Updated: Taxpayers slugged for royal whims

28 03 2020

Long in trouble, bleeding money and with a President who has recently resigned, the coronavirus is a disaster for the struggling Thai Airways.

How to make it worse? Force the airline to keep flying to suit the king’s whims and fancies.

Thai Airways has announced that, from 1 April, it will cease flying to almost all of its European destinations. Compare the destination list and the cancellations and it is seen that flights will continue to Munich and Zurich.

The only reason for these flights continuing flights to Munich is because King Vajiralongkorn is living in Germany, currently ensconced in a luxury hotel where he rents every room.

Why Zurich? Andrew McGregor Marshall has previously reported that Queen Suthida prefers to hang out in luxury resorts in the mountains of Switzerland. The king has been reported holidaying and cycling in Switzerland too.

Marshall has also reported that the king plans to return to Bangkok early in April for a few days.

In other words, in a country where the regime has few funds are available for the poor – and they are hardest hit by the virus crisis – the Thai taxpayer is forking out extra millions for the country’s richest person to do as he pleases.

Update: The slug for taxpayers came faster than we imagined. In a report we missed at the time we wrote the above post, Khaosod has reported that the regime “will inject a new round of cash bailout for Thai Airways, whose operations have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.” Of course, some of that bailout will fund the king’s and queen’s travels. The exact amount to be paid remains unknown as “the state enterprise board is discussing with the airline and transport ministry on the details of the financial assistance.” The report notes that “[a]ccording to … February data, Thai Airways has an accumulative loss of 12 billion baht.”

Royalism trumps virus

27 03 2020

When it comes to the virus, the regime remains muddled and dopey. When it comes to pleasing the king, the regime is conducting business as usual.

Khaosod reports that the absent and silent king has “approved a name change for two military bases, ditching the names of two revolutionaries behind the 1932 democratic revolt.”

The “Phahol Pholphayuhasena Artillery Center and Fort Pibulsongkram in Lopburi province are hereby known as Fort Bhumibol and Fort Sirkit, respectively, after the names of King’s Vajiralongkorn’s parents.”

By his repeated actions, it is obvious that the king feels the need to roll back 1932. At the same time, he feels the need to build his legitimacy by drawing on the status of his dead father and ill mother.

The change was made “retroactively effective from December 2019.”

The king’s travels and troubles II

26 03 2020

Andrew MacGregor Marshall continues to post some fabulous reports at his Facebook page regarding the travails of King Vajiralongkorn in times of the corona (crown) virus.

Before we get to that, we should note several unflattering international reports on the king’s recent exploits.

Daily Mail, 23 Mar 2020: ‘Why do we need a king?’

South China Morning Post, 22 Mar 2020: Coronavirus: Thai king remains in Germany during pandemic

Royal Central, 24 Mar 2020: King of Thailand rents entire hotel in Germany for his harem

The Times, 24 Mar 2020: Thais protest as king takes holiday amid coronavirus crisis

An Australian news site that usually follows royals has the essence of the story. It notes that “one king has gone to great lengths to maintain his luxurious lifestyle in the wake of the virus.” It says that Vajiralongkorn “has rented out every single room of a hotel in Germany so he can self-isolate with his harem of 20 women and his servants.”

While German hotels have been mostly closed, “the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl applied for, and received a special permit to house the king and his company.” No, not Grand Hotel Sonofabitch but Sonnenbichl. The luxury hotel’s website currently states: “Due to high demand, we apologize for our current limited room availability. Please feel free to contact our Reception team for questions and individual requests.”

The report continues:

The 67-year-old Thai King, a regular in Germany already, often residing in his $12 million mansion at Lake Starnberg, has been spotted enjoying the facilities of the luxury hotel, riding his bike outside with several of the women in his harem.

It is unclear why the expensive residence in Tutzing is not “appropriate” at this time for the multi-billionaire king. Or why he needs a special location when the official advice states: “According to guidelines local authorities will be required Hotels to provide stays only if strictly necessary and not for touristic purposes.”

How much of his copious state funds pay for all of this?

While things might change, especially if there’s negative reaction, back at Marshall’s Facebook page, he has a post stating that:

King Vajiralongkorn is due to arrive in Thailand early on April 6 to preside over Chakri Day rituals, and will leave after the start of Songkran on April 15, high-level sources say.

He will be flying Thai Airways, which has few European destinations remaining on its schedule apart from Munich and Zurich which have been used by the king and queen in the past.

