Madam Secretary criticism affirms Thailand’s feudalism

19 11 2018

A couple of days ago we posted on the episode of Madam Secretary that includes commentary on Thailand’s monarchy and the feudal lese majeste law. Most controversial is the part of the episode that includes a call for the monarchy to be brought down. The episode is available here.

The episode opens with comments on Thailand from the main character, the US Secretary of State, who emphasizes the feudalism of the monarchy and a statement that “Thailand is a country where free speech does not exist.”

A religious studies professor who was born in Thailand has a monologue – a speech in Bangkok – that goes like this:

Thailand is a land of contradictions. A Buddhist nation that worships its own king as semi-divine…. This … country imposed on its people the worship of a man nowhere recognized in its Buddhist faith….

Where does it [Buddhist faith] say that one man and his family should be worth over $30 billion while many of his people starve and beg in the streets?

… I call for an end to this family’s rule over Thailand. Let the monarchy die when our king passes from this world and let the people of Thailand choose their own leaders, not false gods.”

She’s arrested for lese majesty and threatened with decades in jail while her friend seeks a pardon from a king portrayed as an angry and unsmiling old man.

While all this is fiction and the episode is not always accurate – it is a fictional TV show – the attention to the monarchy and lese majeste is pretty much as it was used, particularly after the 2014 military coup. And, parts of the episode were made in Thailand.

As expected, the regime has had to respond.

The Bangkok Post reports but cannot repeat any of the main material of the episode because Thailand is indeed a country where free speech does not exist. It also gets some things wrong, stating, for example that the episode “makes no mention of Thai reaction” when it explicitly does so and has a scene where Madam Secretary says the US has to prepare a response to the Thai reaction.

In real life, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reported to have “asked the Thai embassy in Washington to ‘convey our concern and disappointment to CBS’ over the Nov 4 episode.”

As expected, Ministry spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks complained that the “episode … presented the Kingdom of Thailand and the Thai monarchy in a misleading manner, leading to grave concern and dismay from many Thais who have seen it…”. We have no idea if the latter claim is true or not, but the portrayal of a lack of freedom of expression, the feudal and hugely wealthy monarchy and the draconian lese majeste law are not misleading.

And here’s where the Ministry and royalists dig themselves into a monarchist hole. In responding, the Ministry confirms the episode’s portrayal of the monarchy.





Unmaking the king’s image

16 11 2018

For those who haven’t seen it yet, Madam Secretary has commentary on Thailand’s monarchy in series 5, episode 5.

It has already been widely circulated. The commentary will be controversial because it repeats well known information which shows the monarchy as feudal.

Most controversial is the part of the show is the call for the monarchy to be brought down.

Most versions of the episode are behind paywalls or requires sign-in. However, a free access version is available here.





Making the king’s image

16 11 2018

The Bike for Mom and Bike for Dad events were junta-supported image-making efforts for King Vajiralongkorn. Both were associated with quite negative outcomes, including an alleged assassination plot and two deaths in custody. Yet the palace propagandists and the king seem to think that the image-making trumped those nasty outcomes.

So it is that Khaosod reports that the king is “set to lead thousands of cyclists in an epic bike ride across town again in December.” Apparently seeking to further obliterate the 85th anniversary of Thailand’s first “permanent” constitution, the king’s men have chosen the day before as a monarchical spectacular “River of Rattanakosin.”

Billed as “a sequel” to 2015’s Bike for Dad event, this bike ride is to begin at the much-expanded Royal Plaza “accompanied by his daughters, princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari.” The junta has been tasked with ensuring that some 40,000 cyclists “join the convoy on the 21-kilometer route to Lat Pho Park…” and back.

The monarchy image-making is intense and bears many of the hallmarks of that conducted under the previous king that eventually aimed at portraying him as a “demi-god.”





Monarchy, “ancient traditions” and neo-feudal property relations

5 11 2018

One of the things PPT repeatedly pointed out following succession was the attention the king gave to clawing back what he believes to belong to the monarchy and, specifically, the king.

Since accession, King Vajiralongkorn has overseen a rapid unwinding of arrangements regarding the relationship between crown and state that were put in place after the 1932 Revolution. These arrangements were to establish a separation of state and crown, not least in terms of the state’s funds and the those of the crown and the monarch.

The military junta agreed that the king could have total and personal control of the Crown Property Bureau, making that Bureau’s assets his personal property.

Before he came to the throne, it has been widely assumed that Vajiralongkorn was little more than a dumb hedonist. However, the efforts he has made to challenge decades-old arrangements that have long annoyed the royal family suggest that he has imbibed the anti-1932 bile that has circulated in the family. He’s showing that he follows a line of royal relatives who plotted and schemed against the People’s Party and its legacy.

The most recent change to these arrangements, reported at Khaosod, should send shivers through all property owners and businesses.

Yet another revision to the law governing the king’s assets has been promulgated.

The amended Crown Property Act “redefines the king’s possessions to include what the monarchy had accumulated under ‘ancient royal traditions.’ King Vajiralongkorn has the final say over what is included in the category.”

Further, the arbiter of disputes over, say, a plot of land, is none other than the king himself: “Any dispute over what assets are considered Crown Property under the royal ancient traditions must be referred to His Majesty’s judgment…”.

Presumably this means that, if he wants your land or other assets, the king can simply take them.

Some of this has been seen already (see here, here and here), but this retrograde law makes everyone vulnerable.

Feudalism is being restored in 21st century Thailand.





