the German fake tattoo-crop top photos get another run.

On the king, the paper observed:

The 65-year-old father-of-seven is known for his eyebrow-raising antics, whether its wearing a skimpy yellow crop top while shopping with a mystery woman, racing around in sports cars or reports of dubious business dealings.

And as his wife Suthida Tidjai marched alongside him in the procession, followed by his alleged lover Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, it appeared his ascension to the throne would not be curbing his old habits.

The story goes on to assess the king and his troubled past, with a picture from the famous video of a near naked Princess SrirasmiShe’s the wife ditched in 2014 and held under house arrest and her family jailed since then.

Not all the details are quite right, but the article’s drift is clear when writing of the king:

… a father-of-seven with three failed marriages, a love of fast jets and a reputation for having an explosive temper….

The King was described by one royal biographer as ‘a man prone to violence, fast cars and dubious business deals’.

Even Fu Fu gets a mention in this example of the rest of the world’s jaundiced view of the king and his court.





The king and junta have the world agog

16 05 2017

A tabloid is often sensationalist and there is some emphasis on “celebrities.” Britain’s Daily Mail is often described as this kind of tabloid.

Yet the Daily Mail has shown an interest in Thailand over the past few years, mainly focused on odd stories and accounts of celebrity holidays and problems faced by tourists. It has published a bit on the monarchy.

Its most recent story on King Vajiralongkorn is a doosie.It has it all. Naked wife, first marriage, concubines, fake tattoos, weird clothing, lese majeste, Fu Fu, coups, military junta, Facebook threats and more. And it all comes with lots of pictures and video.

If the military junta needs evidence that its actions and those of the king are problematic, they might look to the Daily Mail’s story. It is as if both junta and king have aimed a machine gun at their collective feet and shot them off.

The Daily Mail has about 4 million readers each day and its website has more than 100 million unique visitors each month. All of them will be either laughing or shaking their heads about the state of affairs in Thailand.





Creepy and useless

17 12 2016

The negative reports on Thailand’s king continue. Some are accurate, some sensationalist, and some contain errors. The point, however, is that King Vajiralongkorn has a history that means he is unlikely to every get the political free ride his father had for decades.

The latest example is from the UK’s left-wing Morning Star, with the headline, “Thailand’s Caligula-like and useless new king.”

There’s lese majeste, Fu Fu, Srirasmi’s trials including her nakedness, the arrest and jailing of her relatives and the role of the monarchy partnered with the murderous military.

The king is creepy, But useless? Not for the military.

There’s also a bit on regional politics and Thailand’s move toward China.

The article concludes:

In this context, the quaint invented rituals of an anachronistic monarchy may seem irrelevant. However, the Thai throne has been a key linchpin of Thailand’s conservatism and its pro-Washington bias for the whole post-war period. The country’s underlying social and political tensions are bound to re-emerge sooner or later with one key political weapon of the elite gone.





More on dog lese majeste

1 12 2016

With a new king meant to be in place on Friday, the lese majeste case involving the now dead king’s now dead dog raises the issue of whether the now dead Fu Fu is now on “sacred ground” too.

In arguably the most bizarre of the many lese majeste cases in recent years, Thanakorn Siripaiboon was arrested on 8 December 2015 by military and police officers. He was accused and has been charged with violating the lese majeste law by spreading “sarcastic” content via Facebook which allegedly mocked Thong Daeng, once the royal dog, favored by the late king.Thong Daeng

A provincial court is reported to have concluded that Bangkok’s military court has the jurisdiction to try the case.

On 29 November 2016, Bangkok’s Military Court of Bangkok held a deposition hearing on the case, reading “a statement from Samut Prakan Provincial Court, which concluded that the jurisdiction to try Thanakorn belongs to the military court according to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s[that’s the military junta] announcement No. 37/2014.”

This means that mocking the dead king’s pet pooch is considered a crime involving national security.

Bizarre.

Thanakorn also faces charges under the Computer Crimes Act for the alleged lese majeste post and another, unrelated sedition charge for having posted an infographic on the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal on Facebook.

There remains some different view between the provincial and military courts over the details of the lese majeste case. That still has to be sorted out.

Meanwhile, Thanakorn remains on bail and lives as a monk.





Updates on Somsak and LINE

12 04 2016

A couple of updates of record.

