Hilarious, absent and expensive

5 06 2020

The king’s major wife may seldom be in Thailand, preferring Switzerland, but she still gets lashings of taxpayer money. Not just for her luxury living apart arrangement with the king, but in “celebrating” the truant’s birthday in Thailand.

Over the last couple of days, the usual private sector posterior polishing paid advertisements have appeared in the media and, as ordered, the state has posted huge photos, banners, and staged events as a compulsory show of demanded “loyalty.” And, there have been the usual “stories” in the media about these state-demanded events.

Many of these are hilariously compromised because everyone knows that she’s “missing” but that she must still be “obeyed” or at least her husband must be.

One report that caught attention was shouting the obvious: the king and queen are absent and other royals have barely been seen for months (perhaps a relief for some of us). It reported that the truant king had “appointed his private secretary, Air Marshall Pakdee Sangchuto, to represent him in the merit-making ceremony to mark … [absent] Queen Suthida[‘s] … birthday on Wednesday…”. The report explained that “Air Marshall Pakdee released a couple of cattle, 43 red-whiskered bulbuls, 43 catfish and 5 kilograms of river snails…” as part of merit-making for the absentee.

The Nation dutifully provided the few known details about the queen, the king’s fourth official wife. It explained her birth into a “Chinese-Thai family” and her career as a flight attendant until about 2008. It then dissembles:

Later, she entered the military service in the Command Unit, offering security to the King. She rose to the position of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Guard Unit (Special General) and received royal grace to be a royal bodyguard of the Royal Family and many royals.

The absent details are that she had actually entered royal service, with the then crown prince taking her as a concubine and giving her military rank (all of the photos in the report have Suthida in uniform). Of course, other than her relationship with the future king, she had no formal qualifications for such positions.

Critical readers will also note that The Nation, in coming up with a list of Chakkri queens, makes all the historical polygamous kings monogamous. Monogamy only began with the gay King Vajiravudh.

All of the compulsory state “celebrations” held nationwide for the absent queen are funded by the taxpayer.

Hyper-royalism dogs Thailand

10 10 2019

As the king moves to embrace economic and political power not seen since the days of the absolute monarchy, hyper-royalism is again on the rise, stoked by the palace’s propaganda machine. Nowhere is this clearer than in the linking of the dead king and the new one. In its more bizarre forms, this draws on dead dogs as well.

Khaosod reports that the long dead palace bitch Thong Daeng, complete with royal title, described in the report as “iconic,” has been resurrected through artificial insemination. Yes, “scientists” are mimicking Dr Josef Mengele, they do work to please the higher ups. Of course, we are exaggerating somewhat, but the image is of scientists making their work fit the regime.

The the royalist sycophants at the “Faculty of Veterinary Science at Kasetsart University revealed Tuesday that eight grand-dogs of Khun Thong Daeng were birthed earlier this year via artificial insemination with frozen semen from two of her dead sons. All of the eight puppies are healthy, and have been bestowed royal names from … the King.”

Not Thong Daeng. Clipped from Bohemian.com

The article then establishes the “royal” family tree of the Thong Daeng line. And, we learn in breathless reporting, the whole business “was approved by King Rama X…”. Official pictures of the mutts were released.

The palace promised “[m]ore information about the eight dogs … for a public release at a later time…”.

Thong Daeng is described as “the most eminent pet of … the [deceased] King” and is claimed to be “held in high regard in Thai society.” Not bad for an old soi stray.

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.

But the point of all this sycophantic nonsense is to show how everything associated with the kings is fabulous, erasing their huge wealth and the fear associated with the palace. Royal dogging seems a bigger deal than any normal human being would have thought. Thong Daeng, Fu Fu and other royal pooches get more protection than any of those normal humans.

The report notes this fear by mentioning that in 2015, Facebook user and political activist Thanakorn Siripaiboon was charged with lese majeste for comments about Thong Daeng. The last we heard of this case was that, even though the lese majeste law only applied to a few palace humans, this case would be heard by a military court. Even dead royal mutts get the full support of Thailand’s (in)justice system.

It gets worse from here as neo-feudalism takes hold and throttles the country.

With 3 updates: Constructing the monarch

29 07 2019

As we have pointed out previously, when succession came in 2016, there were some commentators who had been predicting a crisis and an unraveling of the monarchy. Part of the “crisis” had to do with King Vajiralongkorn’s vengeful, thuggish and nasty persona, well known in Thailand. Those characteristics, along with his lust for women and loot, defined his life as crown prince. He was also known to think of himself a military man and imposed “military discipline” on those around him.


There was no crisis, and King Vajiralongkorn has established his reign and palace in a series of moves that were marked by a legalism that saw him establish clear personal ownership of royal wealth, clear out those he distrusted or felt insufficiently supine, and establish greater constitutional powers for the throne.

