Propaganda for the junta and monarch(y)

29 08 2018

While PPT was posting of Fascism and academic accommodations to it and for it, a couple of interesting stories appeared in The Nation and Khaosod that seem to reflect on the issues of academic (un)freedom, indoctrination and propaganda.

With the so-called succession crisis seemingly never really materializing, royalism and royalist propaganda for the king has moved into an even higher gear, fertilized by the junta’s fervent monarchism and anti-republicanism.

Khaosod’s story is of blunt force propaganda inflicted on students at Thammasat University by junta and royalist university administrators:

Eight people, six women and two men wearing yellow neckerchiefs and blue baseball caps, marched on stage with the precision of a military parade. Taking turns speaking over the next two hours, they described the benevolence of the Chakri dynasty in bringing peace and happiness to the people of Thailand.

The propaganda for the monarchy began with the shameful groveling of “rector Kesinee Withoonchart …[who] prostrated herself on the ground before it [a portrait of the king].”

The propagandists, “drawn from the armed forces and police” are “volunteers” in the pay of the state and are known as “Volunteers Unit 904. The number 904 is derived from the former radio call sign of the king before he was king.”

Endless palace and junta propaganda wrapped up “with people being asked to stand for a song newly written for the new king and the traditional royal anthem.” The message seems to be that the population will now endure double doses of forced erect standing that Fascists mistake for obedience.

This gross effort concluded in an entirely appropriate manner: “a question-and-answer session saw no takers from the audience.” Fascists and royalists – many of them combining these proclivities – mistake this for orderliness and attention to hierarchy.

The Nation has a more on propaganda, this time for the junta’s Deputy Dictator, the Watch Man, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Like magic, a “new Facebook page has been created to support and defend Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit …, who has been embattled with damaging scandals recently.” It seems this page is to support “Uncle Pom’s Lovely Side.” We are unsure which side that is, but we guess it is his right side.

The creation of the page is more or less an admission of guilt because of its need to manufacture “messages in support of Prawit, news reports in favour of the ruling junta, and video clips defending Prawit against allegations.” The syrupy propaganda reckons the dumpy general is “a reliable man who has been trusted by the armed forces for over five decades, and also a former commander well loved by his colleagues and ‘brothers’ in the Army.” No recommendation at all! But is does suggest that the Army is at work creating the page.





Monarchism in the new reign

29 06 2018

One of the things that critics and the international media says (repeatedly) about King Vajiralongkorn is that he does not command the same “respect” or “reverence” as his father did.

This is a shorthand for all of the eccentricities and worse associated with the king and rumored to be associated with him, ranging from odd dress to his violence and from his philandering to his use of his own prison, and so on.

It also seems to imply that, even with the palace’s formidable propaganda machine, the king will not follow in his father’s footsteps and be made out to be a popular and respected figure.

It seems to us that such beliefs and hopes are nonsense. Already, the same kinds of buffalo manure that were spread out for the dead king are also being used for the new one.

Remember all that stuff about the hysteria over the dead king’s dog Thong Daeng? Shirts and books selling out immediately, with the king’s puerile scribblings being proclaimed great works?

So it will be with the new king because maintaining monarchism is critical for the constitution of the ruling class.

So it is that Khaosod reports that shirts featuring stick figures claimed to be doodled by the king have sold out in minutes. It says many were disappointed they couldn’t get one of the shirts.

It reports that:

[h]undreds of people queued at dawn this morning in lines stretching out of the Government House to buy yellow and white polos in preparation for the [k]ing’s birthday next month. Half an hour after the shop opened at 9am, all shirts were sold out, even after they were capped at five shirts per customer.

Some royalist mouthpiece at the Prime Minister’s Office described the king’s doodling as a “cute pattern that anyone would want to keep for its auspiciousness and value, since there’s no other shirt like it in the world.”

Purchaser are reported as cooing about how wonderful the shirts are. Even Panthongtae Shinawatra, son of ousted former prime minister Thaksin, was chauffeured down to buy a shirt. Sucking up to royals is standard practice.

