Royalists, academics and palace propaganda

10 01 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on advice to protesters. That advice was well-meaning. At the Asia Times Online, however, academic Michael Nelson of the Asian Governance Foundation, writes the protesters off: “[Gen] Prayut [Chan-ocha] does not seem to be in danger. The royal-military alliance seems to be unassailable…”. He adds: “The protesters, though big on Facebook, also have little backing in the population. And now, the government is getting tough with them…”.

That seems somewhat premature, even if the regime has the “benefit” of a virus uptick and can use the emergency decree to good ill effect. In any case, as far as support is concerned, we recall the Suan Dusit survey in late October that seemed rather supportive of the protesters. Things might have changed given the all out efforts by the regime and palace, but we think the demonstrators have had considerable support.

Another academic is getting into the fray to support the regime and palace. At the regime’s website Thailand Today, pure royalist propaganda by “Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai” is translated from The Manager Online. For obvious reasons, the regime loves the work of this royalist propagandist who tests the boundaries of the term “academic.” But, then, Chartchai is “an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA,” a place that has played an inglorious role in recent politics and where “academic” seems a loose term used to describe a person associated with NIDA.

Royalists ideologues posing as academics have been well rewarded. Chartchai is no different. His rewards have included appointment to the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee and its National Reform Council. In these positions, he opposed any notion of an elected prime minister and supported the junta’s propaganda activities on its constitution. He has also been a propagandist for “sufficiency economy,” a “theory” lacking much academic credibility but which is religiously promoted as one of the “legacies” of the dead king.

Self-crowned

His latest effort is a doozy. Published in November 2020, “Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age” is a defense of a neo-feudal monarchy. It seeks to dull the calls for reform by claiming that King Vajiralongkorn “has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.”

This sounds remarkably like the royalist defense made of King Prajadhipok after the 1932 revolution, suggesting he was thinking about granting a constitution before the People’s Party, a claim still made by royalist and lazy historians. In the current epoch, if the king is “reforming,” then the calls for reform are redundant.

Reflecting the good king-bad king narrative, in a remarkable contortion, Chartchai warns that the bad king should not be compared with his father. He declares this “unjust” and “unfair.” The bad king is “preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.”

That’s exactly the palace’s propaganda position on Vajiralongkorn.

How has Vajiralongkorn “sought to reform the monarchy”? Readers may be surprised to learn that the king has been “adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices.”

Of course, this is recent and the palace’s propaganda response to the demonstrations. Before that, the king worked to distance the palace from people. Not least, the king lived thousands of kilometers from Thailand.

A second reform – again a surprising construction for propaganda purposes – is the “reform of the Crown Property Bureau…”. The king officially taking personal control of all royal wealth and property through new, secretly considered, laws demanded by the king is portrayed as intending to “demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.”

There’s been no public discussion of this CPB corruption and nor is there any evidence that there is any transparency at all. In our research, the opposite is true.

We are told that the king’s property acquisitions were also about corruption and “public use.” The examples provided are the “Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage” and military bases in Bangkok.

The Royal Turf Club was a which was a “gathering place for dubious but influential people” and has been “reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities.” That “public use” is a recent decision, with the palace responding to criticism. Such plans were never mentioned when the century old racecourse was taken. It is also “revealed” that the military bases that now belong personally to the king will be for public purposes. Really? Other “public places” in the expanded palace precinct have been removed from public use: the zoo, parliament house, and Sanam Luang are but three examples. We can only wait to see what really happens in this now huge palace area.

Chartchai also discusses how “[r]Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.”

Now we understand why all the Rajabhats have been showering the queen with honorary doctorates. The idea that this king – who was always a poor student and didn’t graduate from anything – knows anything about education is bizarre. How the king gained control of the 38 Rajabhats is not explained.

What does this mean for the protests? The implication is, like 1932, those calling for reform are misguided. Like his father, the king “is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.” Is he under the constitution when he can have the regime change it on a whim and for personal gain?

Chartchai “explains” that “the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself…”. He goes full-throttle palace propaganda declaring the monarchy a bastion of “independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.” As such, Thais should ignore the calls for reform and properly “understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.”

For an antidote to this base royalist propaganda, readers might enjoy a recent and amply illustrated story at The Sun, a British tabloid, which recounts most of Vajiralongkorn’s eccentric and erratic activities.





Memes, communism, and a republic

8 12 2020

Thailand’s social media and its mainstream media is awash with hysterical commentary about ideas, logos, and republicanism. We will present some examples.