We wonder how he can return to Germany after that. Has he got dispensation just like the hotel deal? Has he got German residence? Does being in his expensive digs count as isolation time when he gets to Thailand? We are sure readers have even more questions.

Updated: The king’s travels and troubles I

24 03 2020

With the king getting plenty of stick on social media, we looked around to see where he was. He’s now in Germany.

Everyone knows that King Vajiralongkorn prefers to spend most of his time in Germany. It seems that even with the startling rise in Germany’s coronavirus numbers, the king would rather be there.

PPT doesn’t track the king’s movements, but some do. Andrew MacGregor Marshall does a really fine job of this and has some excellent reporting. His Facebook page is an great source of information on the king’s travels and travails.

Unfortunately, it may be blocked in Thailand. So let us summarize a couple of his recent posts. We think these are critical parts of the current discussion of the  king and monarchy, which cost the Thai taxpayer at least a billion dollars this year.

Marshall has recently released documents that show that the king is still requiring “soldiers selected for the Royal Guard to go to training camps, despite the increased risk of spreading COVID-19” in Thailand.

He reveals that “[t]wo training camps, one for 432 and the other for 421 soldiers, are due to start on April 1 at military bases in Saraburi and Sa Kaeo provinces” for up to 3 months.

It would be hoped that some better sense might prevail before the camps assemble. Marshall quotes an army source:

Vajiralongkorn and his high-ranking officers are not interested in changing or postponing the training. That shows that they don’t care about the health and safety of military personal who are coerced to go to training. They only care about drafting more people to be their servants, and the number is going to increase each year.”

Of course, Vajiralongkorn won’t be there. As Marshall shows in another post, he’s in Germany, where Bild newspaper headlines (and Marshall provides the English translation):

𝗧𝗵𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗱’𝘀 𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲𝘀 𝗹𝘂𝘅𝘂𝗿𝘆 𝗕𝗮𝘃𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗮𝗻 𝗵𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗹 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗵𝗼𝗺𝗲

…𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘮 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘰

𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘻𝘦𝘯𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘳𝘶𝘭𝘦𝘴, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘭𝘶𝘹𝘶𝘳𝘺 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘭𝘪𝘮𝘪𝘵𝘴!

The four-star “Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl” in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is closed due to the strict coronavirus rules. Technically. Because for Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn (67), known as Rama X, the closure does not apply.

The luxury hotel applied for a “special permit” for the heavily wealthy monarch (56 billion euros in assets) with a registration address in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg on March 18 — and received it!

The official explanation, in response to questions from BILD:… “The guests are a single, homogeneous group of people with no changes.”

Even more: The “Sonnenbichl” is no longer classified as a hotel, but as a residential building. So Rama X and his entourage — including 20 women from his “harem” — are allowed to use the hotel privately and lavishly.

Exit restrictions? “No contact” rules? They do not apply to the king’s entourage.

BILD has learned that the king is said to have sent 119 employees back to Bangkok by plane (flight TG925) because of suspected coronavirus.

But the Thai royal party ignores the virus danger, cheerfully taking bicycle trips into the town.

Drawn attention by BILD to the reports of coronavirus among the royal entourage, the district office responded: “We know nothing about this.”

If they can, readers should be following Marshall on these stories and more.

Update: Marshall reports now that the training exercises have been postponed – see his Facebook page.

Giving the king some stick

23 03 2020

As we mentioned yesterday, there’s criticism of the monarchy about. Reuters reports that the “coronavirus pandemic led to a rare surge of online posts in Thailand questioning the monarchy…”.

Some of the criticism of Vajiralongkorn is at Royal World Thailand – รอยัล เวิลด์ ประเทศไทย.

Reuters refers to a “Thai-language hashtag that translates to #whydoweneedaking?[which] was one of the top trending topics on Twitter in Thailand after an overseas Thai activist posted about King … Vajiralongkorn continuing to travel in Germany during the coronavirus crisis.”

The report adds:

The hashtag questioning the monarchy was used more than 1.2 million times in 24 hours by Sunday, according to data on Twitter based on hashtags trending for users in Thailand.

Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta warned “against breaking laws on online content, accompanied by an image of a handcuffed hand above a keyboard.”

Confusion, king and royalist “advice”

22 03 2020

While there’s plenty of confusion over the virus, some of it in the Thai government is truly bizarre.

The Bangkok Post reports on Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat’s initial response to Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang’s order for a “soft shutdown” in the city was unforgivable. She “warned the public to be aware of ‘fake news’ and to ‘only believe in information released by the government and government agencies’.”

