Updated: Failing virus fight

17 07 2021

Sadly, it seems reasonably certain that Thailand’s authorities are losing the fight against the virus. It should not be forgotten that for over a year, the country did well, after several errors, gaffes and arrogant missteps, with the regime largely staying out of the way. Since early in 2021, this changed, with more errors and a botched vaccine procurement and rollout.

The big bet the regime made on vaccines was to lay out for the king’s Siam Bioscience, aiming to provide the palace with bucketloads of propaganda. But, the company was inexperienced, small, and lacking personnel and equipment. For the background on the king’s company, see this recent report.

Finally, AstraZeneca, which has been opaque everywhere, has admitted that it is unable to produce the contracted doses. The company has said it “currently has local capacity to produce only 15-16 million doses per month, 5-6 million of which are reserved for Thailand…”. The target most often cited was 10 million doses a month.

This has led AstraZeneca to ask the “Public Health Ministry to extend the timeline for delivery of 61 million doses to Thailand from the end of this year to May 2022.”

It is unclear if Siam Bioscience is producing 15-16 million doses. If it is, it must be sending them to other countries, but we have seen no evidence of that, but maybe we missed it.

Thai PBS reports that “the government will still negotiate for as much monthly supply as possible.” There was also discussion of imposing “limits on exports of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine because the country doesn’t have enough for its own needs.” That statement seems more like a shot in the dark than a shot in the arm.

Meanwhile, Thai Enquirer asks questions about unanswered questions. Following from others, it asks “why Buriram is getting more Covid vaccines than many other provinces that should have gotten it first.”

The report states that “according to the government’s allocation plan in May, Buriram is one of the top ten provinces to receive the locally made AstraZeneca vaccines, ranking at number nine and above Pathum Thani which is the site of several outbreaks.” Pathum Thani has had 10 times as may cases as Buriram.

Thai Enquirer summarizes: “In short, Buriram is getting more vaccines per capita than many of the hardest hit provinces.” And it observes: “everyone in the country knows that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, is largely dependent on the godfather of Buriram and the real leader of Bhumjaithai Party, Newin Chidchob.”

And, of course, the rich and the well-connected are jumping vaccine and hospital lines all over the country.

Update: It goes from bad to worse for the military-backed regime. Leaked letters between AstraZeneca in the UK and the government reveal that the “Ministry of Public Health only requested 3 million doses per month in an agreement with the vaccine manufacturer last September.” In that letter, “AstraZeneca … also urged the Thai government to join the COVAX program to get more vaccines to its citizens, something that the government has not done.”

The letter also reveals that the “letter of intent” was signed with the MOPH, the king’s Siam Bioscience and SCG – Siam Cement Group, where the king is also in control.

While the letter states that one-third of local production will go to Thailand, the letter appears to state that no vaccine had yet been exported from Siam Bioscience (although the letter is somewhat vague), saying the other governments have shown “great patience” in waiting for vaccine.





Hundreds dead, royal honored

7 07 2021

With thousands of virus cases every day and now more than 2,000 deaths, and with the vaccination program deeply troubled, senior bureaucrats still have time for making royals look good (or so they think).

The latest pile of royal manure is reported in the Bangkok Post, where the dubious news that

the cabinet – surely it has better and more important things to do? – decided “to mark the princess’s 64th birthday on July 4 and to pay tribute to …[her] receiving a PhD degree in visual arts from the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University.”

We are guessing, but assume that the degree is another of the mandatory tasks of all Thai universities, as they fall over themselves to devalue all degrees they issue by awarding honorary degrees to dolts who happen to be born royal.

The new Thai font, which it is claimed the very ill princess “bestowed” is unflinchingly named after her, as ”Chulabhorn Likhit.” It will now be “adopted as one of the sets of standard fonts for use by state agencies.” Presumably there will be eagle-eyed royalists watching out to ensure it is used.

Some dopey official, now buried under a pile of buffalo manure, claimed the “newly-adopted characters are versatile and they will help preserve the integrity of Thai writing.”





Short on good sense and vaccine

14 06 2021

The regime’s vaccine rollout is spluttering and seems to have pretty much failed to meet expectations.

Let’s be clear on the reason for this. It is because Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and, we suspect, the palace decided that they could get some excellent royalist propaganda by betting on the AstraZeneca vaccine and the ill-prepared and tiny Siam Bioscience. By producing AstraZeneca at the king’s company, they reckoned – like dams, water supplies, roads, rain and more – they could convince the public that the king had saved the country from the virus.

VaccineAs they were warned ages ago, this was a fraught strategy.

Now it is looking like a PR failure for regime and palace. The reports of shortages are everywhere.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has postponed Covid-19 vaccination for people who have registered via Thai Ruam Jai website.