At the usually sober Khaosod, Pravit Rojanaphruk is worried about what he thinks are “drastic ideas.” One such idea comes from the mad monarchist

Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of royalist Thai Phakdee group, made a counter move. The former veteran politician proposed that absolute power be returned to the king, “temporarily.”

“Isn’t it time for royal power to be returned temporarily in order to design a new political system free from capitalist-politicians for the benefit of the people and for real democracy?” Warong posted on his Facebook page.

In fact, though, Pravit spends most of his op-ed concentrating on “Free Youth, a key group within the monarchy-reform protest movement, [that recently] sent out a message to its followers on social media urging them to discuss the idea of a republic.”

Pravit thinks that both sides are getting dangerous:

It’s clear that the majority of the Thai people, over 60 million, have not expressed their views on the on-going political stalemate.

It’s time for them to speak and act. Continued silence would be tantamount to forfeiting their role as citizens in determining the future course of Thai society. If the silent majority do not speak or act soon, there may be no other options but to allow demagogues of different political stripes to dominate and plunge Thailand deeper towards conflicts and confrontations.

In fact, conflict is normal in most societies, and in Thailand it is mostly conservatives who bay for “stability,” usually not long after slaughtering those calling for change and reform. And, neither Warong’s monarchical rule nor the call for a republic are new. They have been regularly heard in Thailand over several decades. But we do agree that one of the reasons these ideas have resurfaced now is because of the political stalemate, bred by the refusal of the regime to countenance reform. We might also point out that when the silent majority has expressed its preferences in recent years – say, in elections that were not rigged – their preferences have been ignored by those with tanks.

Republicanism has been a topic for a considerable time. Academic Patrick Jory states: “republicanism is deeply ingrained in Thailand’s political tradition. In fact, Thailand has one of the oldest republican traditions in Asia.” Republicanism was around under the now dead king as well. In the late 1980s Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was disliked in the palace and was believed to be a republican for his statements about Thailand’s need of a “revolutionary council” (sapha patiwat) in 1987.

For PPT, republicanism has been regularly mentioned in our posts from almost the time we began in early 2009. Often this was in the context of royalists and military-backed regimes accusing Thaksin Shinawatra of republicanism. This was a theme during the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, with Suthep Thaugsuban often banging this drum. Back in February 2009, it was said that “Bangkok swirls with rumours of republican plots.” There was the Finland Plot and, later, the Dubai Plot.

One statement of plotting and republicanism came from royalist scholar and ideologue, the now deceased Chai-Anan Samudavanija. Presciently, he worried in 2009 that if the republicans expanded, the monarchists have little in their arsenal [army, tanks, guns, prisons, judiciary, lese majeste??] with which to counter-attack. He considered the monarchists’ arguments as only holding sway with the older generation, while the under 30s seem uninterested in nation and monarchy. He seemed to think the regime was a house of cards.

There was considerable debate about republicanism in Thailand in 2009. Nor should we forget that, in 2010, there was a spurt in republican feeling, a point obliquely made by Pravit back then. Republicans have cycled through PPT posts: Ji Ungpakorn and Rose Amornpat are examples. And no one can forget the idea of the Republic of Lanna.

Perhaps ideologues like Veera Prateepchaikul, a former Editor of the Bangkok Post, could recall some of this long and important debate and conflict. No doubt that his “it can never happen” was also a refrain heard around Prajadhipok’s palace (or maybe they were a little smarter) and in Tsarist Russia.

Meanwhile, at the Thai Enquirer (and across social media) there’s a collective pile-on to point out how silly/dangerous/childish/unsophisticated the the pro-democracy Free Youth were to come up with a new logo that uses a stylized R (sickle) and T (hammer) for Restart Thailand. Many of the armchair commentators, including local and foreign academics, suddenly become experts on protest strategy and many of them seem very agitated.

Fortunately, Prachatai has the equivalent of a calming medicine, showing how the young protesters have played with symbols, redefining, re-engineering and using irony and parody. We recall, too, that red shirts and other opponents of the military-monarchy regime are regularly accused of being communists – think of 1976 and that the current opposition, attacked as communists in 2019.

Put this together with threats and intimidation: lese majeste, intimidation, lese majeste, gross sexual assault and intimidation, lese majeste, and royalist intimidation and maybe, just maybe, you get a better picture of what’s going on.





Further updated: Unthinkable in Thailand?

4 08 2020

News reports of Spain’s “king emeritus” Juan Carlos fleeing the country just “weeks after he was linked to an inquiry into alleged corruption” would be impossible in Thailand where the monarchy is above the law.

Reading this news reminded us of an article that compared Juan Carlos and Bhumibol.

