Coronation date set

1 01 2019

As many will know, when the current king succeeded his father, things were a little bumpy. Accession was delayed, and while the junta backdated the reign, Thailand was king-less and under the grand old manipulator Gen Prem Tinsulanonda as regent for a time.

But the time has arrived. Presumably 1 January is suitably auspicious for announcing the coronation. The king has decided that his coronation, when he crowns himself, will be over three days from 4 to 6 May.

We guess that rules out May for an election, should the junta want to delay as long as is (currently) legally possible.

Here’s footage – mainly still photos – of the last coronation:

There’s no film of King Ananda Mahidol’s coronation because he was killed before there could be a ceremony. But here’s the footage of King Prajadhipok’s coronation:

Lese majeste and the need for secrecy

18 02 2014

PPT missed this story a couple of days ago regarding yet another, essentially unconstitutional, in-camera trial of another lese majeste case.

Prachatai reports that the South Bangkok Criminal Court has agreed to a “request from the Public Prosecutor to hold in camera the trial of a 65-year-old man charged with Article 112 or lèse majesté law for selling a banned book on the death of the King Rama VIII.”

On 11 February, the defendant U. (name withheld) who is a book seller operating from temporary stalls and at street markets, has been charged with selling a Thai translation of The Devil’s Discus by Rayne Kruger.That book was an account of several possible causes of the gunshot death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946 and was published in English in 1964.The book was “banned under the now-abolished Printing Act.”

PPT has several posts on the book. One of our posts was of an earlier report of this case, including a name-redacted PDF of the prosecutions charge sheet that can be downloaded here (6 pages). The Thai-language version กงจักรปีศาจหลัง is scarce, but see commentary here. There’s also a long discussion at New Mandala from 2008. The Thai translation is reportedly by Chalit Chaisithiwet and was published in 1974.

The defendant was reportedly “arrested when selling books at a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) gathering at Lumpini Park” on 2 May 2006.

The Public Prosecutor claims “there are six sections in the book which constitute lèse majesté. The six sections are the author’s presentation of “theories” about the cause of the king’s death which involve the current king.” While most informed observers now seem to assume that the then King was accidentally killed by the present king, Kruger “concluded that the former king was likely to have committed suicide because his relationship with a foreign woman was unacceptable.”

The courtroom door has a sign that says “Secret Trial. No Entry.” In the trial, Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, Thongthong Chandrangsu again appeared as “an expert on monarchical ceremonies” and testified as a prosecution witness, something he has made a habit. It is reported that Thongthong admitted “he did not finish the book,” but he considered “the six selected sections which involve the current king, … to be lèse majesté.” Thongthong also revealed that:

although the book says the assumptions in the six sections are likely to be impossible and comes to a different conclusion, it does not disprove those assumptions involving the current king. Someone reading the book may possibly believe in one of the theories [involving the current king].

The defendant’s attorney rightly observed to the court that “to determine whether a book constitutes lèse majesté or not, one needs to read the whole book, not a selected part.” Of course, any reasonable person would agree, but here we are dealing with the irrationality of lese majeste where reasonableness is the first casualty of the politicized nonsense that is supposed to be a court proceeding.

The case continues on 25 March. Prachatai states that an “international human rights body submitted a letter to the court to observe the secret trial, but the court did not approve the request…”. It is far easier to hold a secret trial where the shenanigans of the court cannot be scrutinized.

With a major update: Zen Journalist on death of Ananda

6 03 2013

LandonAndrew MacGregor Marshall has posted another installment in his search of documents regarding the death of King Ananda Mahidol. PPT won’t post anything from it as readers can get to the account here. The new information is Margaret Landon‘s account, written in 1971, that has the current king shooting his elder brother. She claims this information is from a source close to the royal family.

PPT imagines that many will discount Margaret Landon as a reliable reporter based on her earlier and greatly debated accounts of things royal in Thailand.