Hospitals across the country are in trouble on vaccines, causing Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to deny “that the Public Health Ministry has anything to do with the postponement of vaccination appointments, scheduled for this week, by numerous private and state hospitals and health centres in Bangkok and other provinces.” As in previous buck-passing, he cannot tell the truth: that Siam Bioscience can’t produce sufficient vaccine. To do so would be to criticize the king.

The vulnerable are being left behind in vaccine rollout as it becomes more privatized and it is dog-eat-dog in getting a shot, meaning the rich are okay but the poor, the aged, and such groups are left behind.

Now, the “Rural Doctors Society is demanding that the government, and the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), tell the truth about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines…”.

Truth is not the regime’s usual approach to problems. When it involves the monarchy, PR/fake news and silences are standard. The more usual approach in dealing with criticism is repression and threats, not transparency.





Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”





A royal shemozzle I

27 05 2021

It has been an exceptionally busy 24-36 hours for the regime’s virus “strategy.” Failures, turnarounds and a royal intervention point to a shemozzle. More significantly, they point to a royal/royalist failure and a rescue attempt.

The media is reflecting a broader discontent as it refers to the aspects of the vaccine “rollout” as a “fiasco” and talk of corruption hampering the regime’s response to thousands of cases a day, pointing to human smuggling:

In January, Gen Prayut set up a special panel to tackle labour smuggling, but it’s unclear what the panel has really achieved.

By setting up such a panel, the government hoped to appease critics, by giving the impression something was being done, when in fact the opposite was more accurate. The panel also gives credence to the belief that regular mechanisms are dysfunctional or beset with graft…. It’s an open secret that unscrupulous officials are involved in these activities.

It seemed clear to most people that there were major problems unresolved:

In October last year, the government chose the AstraZeneca vaccine as its main weapon against COVID-19. However, arming itself with AstraZeneca shots has proved difficult, and it now looks like the shortage will last longer than expected.

Then, in no particular order, a series of revelations pointed to the deadly results of the shemozzle. First, there was the report that the surge of virus cases in prisons continues, despite an earlier assurance from the Corrections Department that it could “bring the situation under control.” It has only gotten worse and deadly. The Corrections Department has now “reported 1,243 new infections and three deaths among inmates, raising the total number of prison cases to 17,138.” Being in prison now means almost certain virus infection and the possibility of death.

Second, it is clear that the cases among mostly migrant workers in construction camps around Bangkok are rivalling the rates in prisons, and the response is essentially to lock the workers up, infected and uninfected (so far) together. Businesses wanted to keep working and their profits rely on migrant workers. Leaky borders require official connivance in keeping wages low and migrants in shit conditions, even as they are infected and die.

Third, the regime began panicked changes to its own virus measures.

Vaccine registration through app Mor Prom was suddenly suspended. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s explanation that this was “to forestall a bottleneck” seems to confirm that the vaccines are just not available in sufficient quantity to meet demand. We had posted on the delays to vaccine availability earlier, associated with the king’s company Siam Bioscience. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had announced that “Thailand would take delivery of another lot of AstraZeneca vaccine in June.” He then added: “that this did not mean they would be available on June 1,” saying: “If the shots made in Thailand are not ready, the company is bound to find them from somewhere else to fill our order as stipulated in the contract…”. This probably put him in conflict with the monarch’s outfit and he may well have been saying that he wasn’t prepared to wear the criticism for Siam Bioscience’s failings.

Then, the palace responded (that’s how it appears to us). Overnight on Wednesday, without fanfare, a peculiar announcement appeared at the Royal Gazette website, purportedly signed by the ailing Princess Chulabhorn and on behalf of her personal fiefdom, the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy and Chulabhorn Institute.

It declared that:

the academy had granted its secretary-general the power to enter into a trade agreement with public and private organisations, both domestic and overseas, in matters relating to the provision of medical and public health services during the emergency situation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement added that:

…all medical equipment, drugs and vaccines imported by the academy would be considered its property for the purpose of medicine and public health and will not be liable to any kind of legal execution.

The “academy” promises to provide more information on how it plans to procure and import Covid-19 vaccine from Sinopharm.

As we know, earlier in the week, “Bio Genetech Ltd, an importer of Sinopharm’s Covilo vaccine, had submitted complete documentation to register the vaccine for use in Thailand and expected approval to come soon.” We can’t find any information on that company, but it may well be a Thai subsidiary of a Chinese company. WHO information on the vaccine is here. Information on Sinopharm is available here.

Thai Enquirer has two reports. One says of the announcement:

The announcement, which was ambiguously worded, could be interpreted to say that the institute would now be able to bypass government red-tape [regulations] and bring it vaccines as it sees fit…. [It] also gives the organizations sweeping powers to carry out work….