As the Post observes, “she doubted the order’s authenticity, which also means she didn’t have the faintest idea that malls were indeed being closed at the governor’s order…”.

Making things worse, “the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) revised the order and issued another one just a few hours later.”

Such confusion sends people into panics.

Not confused are those in the regime responsible for “protecting” the king. He’s been getting plenty of criticism and his people are worried about the extent of abuse, So, as Andrew MacGregor Marshall reports, they are threatening lese majeste charges.

And, then, there’s the balmy royalists like TV “personality” Patcharasri “Kalamare” Benjamas who went bonkers on her “fan page”:

This isn’t the first crisis our nation has faced, is it – we’ve been through the floods, the Tom Yum Kung crisis, the burning of our city (red shirts) …this isn’t the first time, there’s no need to panic. We’ve made it through it all….

Her “advice”?

Thailand is such a sacred nation. You should know how many Bodhisattvas we have, we have the king, we have angels and sacred beings protecting us…very tightly! Just think of him.

His silentness will do the job. Maybe she means the dead one, which is the usual royalist bull buffalo manure.

Rulers and the Future Forward threat

18 03 2020

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a long story that revolves around the challenge that the now dissolved Future Forward Party posed to Thailand’s conservative ruling class.

We won’t repeat all of the story, but will emphasize a couple points that mirror commentary at PPT and elsewhere on “The Threat.”

(Again, we should point out that Crispin maintains a ludicrous definition of Thailand as “democratic” when refers to the rigged 2019 election as “democracy-restoring.” That’s just dumb.)

In discussing Future Forward’s dissolution and the banning of its leaders from politics for 10 years, Crispin does allow that this was perceived “as a highly politicized Constitutional Court decision.” And, he’s right to note that replacement party and associated movement remains “on a collision course with ex-coup-maker Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-ocha’s military-aligned coalition government.”

(We are not sure how a coup-maker becomes an ex-coup-maker? Just sloppy writing perhaps.)

And, as we recently posted, the “collision” could come soon now that the puppet Election Commission has filed “criminal charges that threaten to land Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit], banned secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and ex-spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, widely seen as the ex-party’s progressive triumvirate, in prison.”

Crispin observes that some analysts think that the “slew of other pending legal threats aim to drive Thanathorn, Piyabutr and Pannika into exile from the kingdom, extinguishing their promised new movement’s threat to Prayut[h] before it has a chance to fully coalesce.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth is expendable. What is being “protected” is the broader ruling class. Prayuth is merely its servant.

The Threat is clear, explained by Thanathorn:

The people against the military, the rest against the rich, hope against fear, the future against the past…. If we win the battle of ideas, we will win all other battles…. At it’s core, at the heart of this political crisis, is this question: in Thailand who does the power belong to?

It is noted that, “[w]hile in Parliament, Future Forward took hard aim at the military and its top brass, calling for constitutional reforms and accountability…”. Perhaps even more threatening was that Future Forward targeted the big Sino-Thai tycoons and their enormous and sprawling conglomerates:

including the ThaiBev and Charoen Pokphand Group, that arguably benefitted the most from Prayut’s junta government while poverty rates rose and donated generously to bankroll his rise as an elected leader via the military-backed Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP).

And then the biggest threat of all:

in October, the party voted against the Prayut government’s surprise declaration of an emergency decree that gave a legal basis for King Vajiralongkorn to take personal control of two elite infantry divisions, the 1st and 11th, nominally to provide better security for the royal family.

It seems – based on anonymous sources – that Thanathorn and Piyabutr were warned by the king but ignored this:

Clipped from Khaosod

That perceived challenge of royal power, two well-placed sources claim, happened despite Thanathorn and Piyabutr speaking with the monarch by telephone from Germany during a September meeting with army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a palace loyalist and son of a coup-maker.

As Crispin explains, it was soon after this that Gen Apirat “launched his now notorious speech, replete with slides of Vajiralongkorn in military garbs during his communist-fighting days in the 1970’s, labeling Future Forward as a ‘leftist’ threat.”

He then makes an important observation:

That raises questions about whether a broad conservative coalition of military, big business and royalists may have been behind the Election Commission’s push and Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve Future Forward and ban Thanathorn from politics, as well as the follow-up threat to imprison the party’s former executives.

Citing a “government advisor, who requested anonymity” – probably the odious Panitan Wattanayagorn – the regime seems to believe that The Threat  may have been seen off:

“They moved too fast and now they’re gone…. It will be nearly impossible for them to come back through the streets,” he added, noting the army’s stern warnings against staging protests in public spaces.