First, several outlets have reported the good news that Dr Somsak Jeamteerasakul, currently in political exile in France, has seen the Central Administrative Court rule that his dismissal by Thammasat University without pension and other benefits “was unlawful, thus reinstating Somsak’s status as a lecturer at Thammasat.” The university may appeal, which would be retrograde and spiteful.

Second, New Mandala has tracked down the “offending” LINE “stickers” that recently caused a royalist kerfuffle. It has more information on these:

The set called “Silly Family” featured 41 stickers cleverly poking fun at the politically controversial clan. In Thailand, critical public discussion of the family has been banned under the nation’s notorious and harsh lese majeste laws.

The satirical set depicts Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Princess Sirindhorn competing for their father’s attention and squabbling over the throne. It also portrays Princess Chulabhorn next to a chemistry set underneath the caption “Trust Me”, referencing her numerous and questionable honorary degrees in the field, as well as featuring the Crown Prince’s spoiled poodle Foo Foo.

 





Dog styling

24 12 2015

PPT was looking through a few social media sites and was staggered to find a bunch of photos about another royal dog.

Not Fu Fu and not Thong Daeng, but Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana‘s mini-mutt.

Siri and the doggiesWe went to her Facebook page, where the vainglorious princess has lots of photos of herself posted, many of them of her shopping at really expensive places and others with dogs and horses. Yet we couldn’t find many of the photos that we re-post below. The first photo is from Facebook and introduces the little princesses.

There are several surprising things about the photos that follow. One is that the young and allegedly polymath princess seems to have few qualms about displaying wealth. In the first photo below, she positions her dog next to bags of shopping from expensive designer labels.Hermes dog

In a second photo, the dog seems to be enjoying a 500 Euro note as a plaything or “gift.” That’s about 19,700 baht. One of the lucky workers in Thailand who gets the 300 baht a day minimum wage, if they worked every day of a 30-day month, would get 9,000 baht. In other words, the royal pup’s money is more than double a month’s work for an average worker.

Rich dog

Not enough flaunting? How about if the pooch gets to yap and jump about in the First Class Cabin of a Thai Airways intercontinental flight? Here you go:

1st class

A lack of consideration of others is a royal trait – think of all the road closures as they swan around Bangkok and the provinces – and one element of this that caught attention was the pampering of the late Air Chief Marshal Fu Fu, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s pooch. Then Ambassador Ralph Boyce describes dinner with the pet in November 2007, when the ambassador “paid a farewell call” on prince:

Foo Foo was present at the event, dressed in formal evening attire complete with paw mitts, and at one point during the band’s second number, he jumped up on to the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own…. The Air Chief Marshal’s antics drew the full attention of the 600-plus audience members….

It seems normal for royal dogs to be at the table, napkin and silverware at the ready:

dog's dinner

And when it comes to Fu Fu, who can ever forget the video of the birthday party and the recently removed Princess Srirasmi’s nakedness. All this royal puppy ridiculousness and extravagance seems to have had no impact on the princess who has had lavish parties for the pooch, with officials doing the crawling this time:

Another doggie birthday

As would be expected, the dog has to have friends along for the celebration, each of the live ones handled by an official:

Birthday 2

And after a birthday celebration, of course the dog can have a marriage ceremony:

Doggie marriage

In the end, you see that the behavior of the prince, seen by outsiders as offensive and weird, is actually a model for his daughter. There seems an incapacity for learning and a detachment from (political) reality. This is Thailand’s monarchy.





Monarchy, slaves and dogs

19 12 2015

The military dictatorship is so superbly dull and paranoid that it manages to generate some of the world’s most absurd and disturbing news that makes Thailand and General Prayuth Chan-ocha a laughing stock. The only ones not laughing are the generals, who have convinced themselves that they are doing a fabulous job, as well Thailand’s sensible people, who are suffering under a regime of dullards and thugs and the workers treated as slaves.

Prayuth angryMost of the absurdity comes from the monarchy and the thugs “protecting” it. We decided to put some of the stories and headlines together. However, we begin with yet another reflection on slavery in the seafood industry. Of course, almost all places where workers sweat engage in slavery and other forms of exploitation. THis is facilitated by the military regime, with just a little more impunity for “employers” than under previous regimes:

Tens of thousands of modern slaves: AP reports on slavery in the fishing industry. The report begins:

Every morning at 2 a.m., they heard a kick on the door and a threat: Get up or get beaten. For the next 16 hours, No. 31 and his wife stood in the factory that owned them with their aching hands in ice water. They ripped the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp bound for overseas markets, including grocery stores and all-you-can-eat buffets across the United States.