Many international commentators regularly make the trite observation that the current king does not have the same esteem as his long-serving father. This is obvious, but this seems a way of pointing to the king’s checkered past and odd personality.

But, as this year’s king’s birthday demonstrates, the palace propaganda machine is hard at work, concocting an image for the still new king. For all of his personal foibles and the great fear associated with his erratic and narcissistic behavior, for the palace propaganda machine, nothing much has changed and it uses familiar and tried and true methods.

For example, he is now “our father,” just as his father was, continuing the paternalism that marks monarchy and which is, when required, used politically.

Yesterday, the newspapers were drenched in palace propaganda. In propaganda, that which is false and concocted can become “truth” if repeated often enough. And there’s plenty of that in the invention of Vajiralongkorn’s image. We won’t go through it all as there simply too much.

One example is the creation of the king as “sportsman.” Of course, this links to his father’s image, based on his making and sailing in tiny yachts for a time in the 1960s. Vajiralongkorn, who once played some football with minions and who, late in life, took up cycling. That, as far as the propagandists are concerned, makes the king “majestic in sports.” This concocted story will be repeated year after year and people will come to accept it and perhaps believe it.

The other thing to note in the current flood of propaganda that constructs the monarch is the king as military man. His father took on this persona in the 1960s and 1970s, but he was not military trained. The new king is, and is proud of this.

The propagandists say the king has “specialises in military affairs, thanks to his illustrious military background.” They mangle politics with claims that “Thailand is a democratic country with the King as the head of state and for a large part of the nation’s history, the head of the armed forces as well.”

The politics of this – in a country dominated by military politicians – is emphasized:

Thai soldiers hold His Majesty in high regard and are ready to give up their lives for his cause because there is no higher honour for a Thai soldier than to serve the country, people and the King.

We may be forgetful, but we do not recall these claims being made for his father. In an era of military and military-backed government, an armed forces drawn ever closer to the king means a more interventionist king. It also means that the military and bureaucracy are those at the top of the political heap and are ever more closely intertwined with the throne.

We have previously posted on the Jit Arsa 904 “volunteers” that have been created as a force for the king and to burnish and propagandize his image. A couple of the “tributes” to the king play up this group. Such activities have multiple winners, with the king seen as a great man and the “volunteers” getting reflected merit. But, another of the stories reveals – we don’t recall this in past reporting – that the Jit Arsa scheme is a military operation. It states:

The Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) serves as the coordinator of the project. It has set up a regional coordination centre in each of the four regions: the Central Plains, Northeast, North and South.

Given ISOC’s political role, taking over from the junta, and its history of political destabilization, surveillance, repression and murder for various military regimes and for the military itself, the overt linking to the throne is cause for considerable concern.

Update 1: As if there hadn’t been a succession, the king’s birthday message reflected his father’s mantra of “prosperity” flowing from doing one’s “duty.” The king was only addressing the already prosperous – “royal family members as well as senior officials led by the parliament president, prime minister and the Supreme Court president” – but the message is carefully relayed to the hoi polloi. The report also recounts that the king further elevated his first daughter, changing her royal title from the relatively undistinguished Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendiradebyavati to the breathtaking Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendiradebyavati Krom Luang Ratchasarinee Siripatchara Maha Watchara Ratchathida. Tucked into the end of the report is the news that the king also “granted Maj Gen Thanpuying Sineenart Wongvajirapakdi the title of Chao Khun Phra Sineenart Pilaskalayanee.” That’s his favored consort.

Update 2: The regime gave the king a very expensive birthday present. Reuters reports that the king “will be exempt from tax on some of his land property…”. It wasn’t that long ago that there was some fanfare when the Crown Property Bureau lost its tax-free status as its assets came under the king’s direct ownership. However, a new announcement now says “some of the king’s lands and establishments will now be exempt from tax…”.

Lands and establishments that are “used in state affairs, royal affairs, or used by agencies under the king” will be exempt as will properties “used in other affairs by the king or members of the royal family, for public interests, or used as religious places. Royal properties that “do not fit the above descriptions” will also be tax exempt for those “… parts that are used for non-profit purposes…”. Millions and perhaps billions will be kept in the royal pocket.

Update 3: Some time ago the then crown prince let it be known that he wanted to be a more “traditional” king. Since Vajiralongkorn has been king he’s been realizing that ambition, grabbing land and making royal wealth more obviously his, wringing increased powers from the junta and gaining command over thousands of troops and police. Now he’s gone a step further. When we mentioned above that he gave a title to his favorite consort, this act was more significant than we thought.

Khaosod reports that the title bestowed is “Royal Noble Consort,” making Sineenat the first official consort taken by a king since King Chulalongkorn Vajiravudh. That the event was televised, with the king anointing her while seated with the queen tells Thais that neo-feudalism is upon them.