This humiliating exit comes after “shocking allegations of corruption and money laundering against former Spanish King Juan Carlos have cast doubt over the very future of the monarchy, under his son King Felipe.” It also followed Juan Carlos’ abdication “in response to rumours about his scandalous personal life in 2014…”.

The current investigations date back a couple of years and relate to “a $100m (£80m) gift to Juan Carlos from the king of Saudi Arabia in 2008…” and offshore bank accounts.

That reminded us of King Prajadhipok, who left Thailand and abdicated from Britain after he was investigated for irregularities in the use of crown property/state property.

With King Vajiralongkorn above the law, and with the media muzzled, it is almost impossible for him to be in the same situation in Thailand. In any case, he already lives overseas. But the idea of holding him responsible for enforced disappearances, deaths in custody and more is surely not unthinkable.

Update 1: It is not unthinkable, now, to criticize the monarch. Reuters reports that:

Speakers at a Thai anti-government protest demanded reforms to the monarchy of King … Vajiralongkorn on Monday (Aug 3), calling for its powers to be curbed in unusually frank public comments…. Police did not stop the six speakers, but said that any suspected offences would be investigated.

The report continued:

Lawyer Anon Nampa, 34, accused the palace of taking on increasing powers that undermined democracy and of inaction in the face of attacks on opponents of the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader.

After the king took the throne in 2016, the palace required revisions to a new constitution that gave him greater emergency powers. He has since taken personal control over some army units and palace assets worth tens of billions of dollars.

This was followed by student groups making demands that began with: “Cancelling and reforming the laws that expand the power of the monarch and that could impinge on democracy where the king is the head of state.”

Arnon explained that “”Talking about this is not an act to topple the monarchy, but to allow the monarchy to exist in Thai society in the right way and legitimately under a democratic and a constitutional monarchy…”.

To be honest, we don’t think there’s much chance of this. We think the lessons of the past and the current monarch’s personality and “understanding” of the throne’s position make this impossible.

As the Bangkok Post headlined recently, channeling PPT from more than a decade ago, “A country for old men no longer

Update 2: The Nation has a very useful report on the demonstrations in Bangkok that were called “Harry Potter versus You-Know-Who or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Well worth a read.





Remembering 1932 in 2020

24 06 2020

24 June 1932 is an important day in Thailand. The palace, royalists and military have persistently worked to erase it from the national historical memory.

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Banomyong. We do so again today.

On that day in 1932, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

24 June is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country only to see their efforts repeatedly crushed by military and monarchy.

Lopburi vandalism 1

Clipped from Khaosod

For anti-democrats and royalists, 24 June is a day they want to expunge. It recalls a thirst for democracy and is the essence of anti-monarchism in Thailand. The king has been working with the junta-cum-post-junta-regime (of crooks and generals) to destroy memorials and monuments to 1932. History books have been changed. Properties previously removed from the monarchy have reverted to the present monarch.

democracy in ruins

24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely officially noticed, except for the purposes of repression and preventing people from acknowledging the day and its events.

If royalists remember 24 June for anything it is to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and declare that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and he supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime before abdicating.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty.

As we do each year, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2020 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

Pridi

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon

[People’s Party]

24 June 1932





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:





Rolling back 1932 II

28 12 2018

It was back in mid-2017 that we had our first “rolling back 1932” post. Since then, most of our posts on this topic have had to do with King Vajiralongkorn’s property grabbing in the so-called royal precinct.

That earlier post on 1932 was prompted by the property grabs but more especially by the 2017 theft of a People’s Party plaque and its replacement by a royalist plaque, seeking to erase memories and symbols of 1932. All of this was done in secret, at night and with no explanation at all. Rather, people who asked questions were jailed.

Now, another symbol of that historic period of anti-royalism has been secretly removed.First on social media and then at Khaosod, it is reported that the:

historic monument that commemorated government victory over a pro-monarchy rebellion eight decades ago was removed Thursday night without notice or explanation.

Activists and historians fear that the Constitution Defense Monument, which stood at the Laksi Intersection in northern Bangkok, could be destroyed after security forces were seen taking it away in the early hours.

The now missing monument celebrated 1932, the end of the absolute monarchy and specifically the defeat of rebellious royal forces by the People’s Party, its army and the people of Bangkok in 1933. Known as the Boworadej Rebellion, it was led by Prince Boworadej and supported by the anti-democratic King Prajadhipok.

Chatri Prakitnonthakarn, who teaches history of Thai architecture at Silpakorn University stated: “We don’t know where it is now. There’s a risk that the monument will be gone for good…”.  He worried that the monument has met the “same fate … as the plaque.”