After being sold to the Gig Peeling Factory, they were at the mercy of their Thai bosses, trapped with nearly 100 other Burmese migrants. Children worked alongside them, including a girl so tiny she had to stand on a stool to reach the peeling table. Some had been there for months, even years, getting little or no pay. Always, someone was watching….

Pervasive human trafficking has helped turn Thailand into one of the world’s biggest shrimp providers. Despite repeated promises by businesses and government to clean up the country’s $7 billion seafood export industry….

Some commentators at some of the usual blogs reckon that this slavery is only hitting the headlines now because US and EU companies are being out-competed by Thailand’s slave masters. That’s errant nonsense. Reports of this kind of exploitation have been made since the large inflow of Burmese migrant workers began from about 1988. Only now are international agencies getting on board and doing something about it. Recent reports have gone beyond seafood to poultry and many other industries.

Cartoon Fu FuThe royal bitch and lese majeste: Royal dogs were little heard of except for King Vajiravudh’s favorite pooch which apparently deserved a statue. In recent years, they have been considered newsworthy as royal insanity has infected many royalists and others. We’ve seen dopey journalists eating cake with a princess’s yapper, the prince’s poodle promoted in the military and the king’s bitch made into a model dog and a model for the Thai people to somehow emulate.

Now, with lese majeste charges against a factory worker for insulting the king via comments about his bitch, in the words of an op-ed at The Guardian, “[a]bsurdity continues to rule Thailand…”. While it is true that “certain political factions have turned to the lese-majesty law to protect their interests and undermine those of their opponents. In other words, lese-majesty has been exploited repeatedly as a political weapon,” this has always been the case.

Thong DaengLet’s stick with this word, absurd. As a noun it the “the quality or condition of existing in a meaningless and irrational world.” As an adjective, it refers to the “utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false.” While the dog absurdity may make the absurdity of lese majeste more absurd, all lese majeste cases are absurd. Recall the woman sentenced for pricing goods sold to the palace for higher than market prices.

Another story is headlined “Thailand’s Junta Has Gone to the Dogs.” Writing at The Diplomat, Mong Palatino states that:

Instead of prosecuting corrupt officials implicated in the Rajabhakti Park scandal, the junta chose to protect its ranks while putting a gag on critics and ordinary citizens who merely wish to voice their opinion.

It has done this to “protect” the monarchy, protect the military and to cover-up corruption.

One of the best accounts of the military’s dogged determination to cover-up corruption and to extend its power and control via the harsh and political use of lese majeste is the BBC’s “Defaming a dog: The ways to get arrested for lese majeste in Thailand.” It goes through a range of recent cases.

Corruption cover-up: There are a swathe of stories that outline the cover-up that Prayuth and his junta are attempting over clear military corruption at Rajabhakti Park. Some of the stories link the Corruption Park scandal to a broader junta regime of repression. US spy-like firm Stratfor appears to think that all of the repression and fear of dissent has to do with succession.

Sounding like something from the 1950s, it pretty reasonably concludes:

  • Thailand’s unpopular crown prince will succeed the country’s beloved but aging king, despite speculation otherwise.
  • An orderly succession process will reduce immediate political uncertainty in Thailand and support the ruling military junta’s near-term efforts to remake the country’s political system.
  • As a weak monarch, the prince will depend greatly on the military for legitimacy and will not command an independent power base.
  • Over the longer term, the succession will expose Thailand’s deeper issues as the weakening of the monarchy triggers a scramble to reshape the country’s power structure.

At the same time, the junta and its anti-democrat and royalist allies have made the country so fragile that it could go pear-shaped at any moment.

Asia Sentinel has a pretty good discussion of Corruption Park. At one point, quoting an anonymous source, it observes:

If Prayuth styles himself as Superman, then Rajabhakti Park has become his Kryptonite [the rare element that could weaken Superman] because all in one it implicates the military in corruption just like the professional politicians he condemns, and shows that covering up corruption is even more sacrosanct than honoring the memory of dead kings….

Prayuth knows there is no possible defense of the corruption that has happened at the park because it involves such powerful figures among his own leadership, so instead he has opted for a cover-up….

It is as though Thailand has kept an absolute monarchy after 1932 and the accouterments of feudalism, including slaves after 1905 and the impunity of those in power.