Sineenat also received a bunch of royal decorations: “The Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao, 1st Class; The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant, Special Class; The Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand, Special Class; and Rattanaporn Medal, First Class.”

Boosting and boostering for the monarch

5 09 2018

Many observers, us included, were struck by the cult of personality that was constructed around King Bhumibol. A rather colorless, unemotional and intellectually dull man surrounded by sycophants, he was manufactured into something that royalists describe as “earned moral authority as a unifying and rallying symbol for the country.”

Many of those same royalists express the view that this “barami” attached to the man and not the position of the monarch. In making this point, they ignore how the adulation of the now dead king was carefully manufactured and was indeed attached to the position. To ignore this is to misunderstand what royalist restorationists have been doing since 1932: recreating a monarchy that transcends any constitution and reduces constitutional constraints on the monarchy’s political and economic power.

In fact, the new king has done much to further that project, being rather more energetic on these matters than his father had been in the last years of the previous reign.

Meanwhile, the military junta has been aggressive in subserviently supporting the king’s political and economic moves and in promoting him in ways that have been both repressive and bombastically propagandistic.

PPT has commented on the propaganda several times, here, here, here and here.

Reuters has a report that exemplifies the efforts being made to build a revised cult of personality for the king. It has a story about what it euphemistically calls “volunteers” who are pictured “cleaning up a clogged Bangkok waterway … wearing yellow foulards and blue hats, [who] are part of a volunteer program started by … Vajiralongkorn…”.

It is reported that 4 million have “volunteered.”

Clipped from the linked Reuters story

The blue and yellow is the new uniform for royalist Thailand.

Reuters states that the “Volunteer Spirit” scheme, “officially began in 2017, [and] has created a new army of civilians who have pledged allegiance to the king and are boosting the image of Vajiralongkorn ahead of his formal coronation at year-end.”

We haven’t seen any announcement about coronation, but The Dictator has long stated that the junta’s rigged election can only be held after coronation.

It is observed that “the deep relationship between the monarchy and the military helped facilitate a smooth royal transition following his death in October 2016.” In fact, that “smoothing” began well before succession.

It also cites unnamed “some observers” who believe that the king “may be seeking to distance himself from the military, which has been in power in Thailand since a 2014 coup.”

Really? Anything is possible, but there’s no evidence for this rumor, and why a military-trained king would want to do this is an open question. We recall an early attempt to promote the king as a kind of democrat. At the time we thought that a rather wild guess. If anything, that sort or guess looks even weaker today.

The author then was David Streckfuss. He’s also cited in the Reuters report, and his view seems unchanged by events since his earlier piece. Referring to the “volunteers,” he states:

If the monarchy is … to distinguish itself from the military and attempt to bring Thailand into a democratic constitutional monarchy, then we might look at this effort by the new monarch as creating an alternative power base….

Again, we see no evidence for this. Indeed, this effort has, as far as we are aware, full junta support. Every member of the junta has the new uniform in the cupboard.

As the report notes: “Vajiralongkorn however is thought to have a good working relationship with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha…”.

But, then, the king is erratic and idiosyncratic, known for becoming enraged by perceived sleights to his “dignity.” The junta bosses have to be on their toes in privileging the king. As far as we have seen, he has been satisfied in getting all that he wants. But in all of the secrecy associated with the palace, there are plenty of rumors and guesses.

As far as we can tell, the “volunteers” are in line with previous efforts to promote monarch and monarchy and reinforce and transition the cult of personality to the new guy.

The report seems to confirm this, but goes back to the absolute monarchy, citing Sulak Sivaraksa. Sulak, who disliked the now deceased king, has an affection for the new one not least because he credits Vajiralongkorn for getting him off a lese majeste charge. He compares Vajiralongkorn to Vajiravudh’s paramilitary force founded in 1911, the Wild Tigers. Sulak doesn’t mention it, but Vajiravudh nearly bankrupted the country and set the scene for 1932.

Boostering for the king, Sulak gets drippy with syrup, saying the king “wants the monarchy to serve the people, to protect the people, to do well for the people…”. He reckons the “volunteers are able to do things that the government might otherwise not be able to, because of their royal backing…. If the government asked them they wouldn’t do it…”. In a final bit of posterior polishing, Sulak declares: “The volunteer program is one of the great successes of the new king.”

The “volunteers” are trained in much the same way as other “volunteer” corps raised by the previous king:

Volunteers have to register with the palace and go through an initiation process that involves lining up and bowing in front of the king’s portrait before being given their yellow and blue uniforms – colors associated with former King Bhumibol and Queen Mother Sirikit, Vajiralongkorn’s mother.

