Burying Constitution Day

11 12 2018

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

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

As might be expected, the story is vague.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further updated: Biking with the king

10 12 2018

With all the hoopla associated with the king’s latest self-promoting bike ride yesterday, we have been trying to find the usual grossly inflated figures for the number involved. As has been the case for several decades, big turnouts are important for demonstrating “popularity.”

Sadly, the reports we have seen mention “thousands” but not much else. There are also loads of photos and videos of the king in Lycra and helmet but showing relatively small numbers of other cyclists. The Nation reports “thousands of participants and spectators.” We did notice spectators along the route, but again the numbers seemed low and there was obviously a rent-a-crowd or, more accurately, order-a-crowd.

Some social media accounts say there were almost 700,000 nationwide, but that sounds more  like a Ministry of Interior fudge as it doesn’t match the vision or images.

NHK reported that “[a]bout 3,500 people joined” the ride in Bangkok. We assume tens of thousands of extra parking spots were empty.

At Andrew MacGregor Marshal’s Facebook page, he’s spent considerable effort linking to social media posts complaining about delays, road closures, river closures and more. He also writes that the king showed up several hours late. We haven’t seen that reported elsewhere, but then Thailand’s media isn’t about to discuss such matters for fear of the dire consequences.

The king appeared with daughters and concubines. We didn’t notice the usual junta limpets involved.

We guess that, despite the seemingly small crows, the regime, palace and dutiful media will crow about a rousing success.

Update 1: There’s been a death among participants in the king’s bikeathon. Sitthichai Banjerdsuk reportedly dies of a heart attack. The king is sponsoring the funeral. Without trying to be too macabre, it needs to be pointed out that his is not the first death associated with this kind of palace propaganda event (see here and here). Their “auspiciousness” is greatly reduced by such deaths.

Update 2: It turns out that there are now two reported deaths from the latest biking event.

Royal bike ride bigger than Ben Hur

30 11 2018

It is getting bigger than Ben Hur. The royal “warmth” and “love” bike ride is now having its second rehearsal, following the “opening” of the route around the airport earlier this month, with the arrangements for getting the royal free stuff are highly complex.

We guess this might be a way of avoiding the Bike for Dad problems, including an alleged assassination plot and two deaths in custody.

The news is coming thick and fast on this royal event, which must also be an event the junta wants to see go well as any problem could be seen as an ill omen for the upcoming “election.”

The king recently ordered a ceremony where he “graciously bestowed t-shirts and drinking water for the benefit of participants in the upcoming Bike Un Ai Rak event.” That means his minions arranged the distribution of the stuff into the government hierarchy and it will presumably be handed to lower ranks until it eventually gets to the participants at the bottom of the feeding chain.

The reporting reflects an anal retentive atmosphere at the palace, noting that the “ceremony was held at the 606 Building of the Royal Household Bureau in Sanam Suea Pa.” The king’s most important minion, ACM Satitpong Sukvimol, the Director-General of the Crown Property Bureau and Lord Chamberlain “presided” over a “dedication ceremony on behalf of … the King…”.

Reflecting how much of a big deal this is, the “Supreme Commander, Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office and Governors from all 76 provinces of the Kingdom received the t-shirts, which will be distributed to the participants in the nation-wide biking event…”. The shirts are significant because the king “personally designed the t-shirt,” which come with his cartoons on them. These look a lot like the stick figures that once became common as stickers on the backs of SUVs.

Dozens of roads are to be closed for 7 hours, for both rehearsal and event, causing major traffic problems and the deployment of tens of thousands of police, bureaucrats and soldiers. Rehearsals also have to be held in all provinces.

The military has had separate security rehearsals:

Army Region 1 Commander Lt Gen Narongphan Jitkaeotae has conducted a rehearsal of security detail for … the King as well as protection of riders in the Bike Un Ai Rak event. The rehearsal included congestion, 20 risk spots, hard turns, inclines, narrow passes and steep roads. Soldiers have installed signs to warn riders where they need to slow down to between 15 and 20 kph, and placed special warnings 200 and 50 meters ahead of risk spots. More personnel will be stationed on the day to advise participants on safety.

The expense for all of this lauding of the king and polishing his image is huge.

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.”

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!

On the lese majeste regime

17 10 2018

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a longish piece on lese majeste. He’s making a point about a seeming change to the lese majeste regime that has been noted by several analysts for several weeks, but still has some points worth considering.

He focuses on the controversial dropping of Sulak Sirivaksa’s Article 112 case when he “appealed to monarch [King] … Vajiralongkorn for a royal reprieve.”

Sulak “claims the case was stopped after King Vajiralongkorn advised Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha on the situation.”