Meanwhile, it is said that “the palace would increase production to 3,000 shirts from 500 a day.”

Nothing seems to have changed as far as palace propaganda and the promotion of monarchism is concerned.

 





Updated: Royalism undermines popular sovereignty

14 08 2017

Everyone knows that the prince, now king, began his purges of the palace from late 2014, when he “divorced” Srirasmi. Dozens of her family and associates were jailed. Then there were the clearances that saw “unreliables” ditched, deaths in custody, lese majeste jailings and the use of a personal jail. Some fearful palace associates, now out of favor, fled the country.

This was followed by an aggregation of control to the palace. The constitution was secretly changed to accord with the king’s desires and then secret meetings of the puppet assembly gave him control over formerly state bureaucratic departments and the vast wealth of the Crown Property Bureau to the king.

Has he finished? Probably not. Fear and favor mean that an erratic king will lose interest in some people and some things and will need to be rid of them. Then he’ll desire control over other people and things.

But one of the other things that is noticeable is the “normalization” of the reign, as if nothing has changed or that the changes made are in line with the normal activities of the king and palace. Yet even this “normalization” has been a process of promoting a heightened royalism.

The media has been used recently to promote royalism. The excuse has been the queen’s 85th birthday, with a series of “stories” about “people nationwide” celebrating her birthday. Many of the photos showed military men and bureaucrats doing the celebrating.

The Dictator was especially prominent, leading the junta in an alms-giving exercise for 851 monks at the Royal Plaza, claiming it was also a tribute to the dead monarch.

More specific propaganda pieces have dwelt on “merit” and filial piety. For example, the Bangkok Post has run pictures of the king, his mother and Princess Sirindhorn making merit together.

Other royal stories include a donation to of 100 million baht to Siriraj Hospital, with the king thanking the hospital for taking care of his father. The money is said to have “come from revenue from selling his diaries featuring his drawings…”.

While we might doubt that so much money can be made from the sale of a collection of childish drawings, the junta’s support for the king has been strong and maybe it bought many diaries and distributed them.

But back to deepening royalism. The Nation reports on a “revival” of Kukrit Pramoj’s restorationist story “Four Reigns.” Kukrit was an incessant promoter of royalism, ideologue for the dictatorial General Sarit Thanarat, booster for King Bhumibol and diplomat for royalism translated for foreigners.

The Four Reigns is now Six Reigns. According to The Nation, the “restaging of Thailand’s most commercially successful musical play is more pro-absolute monarchy than ever.”

The play opens with the scene in which the spirit of Mae Phloi starts to recount her life story and confirm her unwavering love for “kings”, and the background is the familiar image of people gathering outside the wall of the Grand Palace paying respect to the late King Bhumibol.

And with the last scene showing Thai people paying respect to King Vajiralongkorn, the play now covers six, not four, reigns.

Clearly, the play … tries, more clearly than the original novel, to prove … that Thailand was much better before 1932 than after. This outdated attitude doesn’t sit too well in 2017 Thailand, as we try to build our political system from “military junta under a constitutional monarchy” to “unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy”, a kind of democracy that is already difficult to explain to our friends from many countries.

This royalism can only deepen as the cremation of the dead king approaches and as Vajiralongkorn and the junta further embed his reign and undermine notions of popular sovereignty.

Update: The new king is the old king propaganda continues, with two stories at The Nation of the king’s donations to 300 flood victims and 39 students in the south. We should add that there is no evidence provided of where the funds come from. Like royal projects, it may be that “donations” are all taxpayer funded.





Fear and unintended consequences I

18 04 2017

Yet another strange media event highlights the politics of the new reign.

Yesterday it was reported that the dead king’s funeral would take place on 26 October. Later in the day, Khaosod has published this, with the black nothingness being in the original:

Note to Readers: Removal of An Article About a Palace Announcement
Khaosod English
April 18, 2017 6:41 pm

From the Editors of Khaosod English.

Khaosod English has deleted an April 18 article about a certain statement made by the royal palace.

The story was removed because the announcement was not yet released formally by the palace, and Khaosod’s editorial management feared that the content in the article might lead to legal action.