Once they put on their new uniforms, the volunteers do a military-style salute to the king’s portrait and, in a completely new tradition [sic.], they must line up and salute the king’s portrait every time before starting a community activity.

It is all a bit North Korean, but not all that different from the palace propaganda for Bhumibol. Just a little more militaristic, reflecting the new guy’s training and mindset.

All that money and the Crown Property Bureau

28 07 2017

No one who has decided that monarchy matters in Thailand will be happy about the headline recently at the ASEAN Economist: “Clown king nears crisis point.”

Taylor McDonald’s piece uses material from Andrew MacGregor Marshall, now described as a “veteran observer of the Thai monarchy,” and apparently drawn from a recent BBC interview. Marshall, who previously argued that there was a succession crisis in Thailand, is cited in this report as declaring that “the situation was becoming increasingly unsustainable.” He is quoted as believing that as “details of the king’s lifestyle spread, the kingdom was approaching a ‘crisis point’…”.

We are not sure that there is any more crisis now than over the last decade or so, although Marshall’s account of the king’s cruelty, womanizing and his grab for power while re-feudalizing the palace are all undoubted, we have yet to see “crisis.” Some speculate that the crisis comes after the previous king is cremated.The article makes this point:

How much longer Thailand’s inflexible generals will tolerate Vajiralongkorn as their head of state will have to be seen. He will no doubt go down, along with the Emperor Caligula, as a key case study used by republicans arguing against constitutional monarchy.

While we may hope that this king gets the boot, the fact is that the deep political change needed in Thailand – an end to the monarchy – remains unlikely. That’s our speculation.

But to the point of this post. What caught PPT’s attention in the article were comments about the Crown Property Bureau.

The article states: “A close aide of Thailand’s King … Vajiralongkorn was this month named head of the agency which manages the monarchy’s vast holdings after legal changes giving the king total control of the Crown Property Bureau.”

About a week or so ago, secretly considered changes to the law governing the CPB were announced, giving the king absolute command over it. That change, the article notes, mean it is no longer possible for royalist regimes to claim the CPB is not the king’s but held “in trust for the nation.”

The CPB website continues to allow the download of a chapter on crown property in the palace-approved book King Bhumibol Adulyadej. A Life’s Work, which begins the chapter this way:

Since 1936, the law has made a clear distinction between property that belongs to the king as a person and that which belongs to the crown as an institution. The Crown Property Bureau (CPB) exists to manage the property of the crown. This property does not belong to the king in his private capacity, but to the monarchy as an institution which continues from reign to reign. This rather special category of property arose when an absolute monarchy, under which the king was lord over his realm and everything in it, both people and property, evolved into a constitutional monarchy that exists within a vibrant globalised economy.

By legal definition, the CPB is a juristic person. It is not part of the palace administration, nor is it a government agency, nor is it a private firm. It is a unique institution. It is also a rather mysterious institution.

The distinction between crown and person is now removed by the changes made by the military junta, responding to the king’s demand.

A later part of the chapter is about The Crown Property Act of 1948 which:

… reconstituted the CPB as a juristic person, independent of government and not placed under any ministry. The minister of finance remained as the ex-officio chairman of the CPB board. Other board members were to be appointed by the king. One of these would hold the post of director-general of the CPB and have full executive power.

That was also changed a couple of weeks ago. Now the king has control of the CPB. As the article states, this change “removes any pretence that the assets are for anything other than the private use of the eccentric king.”

Air Chief Marshal Satitpong Sukvimol is now the “chair the bureau, a role which was previously held by the finance minister.” The report states that “Satitpong is Vajiralongkorn’s long-serving private secretary and was put in charge of the king’s private property in January.” The linking of the king’s private property and that of the crown, long a fiction in reality but maintained in law, is now gone, giving Vajiralongkorn control over a vast economic empire. PPT estimates that the CPB controls assets of about $55-60 billion and his personal property is likely to be at least another $10 billion.

The changes at the CPB go further, with the king putting other trusted favorites on its board. The table below shows the board before and after the change. THe sources are the 2016 Annual Report by the CPB (it can be downloaded) and the Thai version of the CPB’s webpage on the Board of Directors:

As can be seen, those added are all former or current military and police officers, all of whom have been close to the prince-now-king and have seen promotions under his new reign.

We can return to Marshall’s comments. He says that the king “seems determined to reassert the rule of monarchy and he doesn’t want all these rules and regulations … he wants everyone to know that he controls the money…”. He’s got that. He also notes that the “king is notoriously spendthrift.” That’s true and he now has a huge pile of loot to use.

We recall that the monarchy and state were almost bankrupted when King Vajiravudh governed through cronies and was spendthrift. It remains to be seen whether Vajiralongkorn will cause the same level of disquiet that was seen under Vajiravudh and which inexorably led to the 1932 Revolution.

