A feudal king

9 01 2018

King Vajiralongkorn is reported by Reuters to have “ordered the organization of public events such as weekend music concerts aimed at ‘bringing happiness to the people’.”

Ordering officials around by a “constitutional” monarchy is an interesting concept. Junta bosses do it, but they are the bosses while the king isn’t meant to be ordering people around.

With both military regime and monarch ordering happiness, the population must be rolling in the aisles.

His latest pre-coronation order is for “a history-themed festival for the public…”.

It is no surprise to learn that the “festival” will be held “at the Royal Plaza,” described in the report as “a public square in Bangkok,” since the king took the throne it has become far less public and much more royal while erasing 1932.

In this context, the king’s order is for a throwback festival his father but most especially to the height of absolutism under King Chulalongkorn: “[t]he festival will include gardens, fountains, and historic-looking structures” and “the public will be encouraged to wear traditional Thai clothes and 19th century Thai fashions.”

It is clear the king’s political preferences are for a return to feudal absolutism.

Planking for dead monarchs

6 05 2017

Planking was a short-lived fad that had dopes worldwide posting photos of themselves and others prostrated and face down in various spots and situations.

Not in Thailand, where it is an enforced “display” of “loyalty” to dead and living feudal potentates.

Activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, recently elected to head the Chulalongkorn University Student Council, has said that he might campaign for students to be able to decide whether to abide by the royalist university’s demand that students prostrate themselves before the statue of King Chulalongkorn at an annual ceremony.

The idea of belly-flopping before a statue of a dead king who just happens to be the king who ruled that his subjects didn’t need to prostrate themselves, seeing the practice as feudal and uncivilized, is weird in itself. But, then, the administrators want to enforce hierarchy just like their allies in the junta.

Now Netiwit has been chastised by The Dictator, who is a big fan of the royal belly-flop.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha sent a message to Netiwit and to the Chulalongkorn administrators when he said the idea that students to be given the choice was a terrible idea. He warned: “This could tarnish the reputation of the institution…”. He referred to the royal planking as a “good tradition.” He said prostration was “charming.” Charming like torturing Army recruits, perhaps, as it maintains the appropriate social order and required hierarchy.

Good traditions, he said, need to be preserved, as they were “charms” of the country. He displayed his historical ignorance by declaring prostration a display that showed people “proud of our good history and it should be preserved.”

It would be useful if Prayuth could actually read and understand the history of King Chulalongkorn’s decision on prostration. We can help, quoting from Wikipedia:

In 1873, the Royal Siamese Government Gazette published an announcement on the abolition of prostration. In it, King Chulalongkorn declared, “The practice of prostration in Siam is severely oppressive. The subordinates have been forced to prostrate in order to elevate the dignity of the phu yai. I do not see how the practice of prostration will render any benefit to Siam. The subordinates find the performance of prostration a harsh physical practice. They have to go down on their knees for a long time until their business with the phu yai ends. They will then be allowed to stand up and retreat. This kind of practice is the source of oppression. Therefore, I want to abolish it.” The Gazette directed that, “From now on, Siamese are permitted to stand up before the dignitaries. To display an act of respect, the Siamese may take a bow instead. Taking a bow will be regarded as a new form of paying respect.”

In fact, Prayuth wants prostration for all the reasons the king abolished it.

We have no problem with Prayuth rubbing himself along the ground, but forcing others to do it is oppressive, harsh and does little to elevate his dignity.

But here’s what’s worse than this. Prayuth’s historically false claims were made “in a keynote speech at Mahidol University on the roles of Thai universities.”

That any university considers Prayuth worthy of addressing its academics and students is an insult. We are sure that does not occur to the royalist anti-democrats who control all of Thailand’s universities.

Netiwit responded: “Who is the nation’s embarrassment?” He went on to say that “in the eyes of young people like him, Prayut had tainted the country’s reputation for more than three years after staging the 2014 coup and restricting human rights.”

Netiwit added some home truths that will enrage The Dictator: “He should respect the rules of the country. If he has political ambitions, he should form a political party…. By staging the coup, he did not abide by the rules.”

More on Buddhist politics

31 12 2016

As we stated in an earlier post, PPT is not following the grand wrangle over Buddhism all that closely. We did note that yellow shirts and the military junta hate Wat Dhammakaya because they associate it with Thaksin Shinawatra. And, we noted the Wat’s huge wealth. That wealth may be both a reason for criticism and a cause for some greed.

The Dhammakaya monks and their take on Buddhism have been contentious from the beginning. Really only founded in the late 1970s, by the boom times of the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was attacked for distorting and commercializing Buddhism. There have been several scandals involving the group since then, with the origin of the events not always transparent.