Readers should note that this claim runs contrary to the palace’s long-held propaganda claim that the monarchy does not interfere in lese majeste cases. (There were several instances where the previous king and his palace did intervene, but the propaganda has been otherwise.)

Sulak is quoted as stating: “If the case went to the military tribunal, they were bound to put me in jail without any law, because the law doesn’t mean anything to them…”. Sulak is partly correct in this guess, but, then, no lese majeste case has ever stuck for him.

He says The Dictator was uninterested until the king intervened: “… when the King told him to drop the case, obviously it was royal advice that worked.”

Crispin suggests that the huge lese majeste “clampdown has come against the backdrop of what was once seen as an uncertain royal succession…”, ignoring the fact that the rise in the use of lese majeste predates the 2014 coup. PPT sees the use of Article 112 as a part of political efforts to rid Thailand of republicanism and to defeat the red shirts.

How Crispin concludes that the “military top brass [is]… now seemingly poised to relinquish power at democracy-restoring polls early next year…” is beyond our comprehension. However, he is right to see “signs that the fearsome law will be used less frequently, if at all, under the new reign,” although he does not note that the crown prince-cum-king was fearsome himself in the use of lese majeste against persons he saw as personal enemies. This included deaths in custody.

Sulak is then cited on his discussions with the king. He “says King Vajiralongkorn recognized the law’s past abuse for political purposes in a recent personal audience he had with the King where he offered his royally sought advice on myriad issues.”

Presumably Sulak has been given royal permission to say these things; that is, he is the king’s messenger. He does this by adhering to palace propaganda about the dead king: “I told the King his father said that clearly – it’s on record – that anybody that makes the case of lese majeste harms him personally and undermines the monarchy…”.

He then says that in his own case, “you can say publicly the king wrote personally to the Supreme Court and Attorney General, and since then there have been no new cases under [Article] 112.”

Sulak, adding to the new royalist discourse on the new monarchy, says that the recent dropping of 112 charges “are indicative of the new King’s ‘mercy’.” As with all royalist discourse, this involves untruths: “[King Bhumibol] regarded himself as a constitutional monarch, so he would not interfere,” but of course he did.  Sulak says of the previous king: “He used an indirect way, the Siamese way, he talked to the judges, he talked to the public prosecutor, but then many ignored his advice.” Of course, this is nonsense.

Interestingly, Sulak claims: “it is clear now that future cases will only be accepted for investigation and prosecution with the royal household’s consent. That, he says, marks a change from father to son.”

That is good news, perhaps. There remain about 60 cases of lese majeste still under the purview of prosecutors and the judiciary. But is is not such good news to have it confirmed that Vajiralongkorn is a determined interventionist, likely to ignore law, parliament and judiciary. Sulak states: “… the present King, unlike his father, he not only advises, he instructs…”.

As Crispin notes:

King Vajiralongkorn has moved with an alacrity and purpose in consolidating his reign that few diplomatic and other observers anticipated or foresaw upon his acceptance of the throne in late 2016. That’s entailed a recentralization of royal power….

Sulak seems to revel in his new role as royal spokesman. But beware the royalist who speaks for royal power.

The creation of palace propaganda

7 09 2018

Remember those kids who were rescued from the cave, several of whom were stateless, as were their families. A wonderfully uplifting story. But even at the time, we expressed some reservations about the uses being made of their predicament and rescue for state and royal propaganda (here, here, here, here and here).

Readers might recall the picture of what we now learn are royal volunteers for the king, all decked out in the king’s new uniform, cleaning up. Now there’s also the claim that these very same volunteers fed 4,000 people a day at the site of the rescue mission, although we have to say we didn’t see them during the endless broadcasts from the site at the time. We are thinking that the claim is a belated capturing of the event for the king.

But even if they were there, the propaganda value for the palace is being wrung out of the event. After all, it is a chance for the new king to be portrayed as a wonderful chap, in Thailand and internationally.

A story about the “royal sponsored” celebration of the rescue reminds us of how palace propaganda is made.

The young footballers have been lined up and spruced up so they can be seen to show “their appreciation to His Majesty the King and all people involved in the mission.” In Thailand just thanking “all people involved in the mission” cannot be permitted. The top royal has to get in on the act, whether he’s directing the getting in or the junta is doing it in his name. They proclaimed: “We all appreciate the concern and kindness of His Majesty the King…”.

It seems they were then uniformed up in the new king’s favorite gear: “Wearing yellow shirts and baseball caps, the boys recounted their ordeal and the moment rescuers found them.”

These seem like nice kids and their story is a great one. But that makes them fodder for palace propaganda.

We highlight this because we think that it won’t be very long before the international media will be using the same kinds of lines applied to Bhumibol for Vajiralongkorn. We are looking out for the first use of “revered.” Remember how palace propaganda is made because many have forgotten how it was made for Bhumibol.