Updated: Busy day in Bangkok II: reform, rice, old kings, censorship and impunity

10 08 2013

As we noted in the first part of this post, it has been a busy few days in Bangkok, with more stories than PPT can possibly comment on, so we are now posting a second  combination of stories.

In another story that cites PPT, Asia Sentinel had a story a couple of days ago regarding the politics of amnesty. PPT is cited as an “NGO,” which is probably rather too much of a grand title for our small effort to shine a light on aspects of politics and political prisoners in Thailand. The story also seems to erroneously suggest that Thaksin Shinawatra put the 1997 constitution in place. Even so, it is true that: “Any time amnesty or constitutional reform looms, the protesters take to the streets. Pheu Thai leaders have been waiting for almost three years to attempt to push through a series of constitutional reforms…”. It would be even more accurate to notice that when the military junta’s 2007 constitution was put in place, all of the old conservatives said it could be changed by elected governments, and even made this an article of the constitution. Since then, this pledge has been shown to be a lie. In fact, then, elected governments have been waiting six years to make changes.

Also worth reading is Robert Amsterdam’s post on the Wat Pathum inquest findings. This note caught our attention:

Without truth there is no justice. And without justice there can be no real workable amnesty. Some might argue a de facto legal amnesty already exists for the extremist anti-democratic People’s Alliance for Democracy and the groups aligned with them, including Abhisit’s Democrat Party. Abhisit and his former deputy PM, Suthep Thaugsuban, have both been charged with the murder of civilian protesters in 2010, yet arrogantly strut around, even dismissing the court’s bail conditions, assured of their own impunity.

Prachatai has a post regarding censorship of books – an unofficial removal from sale – at Asia books. Of course, the books relate to the monarchy. But not the current king. These two books relate to past kings and the royalist response to the 1932 revolution. Prachatai says: “The books concern the history of the 1932 revolution and the controversial relationship between King Rama VI and his palace servants.” So why the “ban”? Asia Books withdrew the two academic titles reportedly for reasons of “political sensitivity” but declined to comment further. The book by Dr. Nattaphol Chaiching studies the “counter-revolution led by the royalists” following the 1932 revolution. Readers without Thai skills can get an idea about the book through the author’s chapter in Saying the Unsayable. The book was published by Fa Diaw Kan as part of its “Monarchy Studies Series.” The second book by Chanun Yodhong is about “Gentlemen-in-waiting”, and deals with the relationship between the gay King Vajiravudh and his palace flunkies. Prachatai states that the book “poses questions about King Rama VI and his projects such as the Boy Scouts and Vajiravudh College, a private boys-only boarding school he founded in 1910.” It is published by Matichon.

While on censorship, we feel compelled to add to the outcry about the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology’s continuing stupidity regarding Facebook posts and its use of the draconian Computer Crimes Act. Minister Anudith Nakornthap has lost his marbles if he thinks social media users should be charged and locked up for “sharing and clicking ‘Like’ on social media posts, since they could be deemed as damaging to the country’s security.” His view that “postings that are political in nature or meant to stir up public confusion might be in breach of the Internal Security Act and Computer Crime Act” is utter nonsense but clearly neanderthals can use the law to censor and stifle. Interestingly, the cyber-cops have declared the warning as a successful scare tactic. Update: Asked if clicking “like” is now against the law, Police Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, says: “It will be if you ‘like’ a message deemed damaging to national security. If you press ‘like’, it means you are accepting that message, which is tantamount to supporting it. By doing so, you help increase the credibility of the message and hence you should also be held responsible.” Officials like this are appallingly dull and through their dullard actions, dangerous to Thais and their rights to free speech.

PPT also wants to draw attention to a couple of posts at Bangkok Pundit. The first is not that different from what PPT said on the story/retracted Bangkok Post story on Anand Panyarachun. The second explains what happened, and comes from a source that we also had, but since Pundit has it posted, there’s no need for us to do the same.

Finally, we want to give a few lines to a report in The Economist, which identifies the rice policy as an economic millstone for the government. We agree, but then the politics of reducing the guaranteed price saw farmers protesting just a few weeks ago. An economic millstone is becoming a political millstone, and the government’s policy wonks need to find a way out.

Rewarding royalists

3 02 2013

PPT spends quite a lot of time reading stuff about the monarchy from the syrupy and posterior polishing dross that come out daily to the most radical republican material. In this context, it was a bit of a shock when we came across something completely new to us. Or maybe we’ve just not read carefully enough, and readers can tell us.

At something called the Moodie Report, there is a report that made PPT think it was 1922:

His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand has bestowed the family name ‘Srivaddhanaprabha’ on Vichai Raksriaksorn (former surname), Group Chairman of King Power Group of Companies in Thailand and owner of UK’s Leicester City Football Club. The auspicious family name granted by His Majesty was published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette.