Readers of the Bangkok Post will have noticed that the puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has pushed through an amendment to the “1992 Sangha Act to restore an old tradition in which the King reserves the right to name the supreme patriarch.” We think this is incorrect. First, the Act referred to is the 1962 Act, as amended in 1992, and we are not sure how much of a “tradition” exists.

As we understand it, the Sangha in Thailand has been subject to the regulations of the first Sangha Act (1902), the second (1941), and the current Sangha Act, enacted in 1962 and amended in 1992 (and now amended in 2016 by the military junta). The dates all have some political significance. The 1902 Act came when King Chulalongkorn was centralizing administration and creating a more absolutist monarchy. In 1941, war was approaching and Thailand was under a military regime. In 1962, General Sarit Thanarat was military despot and he reordered the Sangha to arrange it to parallel the military dictatorship. Sarit also wanted to ensure who became Supreme Patriarch, keeping out Phra Phimol Tham.

As an academic account has it:

Each of these Acts created a state-imposed organizational structure for the Sangha that paralleled the current forms of government: in 1902, Siam (Thailand) was still a monarchy, and the hierarchical, centralized Sangha as headed by a Supreme Patriach (Phra Maha David Yasasi 2006). In 1941, a decentralized structure was established that paralleled the democratic, Constitutional Monarchy in place [sic.] and in 1962, a top-down structure was reintroduced to match the autocratic government of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat (Sudhamani 980:74).

In 1992, following the 1991 coup led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon, the amendment was enacted to settle the power struggle over the appointment of a Supreme Patriarch. Some readers may recall the dispute over the use of this amended section when Thaksin sought to appoint an Acting Supreme Patriarch for the aged and ill Supreme Patriarch.

Now that section has been amended again, with an eye to Thaksin’s use of the amended section and to prevent the appointment of a new Supreme Patriarch considered too close to the hated Dhammakaya.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha was able to delay the appointment of Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, known as Somdet Chuang, after he was nominated by the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC), but he could not nominate his own Supreme Patriarch. The standoff had gone on for a year, and the junta managed to mount a range of investigations that have uncovered all kinds of alleged corruption to prevent the nomination going to the king.

"Voting" in the puppet NLA

“Voting” in the puppet NLA

As a way out, The Dictator decided to change the Act. The change means “the King selects and appoints a supreme patriarch while the prime minister countersigns the appointment.”

Clearly, The Dictator wants all of his nation, religion and monarchy ducks in a line.

Dutifully, and as reported in the Bangkok Post, the NLA puppets obeyed their master and “passed in three straight readings Thursday a bill to amend the 1992 Sangha Act…”. Reportedly, the NLA needed only 58 minutes to consider the changes and it “sailed through with 182 votes in favour and six abstentions.” The Post described the “shock passage of the amended law lifts conditions positioning … Somdet Chuang, as the sole candidate [for Supreme Patriarch].”

The monk said it is possible the amendment is intended to block Somdet Chuang from assuming the supreme patriarch’s post and warned the NLA to take responsibility for any complications that might follow.

Readers can find an academic’s attempt to understand some of this here. Yet the intent is crystalk clear and continues the “tradition” of military interference with the Sangha to ensure it knows its place as a loyal supporter of conservative politics and subservient to the military-monarchy state.

The monarchy-military alliance

28 06 2016

The alliance of the military and monarchy goes back to the foundation of the modern military under the absolutist King Chulalongkorn.That link was broken with the 1932 Revolution.



Despite continuous struggle between the 1932 Promoters and the royalists, the monarchy-military alliance was not fully re-established and made exceptionally strong under the military dictator General Sarit Thanarat and the military-dominated regimes that followed.

Sarit took over a boy-king who came to the throne after the death of his brother, with an ambitious mother and surrounded by restorationist princes. It was only after the 1973 uprising against military dictatorship that the current king began to really feel his oats. With the military’s role in politics reduced and challenged, it was left to the king to maintain the alliance in the interests of the rising royalist elite.

By 1976, the military was back, with the support of the monarchy, following the military-backed murder of workers, peasant leaders and students that came, in part, from the monarch’s expressions of concern and fear about the rise of the Left.

This potted history leads to the big challenge that faced the alliance in May 1992. Then, as is its penchant, the military brass decided to gun down civilians protesting yet another military attempt to dominate politics.