Update: At the version of this story posted at Zen Journalist (ZJ) blog, more detail is provided. The author makes this statement:

The [official] investigation deliberately excluded a fourth possibility: that Ananda was accidentally shot by somebody else. This fourth possibility is the truth. Ananda Mahidol was shot and killed by his brother Bhumibol. It seems inconceivable that the killing was premeditated. It was a terrible tragic accident or aberration, and it has haunted Bhumibol Adulyadej ever since.

He notes a cable from the U.S. representative in Bangkok:

The Prime Minister spoke to me very frankly about the whole situation and ascribed the King’s death to an accident, but it was obvious that the possibility of suicide was in the back of his mind. He was violently angry at the accusations of foul play levelled against himself and most bitter at the manner in which he alleged that the Royal Family and the Opposition, particularly Seni Pramoj and Phra Sudhiat, had prejudiced the King and especially the Princess Mother against him.Doll

Part of the reason for suspicion being directed to Pridi, apart from simple prejudice against a leader of the 1932 revolution, is mentioned in a British document (right). (If the clips look small in your browser, just re-load the page and you should be able to view it.)

In addition, in a later cable this is stated:

The Department may also be interested to know that within 48 hours after the death of late King two relatives of Seni, first his nephew and later his wife, came to the Legation and stated categorically their conviction that the King had been assassinated at the instigation of the Prime Minister. It was of course clear that they had been sent by Seni.

SangwanSeni, like the royal mother, hated Pridi, not least for his pivotal role in 1932. Her view is shown in the snippet, right, from a British document, reproduced in the ZJ post.

The discussion which follows is important for understanding how the death of the king was politicized in quite remarkable ways. It has long been known that the Pramoj brothers and the nascent Democrat Party used the death to oust Pridi. However, at least for PPT, the claim that follows in new and plausible:

Meanwhile, increasingly alarmed about Bhumibol’s refusal to return from Lausanne, and concerned that his complicity in Ananda’s death would disastrously weaken him as a monarch, leading royalists including Democrat Party leader Khuang Aphaiwong, and the Pramoj brothers Seni and Kukrit, hatched a plan to announce that Bhumibol had killed Ananda. They hoped to force him to abdicate in favour of Prince Chumbhot.

The source for this is Kenneth Landon. ZJ then states:

The plan was foiled by military strongman Field Marshal Pibul Songkram, who deposed the Khuang government in a coup in April 1948. Pibul wanted to keep Bhumibol on the throne, believing that the secret of his accidental killing of Ananda could be used to manipulate him.

The account then moves to Margaret Landon’s note mentioned above.

Updated: Cable on the death of King Ananda

1 03 2013

Thamrong 1948Andrew MacGregor Marshall has been digging around in archives again and is coming up with some more interesting cables from the period.The most recent he has released – and we guess from his tweets that he has more – is from the Pridi Phanomyong political side and is from Admiral Thamrong, who was prime minister in the critical period from 23 August 1946 to 8 November 1947.

Marshall posted the image of the cable used here at his Facebook page. This cable adds to a mounting set of documents and interviews that all point to an accidental death by gun shot: “The tragedy had been caused ‘by the other one’.” It is interesting that Thamrong notes that “loyalty to the royal family” is what prevents the truth being told. The cable concludes that “[t]here is some sad and sinister story behind this dread affair…”.

It has to be asked why academics haven’t done this previously, and the obvious answers all seem to apply.

Update: A reader reproaches us for condemning all academics and says: “They (the academics) actually have dug up an even blunter assessment by Thamrong from the American diplomatic archives. It was presented in a redacted form in an issue of Fah Diew Kun if I remember. Somsak J refer to it in Andrew’s Facebook.” Yes, we agree. Ajarn Somsak has done some remarkable work and is probably the exception who proves the rule. The document at FDK was  about Thamrong speaking to the U.S. ambassador and it was redacted. We assume that this was for reasons of lese majeste.

Andrew M.Marshall issues #thaistory3

24 10 2011

The third installment of Andrew M.Marshall’s promised 4-part story of the monarchy and Thai politics is now available (the document can also be accessed on Scribd, here). Based on Wikileaks cables (and much more), Marshall introduces this 132-page account thus:

After long delays, a complete draft of #thaistory3 is ready. Work on this project has taken me in directions that I never expected, and I found myself delving further into the past than I had anticipated, because it seems the only way to make sense of what is happening today.