The report goes on to explain that:

Vichai is next to the tall lad in red (!!)

Vichai is next to the tall lad in red (!!)

In Thailand, royally granted family names have been bestowed particularly on the Monarch’s retainers since the reign of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI, who ruled from 1910 – 1925). It is a tradition of His Majesty to grant surnames to members of the royal family, government officers, and private citizens who have contributed significantly to the good of the country.

PPT knew that when family names were introduced in the 1920s that the king did hand some out to flunkies and retainers. What we didn’t know was that this has been revived.

It is rather fitting that this announcement involves one of the business families that has been more slithery than most in seeking royal recognition. Vichai, one of Thailand’s richest, is thus ecstatic to receive this recognition after 24 years building, appropriately enough, King Power:

“It is our family’s greatest honour to receive this royally granted surname…. The name ‘Srivaddhanaprabha’ conveys positive attributes to the industry and brings prosperity to our family. We have now officially changed our surname since it was published in the Royal Gazette in late 2012….

Royal recognition is usually a reward. We wonder if the reward is political, for in addition to all the polo nonsense for royals and their hangers-on, Vichai has been a political supporter of Newin Chidchob who was so critical to the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and in opposing red shirts while holding the royal banner high.

Perhaps more significantly, Vichai is credited with having “plagiarized” the (now disgraced) Lance Armstrong and his plastic bracelets in Thailand and made them “Long live the king” bracelets and raised a fortune that he handed over to the palace.

For the Chinese business class in the 1920s, getting a royal family name was a sign of inclusion and acceptance. Today, it must be a fitting reward for a wealthy supporter of the wealthiest.

More taxpayer money for royals

1 08 2011

In its last act of royalist nonsense, the Abhisit Vejjajiva cabinet has thrown an initial amount of more than US$3 million of taxpayers money into a royal cremation for a royal nonentity.

At what was described as a “special meeting of the outgoing Abhisit cabinet … approved an initial budget of 100 million baht for the royal cremation of HRH Princess Bejraratana, who died on July 27 at the age of 85.”

Who? Readers might well ask. This barely known princess “was the only child of King Vajiravudh, Rama VI, and Queen Suvadhana.”

The Bangkok Post states: “Her Royal Highness Princess Bejraratana Rajasuda Sirisobha Phannavadi (Beautiful Princess of Diamonds) has passed away at the age of 85. The only child of King Vajiravudh, she is shown here in this portrait taken for her 84th birthday in 2009.”

In fact, this virtually unknown princess was a surprise birth, attributed to the resolutely homosexual king and the last woman the palace tried to have for him to provide a royal issue. Vajiravudh himself found the whole process of getting an heir trying and this girl was born just hours before Vajiravudh died in the company of his male friends.

The princess, who was never fully well, lived for a few years in Thailand before decamping for England where she and her mother lived for 20 years, only returning around the time of General Sarit’s rise to power. Her Wikipedia page indicates that she was perhaps a savant. It is clear that she was never mentally fully capable.

Only fairly recently has she been shown on various royal newscasts as one of the many royals meant to be identified and lauded by the public.

None of this is a criticism of the late princess. She wasn’t masterminding her image.

Hence it is almost beyond belief that Abhisit not only “signed an order for the Prime Minister’s Office to appoint a committee to organise the royal cremation, and approved an initial budget of 100 million baht…”, but that he also decided  that he’d chair the organizing committee.

Why is so much money being spent on a princess almost no one could identify? Clearly it is part of the continuing pressure to promote royalism.

Will 100 million be sufficient? Maybe not, as “Air Marshal Arvuth Ngernchuklin, a former director-general of the Fine Arts Department who designed the crematorium for Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, HM the King’s late elder sister, has had an audience with HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to seek her advice.”

Nipit says Siridhorn “wants the royal cremation for Princess Bejraratana to be same as that for Princess Galyani Vadhana…”.

Galyani’s funeral cost a small fortune!

The planning an construction of a funeral at Sanam Luang will take eight months!

If the royals want a huge funeral to promote themselves as an institution, can’t they spare a few baht from their own huge fortunes? After all, the prince can apparently afford 800 million baht to get “his” plane back….

Prayuth, loyalty and mutiny

29 07 2011

Prachatai has a story that confirms the decidedly odd position taken by Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha. While the story doesn’t necessarily tell PPT readers anything stunningly new, it does confirm that Prayuth believes the monarchy and Army are untouchable and that loyalty to the monarchy is the essence of a definition he has of “Thainess.”

When talking to young secondary school students at propaganda campaign called “Love of the Land Songs,” Prayuth stated: “I have always said that we must not doubt loyalty. If anyone does, he or she is not Thai. So Thais must not doubt loyalty because we were born with this word, and we will die with it, no matter what…”.