These events saw the military in disgrace and the monarchy worked hard to rehabilitate its murderous allies. The usual image – endlessly promoted in palace propaganda – is of the king sorting out the crisis, with his meeting with the military premier General Suchinda Kraprayoon and the self-proclaimed protest leader Chamlong Srimuang.

This video shows the meeting, which included privy councilors General Prem Tinsulanonda and Sanya Dharmasakti. It is preceded by calls from Prince Vajiralongkorn and Princess Sirindhorn.

The king’s belated intervention in the events was meant to “save” the military. Even so, the military was shunned by a stunned public following the attacks on demonstrators.

Within a few short months, however, the king was speaking to rehabilitate his allies. As reported in the Bangkok Post on 15 November 1992, this was expressed in this way:

Recently there has been much talk about having too many generals, and why is there such ceremony to confer two hundred more general ranks to military personnel? … In truth, if we compare with foreign countries to the west or east or us we will find that they all have as many generals as us. One difference is that when their generals move to other jobs, they are no longer called generals.

Even in the United States, when a general becomes president he will be called mister which makes it seem as if they have fewer generals. But in Thailand those with a military rank retains it even when they go to work in other jobs. This is because they consider it an honour, an indication of a man with good performance. No matter what job you do, if they carry the rank with them, it is an honour, and it makes their colleagues trust them.

Therefore the number of generals in the country must be taken as not too many. We are not top-heavy. So do not feel disheartened after listening to those words, since it is only a kind of tongue wagging, and it is not damaging.

In fact, according to the Thai concept, those with a military rank consider it an honour which makes them proud and any job they do will be done better because of this realisation of the honour. There is no negative side to this. If they are transferred to other job or retired, their military salary Will not be tied to their rank. This means that the government does not have to pay more because of it.

But every person who acquired a military rank is proud of it. He will do a good service without the government having to pay him any extra salary. It is a way of saving government budget. If an army officer loses his rank when he is transferred to another unit he will feel sorry and may be discouraged. If there is a military rank attached to him when he works outside the military service it will encourage him to work efficiently, and the country will benefit more from him.

The king’s support for the rehabilitation of a murderous military is an act of loyalty and one of self-protection.

One result is that the military was not reformed, meaning it was again able to conduct coups in 2006 and 2014, seeing off supposed threats to the palace and the status quo.

Sulak’s latest lese majeste case and its investigation

24 08 2015

SulakBack in early July we posted on another lese majeste complaint against the well-known conservative social critic Sulak Sivaraksa. We listed this as being perhaps the sixth lese majeste case brought against him. for comments at a seminar commemorating the anniversary of the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932.

Prachatai reports that this latest case is continuing to be investigated.

The current investigation stems, yet again, from a complaint by a  military officer, who apparently surreptitiously recorded the seminar. The complaint alleges Sulak criticized dead kings, Chulalongkorn (d. 1910) and Prajadhipok (abdicated  1935, d. 1941).

As everyone knows, Article 112 applies to living persons – the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent – but not dead kings or others. Even so, the royalist judiciary has, in recent years, been more pliable on lese majeste, ignoring the letter of the law to including those long deceased, and not known to be resting, having a kip, stunned or pining for fjords.

This legal malleability means that on 21 August 2015, “police from Pak Khlong Rangsit Police Station issued a summons for Thongchai Romyenpensuk, president of the Suzuki labour union, for questioning over a seminar entitled ‘83 Years of Thailand’s Development after the 1932 Revolution of Siam’, which he attended with four other colleagues.”

The seminar was held at that bastion of royalism, Rangsit University on 22 June 2015.  In addition to Sulak, participants included “Olarn Chaiprawat, former advisor to ex-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, a human rights activist known for her work with Bangkok’s slum dwellers, and other high profile academics.” Some 40-50 people attended the seminar.

Thongchai is due for questioning on 28 August 2015. One of his colleagues has also received a summons.

The Nation’s Pravit Rojanaphruk hosted the seminar, and was summoned for questioning on 23 July 2015. Pravit says that his “questioning took about two hours and he was asked whether criticisms of Rama V and VII made at the seminar are against Article 112…”. Of course, “he told the police that the law does not cover former monarchs.”

Pravit explained that “there were constant phone calls from military officers to the investigating officers during the questioning and that there were also military personnel at the police station.”

It is reported that Prateep received a similar summons over the seminar.

Royalism and monarchism in Thailand continues to descend into the underworld of the cruelly absurd.

Royal incest

8 09 2010

Thailand’s royal family gets a mention in an article in September’s National Geographic – together with a big photo of King Chulalongkorn and some of his family – in an article entitled “The Risks and Rewards of Royal Incest.” Worth a quick look.

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