According to Khaosod, those who should know what was going on claimed total ignorance:

Bang Khen district chief Somboon Homnan maintained he didn’t know anything about the removal. He said the monument was located in an area governed by the state railway, which is building an elevated railway nearby….

MRT deputy governor Surachet Laophulsuk, who oversees the railway construction project, declined to comment….

Junta spokesman Col. Winthai Suvari could not be reached as of publication time.

Pro-democracy activist Karn Pongpraphapan “went to the site Thursday night after hearing about the sudden operation.” Police monitoring the operation
“confiscated his phone at about 3am Friday just as he was trying to begin a live video stream via Facebook Live.”

Karn also said “one of the soldiers at the scene refused to tell him why the monument was being removed.” He just said “secret.”

Like many others, PPT can only guess that this is another deliberate plaque-like removal as part of the re-feudalization of Thailand.

Since the accession of King Vajiralongkorn there has been a rapid unwinding of arrangements regarding the relationship between crown and state that were put in place following the 1932 Revolution.

Since coming to the throne, almost everything the king has done has challenged decades-old arrangements that have long annoyed the royal family. It seems clear that he has imbibed the anti-1932 bile that has circulated in the family. He joins a long line of relatives who plotted and schemed against the People’s Party and its legacy. He’s being quite successful in this because he is supported by the royalist military junta and its authoritarianism.





Burying Constitution Day

11 12 2018

With all of the palace propaganda going on, it was almost impossible to notice that 10 December is Constitution Day in Thailand. Of course, the anti-democrats, royalists and military junta have little time for the basic law, especially when it was delivered by the People’s Party in 1932.

Interestingly, after struggling through the royal propaganda at the top of its website, there was a story on Constitution Day at the state’s National News Bureau.

As might be expected, the story is vague.

While it observes “the importance of the administrative document,” the story declares the day one for “celebrating its 20 incarnations throughout the democratic history of Thailand.”

What can we say? This is quite simply an outlandish manipulation of several things. First, a constitution for Thailand in 1932 was revolutionary and it was, before the resurrection of monarchy under fascistic military regimes, on a par with nation, religion and monarchy. Second, only anti-democrats “celebrate” 20 constitutions. In fact, the fact of 20 charters is a dismal reflection on the ways that military dictators have smashed democracy in Thailand every time it has emerged from the monarchy-military sludge that mires the country.

The story then gets royalist, declaring that: “Constitution Day in Thailand marks the date King Rama VII graciously signed the first charter into effect on December 10, 1932.”

In fact, there was nothing gracious about it. Thailand’s first constitution was essentially anti-monarchy and the king and his royalist supporters vigorously opposed it. Initially, King Prajadhipok refused to sign it, objecting to his loss of powers. As Wikipedia has it, “the charter provoked fierce resistance from the palace.”

When it came to the 10 December charter, which replaced the “draft” document of June 1932 following the palace’s political maneuvering, it gave “the monarchy a significant increase in authority compared to the temporary charter.” Even so, royalists remained aghast about the diminution of the king’s majesty. We suspect that, if they actually read that charter, today’s royalists would be similarly shocked.

We note that this political struggle over the constitution is covered by the propaganda bureau’s claim that: “The charter placed the Kingdom’s monarch in a position of great respect.” While that’s kind of right, it deliberately censors the political debates and conflicts.

Where the story links to the current military dictatorship, it engages in a fairy tale:

The 20th constitution, drafted when the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) assumed power in 2014, came into effect on April 6, 2017, and is considered a restart of democracy in Thailand….

We wonder if it is only the junta that “considers” the monarchy-promoting and anti-democratic junta constitution as having anything to do with democracy.





Remember 1932

24 06 2018

24 June 1932 is an important day even if the palace, royalists and military have persistently downplayed it and sought to erase it from the national historical memory.

On that day the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

It is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country only to see their efforts repeatedly crushed by military and monarchy.

For anti-democrats and royalists, 24 June is a day they want to expunge. It recalls a thirst for democracy and is the essence of anti-monarchism in Thailand.

24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is not officially noticed.

If royalists remember 24 June for anything it is to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and falsely declare that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty.

As we do each year, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2018 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon

[People’s Party]

24 June 1932





Overthrowing royalist regimes

24 06 2017

The 24th of June is an important day. On that day in 1932 the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed its well-planned Revolution. It was the first time that Thais overthrew royal power.

It is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country.

It is also important for anti-democrats and royalists. They have opposed and successfully rolled back the changes the People’s Party implemented 85 years ago. They want to expunge and erase the memory of anti-monarchism in Thailand. To do this, since the 1940s, they have worked in alliance with an increasingly ultra-royalist military.

24 June  used to be celebrated. In recent years, however, the event is barely noticed among the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries made big and expensive.