This statement is almost Vajiravudhian in its statement of the links between Thainess and monarchy. But King Vajiravudh generally evidenced a reasonably educated opinion, whereas Prayuth seems simplistically demanding and mouthing a propaganda position that has been fixed for decades. Congruent with this reign, he is also reinforcing the Army’s proclaimed position as the guardian of the right-wing conception of Thainess.

Prayuth proclaimed that “he was moved when hearing the songs as they described the graciousness which His Majesty the King had been giving to Thailand, and seeing the young people perform the songs with determination in their eyes.” He added that he “felt relieved that Thailand still had a future with these young people…”. Prayuth proclaims a belief that the monarchy gives its all to Thailand. Of course, he ignores all that they take from the Thai taxpayer and the fact that the monarchy gives less than it takes.

For Prayuth, the message is simplistic: the monarchy is “a pride which is in the hearts of all Thai people. So it will be unacceptable if anyone violates or harms the institution…”. He means unacceptable to him and his Army. One can only wonder what this means for the millions of Thais who now question both military and monarchy.

Apparently all misty of eye, Prayuth goes on and declares: “What I’ve always thought and want to let everybody know is that whenever you can’t figure things out, you can turn to look at His Majesty’s picture, and you will know what to do. When you see the tiredness, smiles and drops of sweat of His Majesty, you will know what you have to do. How much His Majesty has done!  How devoted His Majesty has been! So, please do things with your heart and loyalty, and be confident that what you do is right…”.

Sure, this is all propaganda, but there is a hint that Prayuth is more than a little invested in this ideology of the monarchy. You can imagine him as a general with a chest full of medals shouting his loyalty to the Beloved Leader in North Korea. As would be the case in that dictatorship, Prayuth’s view is that there is “[o]nly one thing which can unite us all is the monarchy. So we have to unite the hearts and minds of the people to hold on to the monarchy…”.

But he also reveals in this statement that he is fearful that his right-wing world of military and monarchy is crumbling. He states: “Now don’t put too much blame on the soldiers. We’re ready to do our best. Please give moral support to the soldiers. Sometimes I appear on TV looking a little bit tough, but it’s normal. This is a role of a leader of an organization. I have to protect the reputation and dignity of the army over my own life. This is what has been instilled [in soldiers].  No one can touch the army. I make it my duty to protect it. I apologize if I’ve been a bit ferocious.” In fact, making this statement is an act of mutiny (yet again) as Prayuth again refuses to make Thailand’s military subordinate to any government.

While Prayuth proclaims, “I’m gentle and innocuous man…”, he is anything but innocuous. He’s a dangerous right-wing ideologue, trying to protect the twin institutions of an authoritarian past. While their time is gone, those at the top of both are scrambling to prevent the decline. We think they are misguided, but that doesn’t mean they won’t manipulate, scheme and undermine those who want to move Thailand into the modern world.

With 3 updates: Royalists rising

2 04 2010

The Bangkok Post (2 April 2010) reports that a “large number of people wearing pink shirts” rallied at the “entry to Lumpini park on Friday and issued a statement calling on protesters on all sides to stick to peaceful means in promoting their various causes.” Actually, given that they were in a relatively small area, the best description is a “small number of people.” Reuters estimated 3,000, although that is a little generous going by the pictures (which include a couple of images where they apparently set upon a red shirt at nos. 12 and 13).

As numerous pictures show, “peace” was only one concern as many placards were simply anti-red shirt and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra. But none of this matters, for the important thing is that royalists and yellow shirts (now in pink) are back on the streets. And, they are fully supporting and encouraging the military-backed government headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva. Named the “Network for Peace” is yet another yellow-shirted play on words, not unlike People’s Alliance for Democracy, which turned out to be not interested in democracy at all.

As the Post reports, they were led by retired “Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunchorn, former deputy director-general of police, and Charas Suwanmala, dean of the faculty of political science of Chulalongkorn University.” Vasit is not just any old retired police general, but a royal favorite and a determined campaigner against Thaksin. Charas is a well-known yellow-shirted academic from the most royalist of universities. More on Vasit is available from one of PPT’s most read posts. He has also recently been working for the Democrat Party-led government and has long been a Thaksin opponent.

Vasit and Charas are reported to have sworn “an oath before the statue of King Rama VI, at the main entry gate, to protect the nation.” Exactly why this statue of this king has to do with royal symbolism – and yet Vajiravudh did much to bring the monarchy down, not least bankrupting the country by his profligate spending – and a location close to the business district, symbolizing the capitalist class’s support for royalist opposition to any change of regime.