Although earlier drafts were divided into chapters, #thaistory3 is now one long single narrative. It focuses on the reign of King Bhumibol, and on the challenges Thailand is facing.

PPT has had a quick scan of the PDF and notes that more than a third of the story relates to the death of King Ananda Mahidol, with this event seemingly having a defining impact on the current reign.

Updated: Devil’s Discus download

19 02 2011

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand has made a free download of The Devil’s Discus available. As most readers will know, this is the best-known analysis of the death of King Ananda Mahidol by gunshot in 1946. The case remains mysterious, of great interest and (privately) is widely discussed.

The book was first published in 1964.

The book has long been out of print, and when copies are available, they are very expensive.

This is apparently a limited-time free download, so get it soon.

Update: A reader reminds us that the book is available from Abe Books.

FACT on The Devil’s Discus

21 01 2011

Regular readers of the Freedom Against Censorship Thailand blog would be aware of C.J. Hinke’s passion for the Rayne Kruger book on the death of King Ananda Mahidol, The Devil’s Discus. Much discussed and apparently still banned in Thailand, it is a classic account of regicide (also an account by a British pathologist). FACT now has an exclusive interview with Prudence Leith, Kruger’s widow, including an extract from her forthcoming book. Worth a read.

Ananda Mahidol’s death

3 10 2010

There have long been quiet discussions on the death of the current king’s elder brother, Ananda Mahidol, back in 1946, by gun shot. As part of PPT’s Historical Commentary, we have added a chapter by Keith Simpson, “The Violent Death of King Ananda of Siam,” from Forty Years of Murder: An Autobiography, London: Harrop, 1978). There are some other versions about on the web, but this is a scan of the chapter. Simpson was a British pathologist who investigated the Ananda Mahidol death. We had a brief post on the death once before, where the embedded link mentioned Simpson.

The death of Ananda Mahidol

7 12 2009

On 5 December 2009, FACT posted an account of an interview with forensic scientist  Dr. Mark Benecke regarding the death of King Ananda Mahidol, which brought his younger brother to the throne. FACT says: “Unfortunately, we shall never know the truth.” If that is true, then it must be concluded that multiple governments and the palace have colluded to prevent the truth from being known. Obviously the reasons for this remain the subject of extensive but mostly private speculation.

A reader reminded us of this link to a Thai-language analysis.

Pridi website

31 05 2009

A new website has been launched to celebrate the life of Pridi Phanomyong and his wife Phoonsuk Phanomyong.

Pridi was one of the leaders of the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) that overthrew the absolute monarchy on 24 June 1932. He was repeatedly accused by his opponents, most of them royalists, of being a republican and communist. Pridi founded Thammasat University as an open university a people’s alternative to the royalist Chulalongkorn University, he held posts as Minister of the Interior, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance. Pridi was largely responsible for negotiating the treaties revoking foreign extraterritorial rights in Thailand.

During WW2, Pridi led the in-country arm of the Free Thai movement. After the war a number of pro-Pridi governments were formed, including one where Pridi took the premiership, but these were bitterly opposed by royalists including those in the newly formed Democrat Party.

Pridi was eventually ousted and sent into exile following the 9 June 1946 regicide of King Anand Mahidol. He returned twice, but each time was sent back to exile, first to China and then to France. He died in Paris in 1983.

Launching the website, Professor Charnvit Kasetsiri is reported (Bangkok Post, 31 May 2009: “Pridi’s life brought into the 21st century”) claims that the site is recognizing Pridi’s exceptional life. Charnvit is quoted as saying that “Thai history had left out the lives of some respected commoners.”

The new website not only celebrated Pridi and Phoonsuk and “unearth, recover and restore” their places in history, but would also provide a database of other prominent Thais.

At the launch, Thanapol Eawsakul one of the sites developers, said that the the site would include a repository of documents. One of these is a confession regarding the framing of Pridi in King Ananda regicide case.

PPT also notes that the site makes available the excellent book Pridi by Pridi, put together by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit. This is a most useful resource.

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