No shots at the king’s butt in neo-feudal Thailand

4 11 2018

Readers may recall that back in 2017 the king got shot in the bum or was shot at and missed while cycling in Germany. This was by so local kids using BB guns or something similar. In the end, the king didn’t press any charges, although it is not clear that the kids were old enough to be charged. In Thailand, of course, it would have been very different. The lese majeste law has been used against a juvenile.

It is known that, later in life, the fit king took up cycling. Anything a king does becomes a big deal in Thailand as promoting palace propaganda makes every royal fabulous and everything a royal does “important” for a time.

So bike riding is promoted and military ministers have to get their minions to go out and buy them expensive cycles, helmets and Lycra so they can waddle around looking like cyclists and even get on a two-wheeled means of transport that they may not have even used when they were kids. All of this for palace propaganda and displays of loyalty to whatever fad, whim or hobby the royal has.

Another example is pétanque, which was promoted hugely because it was said the then princess mother liked the European game played by oldsters.

Obsequious officials and royalists watch aged princess mother pitch a boule

In royalist Thailand, her “interest” meant that all the royal slitherers joined in, with “creation of petanque teams for the police, army, and civil service.” She dies and pétanque is not news any more. The police, army, and civil service are now all on bikes. But we digress.

It is reported that the king “will preside over the official opening of a 23.5-kilometre cycling lane at Suvarnabhumi airport on Nov 23…”. That will be almost two years after the lane was first opened. We guess the king has been busy, cycling in Germany , re-ordering the palace and so on, so the royalizing of the thing has had to wait.

The brief report states: “To make preparations for the royal visit, the Happy and Healthy Bike Lane … will be closed from Nov 12 to Nov 24 and reopened to the public on Nov 25 after the opening.” We can’t imagine what the preparations might entail, but certainly every little bump and crack will have to be smoothed out by officials for fear that the unpredictable king might stick a royal boot up an official posterior.

When opened, the track was known as Sky Lane, but the royal propagandists have had the king rename it the Happy and Healthy Bike Lane. Nothing of any significance in feudal Thailand is permitted to be unroyalled. Not even a recreational cycling track.

We also learn that the “cycling park is jointly operated by Airports of Thailand Plc and Siam Commercial Bank Plc, with the aim of making it one of the world’s best cycling tracks.” Now it’s royalled, it must be the best. Expect UN awards for the king and the cycle track. We note that the AOT is a state body and the king is the largest shareholder in the SCB.

It really is a sad spectacle when a nation is steamrollered by such propaganda. That said, we expect no pot shots at the royal butt. If there are even rumors of it, watch out!





The other Vichai story

31 10 2018

With all the eulogies for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha being wholly laudatory, BBC Sport Editor Dan Roan is in a spot of bother after being caught “talking about Vichai[‘s]… personal assistant Nusara Suknamai.” He said: “As opposed to the mistress who died in the crash, otherwise known as member of staff, i.e. mistress… family man…”.

Nusara has been described as a “[f]ormer beauty queen who was runner-up in Thailand’s Miss Universe.”

Fans of Leicester City attacked Roan, variously describing him as despicable and an enemy of the club. He was told by some that he was no longer welcome at the club. These fans lauded Vichai and hated the fact that the BBC editor had, well, told the truth.

The claims by others were uncritical and blur truth. It was Britain’s Prince William who stated:

My thoughts today are with the family and friends of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and all the victims of the terrible crash at Leicester City Football Club…. I was lucky to have known Vichai for several years. He was a businessman of strong values who was dedicated to his family and who supported a number of important charitable causes.

Vichai is next to the tall lad in red

There’s no evidence that Prince William’s claims are anything other than a repetition of the spin that has been associated with Vichai and King Power in recent years. The BBC mistress slip is just one aspect of this.

Lauding Vichai as something of a hero in the context of Leicester and Leicester City is understandable. Spin from a royal polo partner are also no surprise.

But the failure of the media to investigate more is disappointing.

After all, Vichai’s business history is of virtually inexplicable, very sudden and huge wealth. Yes, King Power is known, but the company and its founder are secretive. What is known suggests he may have grifted his way to great wealth, not least by polishing the right posteriors. Once he had great wealth, he selectively polished his own posterior by carefully managing his and the company’s limited media profile.

On the mistress claim, it is not at all odd to learn that a Sino-Thai mogul would hire an “assistant” who is a former beauty queen. That she might be a mistress is also pretty much “normal” in Thailand. Most Sino-Thai tycoons have a stable of mistresses.

And, of course, not just tycoons and not just Thailand.

But in Thailand, there’s a normalization of such relations. Politicians and military types are good examples. Gen Sarit Thanarat had a bevy of mistresses. Whispers about other leaders are only sometimes revealed, usually in squabbles over their ill-gotten gains. Examples included Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, Chatichai Choonhavan and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

And, of course, there’s the massive official silence in Thailand about the current king’s “troubled relationships with a succession of wives and mistresses.”

It is about power. For the tycoons, wealth means power and having a mistress is “normalized.” But that link between wealth, power and mistress should not be ignored.





No Red Cross Fair for the royal precinct

30 10 2018

The Bangkok Post has another story where it dares not write the whole truth.

The Thai Red Cross has long been populated by the top members of the royal family, usually the women. So why is it that the annual Red Cross Fair, held at the “Amporn Gardens near the Royal Plaza since 1957″ has to move to Lumpini Park?

While unstated, everyone knows that the king has been grabbing and closing properties through this area as he consolidates a huge “royal precinct.”

Not even the grand old Red Cross can infest his royal precinct.