But the other report goes entirely royalist being written by the deeply yellow Fuadi Pitsuwan. While noting that the right to procure and import vaccines “was reserved for only the Thai government,” it somehow construes the power grab as “most certainly a benevolent gesture by the Institute,” adding that “it highlights the royal frustration and the split among the ruling elites over how the Prayuth government is handling the crisis.” It babbles on:

HRH Princess Chulabhorn is taking the matter in her own hands. She is trying to do what she can to alleviate the dire healthcare situation and to compensate for the delay in vaccine procurement by the Ministry of Health and its relevant agencies.

This is self-censoring rubbish to avoid Article 112, adding:

But the royal move, exercised in this manner however well-intentioned, calls into question the political legitimacy of the government and its authority in the management of the crisis. It is a no-confidence censure and a royal rebuke of both Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and Minister of Health Anutin Charnveerakul.

To be fair, the report notes dangers in another royal interference.

When our top institution becomes too involved in people’s welfare, whether it exercises that power directly or through an agency, it exposes itself to being politicized and thus such a move is a double-edged sword that could end up hurting its own reputation and sanctity.

It adds:

For now, we can be sure that the ruling elites have split and that move by … Chulabhorn has highlighted the royal anxiety over the government’s mishandling of the crisis. What this means in practice is that our government is no longer in control of its health care apparatus and there is a functioning, competing alternative health-care system led by … Chulabhorn herself.

And, the author does worry about a broader royal takeover:

If Prayuth and Anutin do not step up their game quickly, it will be to no one’s surprise when a more powerful intervention beyond the healthcare arena finally takes place

This latter point is certainly true. The royal family is politically dangerous. But, while we think this general interpretation of the intervention could be true it  misses a lot because of its royalist spinelessness.

We think that the whole AstraZeneca/Siam Bioscience deal was concocted by the regime and the palace to “save” Thais with the “king’s vaccine.” The fact that Siam Bioscience has failed leads to claims that the whole regime-royal strategy has failed Thais. This throws a spanner in the whole royal propaganda machine. With Anutin demonstrating that he isn’t prepared to take the blame, the the monarchy has had to find another means to be seen to be “saving” Thais. 

Whichever interpretation is correct, the monarchy’s interfering is dangerous for Thailand.





Making palace propaganda

27 02 2021

Australia’s contribution to royalist propaganda has been posted to the Australian Embassy’s Facebook page. The “documentary” is released in Thai and English versions. Our link is to the English version that covers King Vajiralongkorn’s time as a high school student in Sydney, an officer cadet at Duntroon Military College in Canberra and training with Australia’s Special Air Services Regiment in Perth.

The embassy introduces it thus:

The Australian Embassy, Thailand proudly presents “His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua in Australia” documentary as a gift to Thai people.

Our Embassy is deeply honoured to have His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua and Her Majesty Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana to preside over the premiere screening on Monday 15th February 2021.

There will be a lot of Thais who will look this particular gifthorse in the mouth.

Some days ago, Australia’s most trusted news outlet, the ABC had a story on this propaganda piece, saying that the embassy “has produced a documentary showcasing historical footage of the King of Thailand’s six-and-a-half years in Australia at boarding school and with the Australian Defence Force.” It shows the then prince marching, running obstacle courses, studying, in the cadet’s mess, practicing patrols and “graduating.” It is added that the embassy Facebook post said it “highlights the shared history between the Thai Royal Family and Australia”…”.

The ABC notes that this propaganda piece comes as “dozens of protesters face up to 15 years in jail for allegedly defaming [the king].”

The story cites journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, who said the timing was “unfortunate to put it mildly,” with “59 monarchy reform activists had been charged under the lese majeste laws,” adding:

It’s sending a very awkward message because we are in the middle of unprecedented calls for monarchy reform and then you see the government of Australia simply behave as if, you know, there is no controversy.

Embassy’s are not usually so tone deaf, with Pravit reminding them:

Australia is supposed to be a democratic government that stands for freedom of expression…. Australians have the freedom to criticise … Queen Elizabeth … the Australian people could entertain the future without the monarchy in London, right? Well, this is not the case in Thailand.

The propaganda piece “includes interviews with the King’s classmates including the Governor-General of Australia David Hurley, former governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove, and Major General Duncan Lewis, the former director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).” They all have good things to say.

Political commentator Greg Raymond said he felt it “not the right time” to release an “effusive commemoration of our relationship with this particular monarch.” He added:

They’re producing this documentary in a social and political context where the place of the monarchy in Thailand is becoming increasingly a fraught question.

For the real (but still redacted) details of the then prince’s time in Australia, click here.





Australia and palace propaganda

17 02 2021

A story on last evening’s royal news was about the king and queen visiting the Australian Embassy together with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, several Privy Councillors and cabinet ministers along with a bevy of senior officials – with not a mask in sight. The visit marked the embassy’s production of a “documentary” on the king’s several years in Australia when he struggled through some high school and then undertook military training.