As a news agency based in Thailand, Khaosod English is obliged to comply with Thai law. However, we strive to serve the public interest by presenting objective, accurate news reports.

That the newspaper is unable to present “objective, accurate news reports” due to the monarchy is nothing new. However, the fear that is seen in bizarre news reporting like this, under the new reign, is now part of a commentary.

We have briefly mentioned a New Mandala op-ed by Pavin Chachavalpongpun on fear in the new reign. Earlier we mentioned an op-ed by Claudio Sopranzetti also writing of fear.

While we agree that fear now seems central to the new reign under the erratic and violent King Vajiralongkorn, we do not agree with their contrasting references to the previous reign as one that was one of love and reverence. Idealizing the previous reign is a political mistake based on an incomplete reading of history.

In fact, the previous reign was also one that was defined by patronage and a feeling of impending danger, leading to bizarre politics. Yet for the earlier period of the reign there was also a political struggle as the palace sought to revive monarchy and royalism, along with its wealth and power.

It is in this sense, that the last 10 years marked the political success of that strategy, even if the king was not particularly involved, being hospitalized for the last decade or so of his reign.

Yet his proxies demonstrated a bizarre pattern of rightist and royalist politics that were a direct result of the monarchy’s manufactured position, power and influence. They fought the ghosts of the past and what they perceived as the threat to their position and power that had come from monarchism. That threat was seen in popular sovereignty.

It is in this sense that the current reign is the true and real outcome of that struggle and its politics.

Royalists have always known that Vajiralongkorn is a thug and unstable yet they now seem  somewhat confused that they have aided and abetted a new reign that sees monarchism moving towards an absolutism that they may not have contemplated.

Confusion will lead to bizarre politics and bizarre acts as those who consider themselves part of the royalist ruling class maneuver for influence.

Yet this is also a dangerous time for both the ruling class and for the monarchy as missteps in this small circle of the rich and powerful can have unintended consequences that threaten both.





The end of 1932

14 04 2017

In a highly symbolic act of vandalism, Prachatai reports that the plaque marking the 1932 revolution has been removed, stolen  and replaced with a royalist plaque. The report is confirmed at Khaosod.

According to the report, the replacement graffiti states:

May Siam prosper forever [with] happy fresh-faced citizens [who are] the force of the nation. The respect and loyalty to the Buddhist Triple Gems, to one’s family clan, and being honest towards one’s King are tools for making the state prosper.

This is an obviously royalist paean and a junta-friendly message.

The original plaque, a source of angst for royalists who viewed it as a threatening reminder of a different Thailand, looked like this:

Memorial of the Revolution on the Royal Plaza: “…ณ ที่นี้ 24 มิถุนายน 2475 เวลาย่ำรุ่ง คณะราษฎร ได้ก่อกำเนิดรัฐธรรมนูญ เพื่อความเจริญของชาติ”; “…here, in the dawn of 24 June 1932, the Khana Ratsadon has brought forth a constitution for the glory of the nation” (From Wikipedia)

It is not clear who removed the original plaque. The report of its removal implies that the vandals may have been either ultra-royalists or officials acting on orders. Khaosod’s informants suggest the former.

We suspect that the vandals are acting on orders or are seeking to be seen as loyalists. If these vandals acted on orders, then those commands must have come from on high. A new reign and a new king have no links to 1932, except those that come from within a conservative palace. In fact, we are sure that the new king is likely to view 1932 as an impediment to the further re-feudalization of monarchism.

Make no mistake, this is an act of political vandalism by a faction that feels it is putting right the “natural” order of things in Thailand, sweeping aside the remnants of 1932.

The junta has demonstrated that it is a part of this reactionary royalism based in a desire to expunge 1932.

The events of the 1932 revolution have influenced Thailand’s politics for 85 years. The overthrow of absolute monarchy on 24 June 1932 set in place a conflict between conservative royalists and anti-royalists that see-sawed until about 1957, when General Sarit Thanarat set about a process of re-monarchizing Thailand.