The leaders and their group “signed a petition opposing a House dissolution and any constitutional amendments aimed at whitewashing a particular individual instead of furthering the country’s best interests.” The leaders of the groups are said to have “issued a statement calling for all protesters and their leaders to remain peaceful and avoid use of violence, provocation and threats against others who hold different opinions, and to respect other people’s opinions.” Presumably “people’s opinions” should be heard in anything but elections.

At the same time, one of the founding members of the Democrat Party, Lek Nana died and the king symbolically provided soil for his Muslim ceremony. The Nation (2 April 2010) reports that the king via a privy councilor, “granted the soil for yesterday’s burial of Lek Nana, who was a Democrat Party founder, a former minister and the landlord of various prime locations in Bangkok, including the Nana (Sukhumvit Soi 4) area.”

The Democrat Party was founded as a royalist party and Lek was the party’s ninth secretary-general and served as a member of parliament and was a minister for Seni Pramoj’s administrations and science minister under General Prem Tinsulanond. He remained active in the Democrat Party for many years. That the king provides royal prestige to a former minister is not unusual, but the significance of the present tense political moment will be read as significant. Lek Nana was also one of Bangkok’s biggest landlords (after the crown itself, of course) and owned the areas around the Nana intersection, one of Bangkok’s most sordid fleshpots. He also owned the “land on which Democrat Party headquarters is located.”

The royalist political movement is again being mobilized.

Update 1: Bangkok Pundit has a useful post on academics claiming to be “color-less” but in fact being something else – yellow shirts wearing pink.

While PPT realizes that there are many yellow-shirted academics in the universities, it is interesting to note that one source – that is pro-red shirt  – lists the demands and names of the academics from the Scholars’ Network for a Just Society (เครือข่ายนักวิชาการเพื่อสังคมที่เป็นธรรม). It seems that they include 10 academics and 2 graduate students from the Catholic Assumption University, 2 from Chulalongkorn University, 1 each from Prasarnmit, Payap, and Bangkok universities, 1 lawyer, 1 independent scholar, and 4 business people (the most notable being from the Charoen Pokphand group and Bangkok Industrial Gas). It is actually surprising that there are so few.

Update 2: The Nation (2 April 2010) illustrates the continuing bias – and laziness – of journalists there. This article makes a claim that “Despite the red shirts’ criticism, the “pink” movement seemed to be gaining momentum in its efforts to seek support from academics, businessmen and civic-society organisations. The movement’s proclaimed mission of seeking an immediate and peaceful end to the political confrontation has considerably resonated with a lot of Bangkokians frustrated with the red shirts.”

In fact, as PPT has shown, the “movement” is driven by several factors, not the least of which are PAD and Democrat Party organizing of supporters. PPT received an email forwarded from Democrat Party sources that included a virtual who’s who of senior managers at the Bangkok Bank being lobbied for support (we can’t publish the details as that would involve a loss on anonymity and pose a threat to PPT and our sources).

The Nation adds, seemingly bemused, “The red shirts’ suspicion of the ‘pink’ movement may have a lot to do with a prevailing sentiment in the latter group that the government should not dissolve the House of Representatives now as demanded by the pro-Thaksin protesters. The no-dissolution advocates have cited the risk of denting investor confidence as well as the unresolved Map Ta Phut issue as reasons.” PPT would suggest, as the journalists well know, that the suspicion derives from the fact that yellow shirts are re-mobilizing. That has the support and urging of the military and its government.

Update 3: The Nation (3 April 2010) has a useful report on the pink shirt rally. It estimates 2,000+ people attending “to oppose an early dissolution of the House and vowed to protect the monarchy from alleged attacks by the red shirts and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.” Prime Minister Abhisit later received a “10-member delegation of the pink shirts.” The crowd at Lumpini “chanted royalist slogans and songs alternating with the demand that the Abhisit administration must not dissolve the House.” Leaflets claiming Thaksin had defamed the king were distributed. Apparently about “500 royalists amongst the pink shirts refused to leave the site even long after leaders … were gone. They kept singing royalist songs well into the late afternoon.” The report describes the royalist crowd as “frenzied.”

One of the pink shirts meeting Abhisit was Chulalongkorn University medical lecturer Tul Sithisomwong, who claimed that the group saw “themselves as a civic group opposing the offensive attempts against the monarchy, an unjustified snap election and runaway protests disrupting normalcy and peace.” Tul said that he “urged Abhisit to remain in office because by the outcome of his straw poll via forwarded e-mails, more than 10,000 people did not see a snap election as a way to resolve the political predicament.” Now there’s democracy at work!

Tul also reaffirmed that the pink shirts were not linked to PAD. He said that, “In the past, he used to take part in the protests led by the yellow shirts but his present involvement in the civic group was not a disguise for the PAD…”. PPT has already pointed out that Bangkok Pundit (see Update 1 above) puts this fabrication into context, showing Tul acting as a representative and member of PAD on 6 February 2010.

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