For many years, the royalist aim has been to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and to forget all but their bankrupt discourse that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty. It is no surprise to see that, after supporting the removal of the 1932 plaque around the time that the junta’s constitution was promulgated as a royal event, the military dictatorship has banned any gathering at that spot today.

We invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2017 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon

[People’s Party]

24 June 1932

 





A story gone missing

3 06 2017

An interesting story seems to have gone missing. We do not know who the author is. Thanks to a reader for capturing it and sending to us:

Charismatic monarch, unstable institution

King Rama VII himself said that a system of absolute monarchy relies on a good king. However, nobody can guarantee the existence of good monarchs forever. Systematic over-reliance on one individual creates irresolvable insecurity in all absolute monarchies (and constitutional democracies where monarchies are above politics).

So we try to build political institutions that do not rely on individuals, such as democracy, so that we may enjoy lasting stability. One failure of our current system is that such institutions have failed to take root.

The transition from Rama 5 to Rama 6 was one of a few instances where, at first, succession seemed to pass smoothly, with little opposition and all arranged in advance. But with the hindsight of five to ten years, the transition proved to be a turbulent one: the new King was not a good fit with the system, causing a split amongst elites.

While the aura of the revered late King Bhumibol Adulyadej still casts its light on the new King, this shadow is a double edged sword. At first, memories of the late king linger in a ‘honeymoon period’ where the populace welcomes his successor, with the expectation that he will continue the greatness of his father. But as the honeymoon period comes to a close, citizens will compare Vajiralongkorn with Bhumibol, and find him sorely wanting. It is not possible for the new King to be comparable with the late King — because hyper-royal enchantment with the late King causes him to transcend reality, to the point of being super-human.

Dissatisfaction and opposition is inevitable.

Or do we still live under absolute monarchy in disguise?

I think that most Thai people believe that succession impacts their lives. What does this mean? It means that a great number of Thai people share an understanding that we do not allow to be expressed — in other words that we are fooling and lying to ourselves. Though we may think this and that, we say out loud the opposite: that the King is not relevant to politics, only important to our lives. Yet that everybody is so concerned and questioning [about succession] shows that succession affects life, society and politics more than Thai people will admit.

I wish to request everybody reading to please ask yourself this question: What is the King’s role and importance to the country? If he is of little importance and his role is of little importance, then he doesn’t have to adapt much, because he doesn’t affect us. But that everybody is so concerned [about succession], it’s because he affects us all. So, please answer yourself: what influence does his have and why does he possess such influence?

The other questions I want to pose are: didn’t Thailand evolve beyond absolute monarchy a long time ago? Then what kind of system are we living under now? What is the actual role of the monarchy, such that it has such a large influence on society and politics? Or are we still living under absolute monarchy in disguise?

The network monarchy

One important characteristic of the monarchy is what many call the ‘network’. When I speak of the monarchy’s role in politics, ‘monarchy’ refers to more than just one individual or the monarchy itself — I am referring to the many people who benefit from the monarchy, who have vested interests, whose ideology is tied to the existence of a strong monarchy. The people who make up this network are many, and are not merely the King’s family. The network includes ordinary people just like us — with ideologies, beliefs, good intentions, bad intentions. Some are enchanted, infatuated with the monarchy while others have material interests. Whatever it is, they all desire a strong monarchy who has a role in the country’s political affairs.

In other words, if a King does not have sufficient charisma, engages in poor behavior and activities, or has a personality that causes people to doubt his virtue, the ‘royal hegemony’ will cease to exist. There is no ‘core’ that can form the foundation for the network, and which can provide the legitimacy needed to grow royalty’s influence in Thailand’s politics. So full circle back to this over-reliance on one individual — now we can see why succession is rising in importance. It’s not just about the King alone. The behaviour of the King is connected to the political system, to other institutions and on and on.

To sum up, succession would not be fatally important were it not for the current political context, and the conditions of Thailand today.

The king and the constitution

I think that the latest constitution makes it clear that we now live under a system of governance that is exactly what Rama VII wanted, but which the People’s Party opposed. What should we call this system? (laughs). More than 80 years later after the reign of Rama VII, he finally got what he wished for.

In conclusion, Thailand’s current political system depends on the monarch having great charisma. The constitution as it stands is based upon a king, whose own legitimacy is based on the belief that kings must be good. But nobody can guarantee this. As such, there is inherent contradiction in the system.

Will this contradiction erupt? Of course it will, one day. But nobody can say when.

This is an excerpt from an interview published in Prachatai’s new book A Molten Land: The Mandatory Transition. The book can be purchased here. It is in Thai.