Since then, the royalists have regained much of the political ground, rolling back much of the change initiated by those who overthrew the absolute monarchy. The reign that began in 1946, in the midst of that political struggle by princes and arch-royalists who mostly came together in the Democrat Party, led to a thoroughgoing monarchization of not just politics but of society.

Images and reminders of 1932 have been erased. So much so, that the Proclamation of the revolutionists is now seen by ultra-royalists as lese majeste:

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





Feel the repression

14 04 2017

The repressive military dictatorship continues to behave badly. It says it behaves badly because the people cannot be trusted. Well, that’s our interpretation of what they are saying, but that’s the message.

And when they say these things, they also lie.

Recall that the use of Article 44 has been carried over into the 2017 constitution. “Liberal” critics complain about this, but they miss the point: this is an “illiberal” constitution that seeks to limit popular sovereignty.

The junta and The Dictator have said that the use of Article 44 would be limited and only for really important stuff. Then The Dictator promptly used it for a special interest group of schools.

The Bangkok Post reports on the junta’s statements on its need for Article 44, noting the Army chief’s defense of the draconian power that resorts to knee-jerk monarchism:

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha needs to retain his wide-reaching Section 44 powers for the sake of security and for maintaining peace for the late King’s royal cremation as well as the coronation of [the new] … King….

Junta member General Chalermchai Sitthisart declared that Article 44 “remains an essential instrument for maintaining security.”

He maintained that after three years of junta control and repression, the military and the junta has failed, at least in its own terms. Again, they are our words, but that’s what he’s saying when he opines that “the security situation has been fairly stable although anti-government elements were staging movements ‘to stir up trouble’.”

Article 44 is also essential to the junta’s control of politics as it manages any “election” it decides to hold and win.

Gen Chalermchai then went strange, declaring “the army would never again seize power – because it would not have to.” He’s either lost his marbles, been drinking or really means that the military won’t act against the junta? But this is strange indeed.

By saying: “I can confirm that there won’t be a coup,” he’s really saying that there is coup talk about.

On his ridiculous royalism, why does the junta need Article 44 to “ensure a smooth arrangement for the royal funeral, expected towards the end of October, and of the coronation…”?

Is this simply using the monarchy for the junta’s gain? Or is it another admission of the junta’s failure? Or is it a fear that if anything goes wrong, then the junta’s future is at stake. If the latter, then they can blame themselves for manufacturing monarchism as a justification for military rule.

Meanwhile, The Dictator warned people that if “the exercise of people’s rights and freedom can go unchecked, [then] this could lead to conflicts…”. In other words, the repression continues. Just to emphasize this, he warned the media that it should not encourage people to exercise their rights.





Supporting feudal monarchism

8 02 2017

We know that the military dictatorship has little sense of irony. It seems part of the UN has caught the lack of irony disease. That lack of perception means that, as it has done previously, UN offices manage to collude in creating and reinforcing feudal monarchism in Thailand.

pattyWe say this based on a report in the Bangkok Post that “… the King’s daughter … Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol is to become a goodwill ambassador for the rule of law in Southeast Asia, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced on Wednesday.”

The irony of appointing a royal, protected by a feudal law and from a country ruled by a military dictatorship that illegally seized power and now uses military courts and thumbs its nose at rule of law, in favor of rule by law, seems lost on this UN office.

In fact, UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas is quoted as stating: “She doesn’t see herself as above the law and is interested in helping out to advance justice reform…”.

In fact, she is above the law. While in its written form the lese majeste law does not apply to her, every Thai knows that, in practice, she is “protected,” just like dead kings and deceased king’s dogs.

How a feudal “princess would help to promote justice reform” in “Thailand as well as the rest of Southeast Asia” is not clear. After all, her experience is of Thailand’s compromised and politicized “justice” system.

Yes, we know she allegedly has “a special interest in prison issues, particularly women in prison,” but even the UNODC website has little about this since this “interest” was happened upon back in 2008-9.

In an earlier post, we speculated that palace’s need to reorient its propaganda to promote the new king and his (official) family. As in the past, UN offices are targeted in this effort to promote feudal institutions.