Like all monarchy propaganda, it “will be aired on TV Pool until Thursday.” The first bit to be shown “highlights the visit to Australia by King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit as well as [the current king’s] early years in Australia. “

It is baffling why the Australians think it is a good idea to be complicit in palace propaganda. It seems remarkably like Cold War era efforts by the USA, Australia and other Western allies to link up with royalists and dictators in promoting the monarch.

The Australian Ambassador Allan McKinnon bubbled to the media, telling them that “the Australian embassy in Bangkok obtained footage of the King’s time in Australia from the National Archives of Australia and developed the footage into a documentary…”. The reason it did this is “to highlight the shared history between the Thai royal family and Australia…”.

The ambassador declared that the documentary and its associated photo exhibition demonstrates “the strength of the relationship between two countries, which was recently elevated to the status of a strategic partnership, signed by Gen Prayut, the Australian ambassador and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last November.”

It does sound ever so Cold War-like. As it was then, we doubt anyone will mention the protests and snubs the dead king received in 1962 or the current king’s somewhat checkered time in Australia.

We can point out some background information. During the dead king’s visit, the Secretary of the New South Wales Labor Council “said it was vulgar to display expensive jewellery (reported to be worth 240,000 pounds, or roughly $6.5m in today’s terms) and that ‘his heart went out to the poor people of her country’.”

Before that visit, the faculty at the Australian National University refused to offer an honorary degree to the king, and another was hastily arranged at the more conservative University of Melbourne. As Paul Handley has it in a footnote:

The trips were not all perfectly smooth. In Australia several small protests greeted the royal couple, as did uncomplimentary media coverage of Sirikit’s ostentatious jewelry and clothing collection. There was also turmoil surrounding Canberra’s plan to have Australia National University award Bhumibol an honorary doctorate. The university refused because Bhumibol had never earned an undergraduate degree from a college or university. Finally the government persuaded a lesser institution, the University of Melbourne, to give the king an honorary doctorate of laws.

For an account of Vajiralongkorn’s time in Australia, with some of the warts exposed – others remain secret – read our post of an important Australian newspaper investigation. We can be sure none of this will appear in the embassy’s contribution to palace propaganda.





Further updated: Fake reporting and conscientious non-reporting

15 02 2021

In a recent post, we observed that the royal family appeared, until a couple of days ago, to be on holiday. Until Chinese New Year, there had been very few appearances by any of them for about a month. Sometimes there were stories of royal good deeds, but as social media commentators noticed, these often involved collages of old photos.

This creates problems for the mainstream media, who are always pushed to give the impression that the royals are wonderful philanthropists rather than lazy, grasping, and self-interested. When the king spent most of last year in Germany, the average royalist might have thought the king was in Thailand. No mainstream outlet reported his residence in Germany or the antics he got up to there. Thus there was fake reporting and conscientious non-reporting.

Such trickery has also been at work over the past month, although the royal news is a bit of a problem for the palace has had a habit of reporting some royal thing, happening or event every day. But, as the Bangkok Post has demonstrated today, faked reporting is one way of filling a gap. It has the headline “King and Queen swoop in to help Covid-affected workers.”

That gives the impression that the king and queen were actually out and about: “Their Majesties the King and Queen gave 7,500 meal boxes a day to people affected by Covid-19 in Samut Sakhon from Saturday.” That reads a bit odd, so we looked further into the story and it turns out that the king and queen were somewhere else – in a palace perhaps – and the food boxes were presented to the governor to “hand over to officers tackling the coronavirus and people affected by the pandemic as they were concerned about hardship caused by the disease.”

It also turns out that these are “subsidised … meals” and that the king “designated the Thai Restaurant Association and Restaurants club in Samut Sakhon to arrange the food to serve medical officers, soldiers and police who combated with the coronavirus at hospitals, field hospitals and surveillance centres in all districts,” along with a few average citizens. It is stated that “the restaurant club in the province has joined hands with 30 restaurants to cook the meals.” Sounds like some orders have been issued.

So we wonder who “swooped,” who paid, and who decided to make the story appear like the king was out of the palace? Old tactics die hard.

Update 1: The fake reporting includes the military and palace. The military released several photos and video a day or so ago purporting to show the newly-shown, newly-minted general, Princess Bajrakitiyabha skydiving at the military’s Lopburi base. Turns out that this was not true, with the military scrambling to say it was not fake, but a “rehearsal” for a jump she will make at some other time. The “rehearsal” was so faked that it seemingly included a lookalike “Princess.”

Update 2: We are now seem to have confirmation of the princess jumping from a plane, with another video released, looking remarkably like the rehearsal video.





King and consort

12 01 2021

Quite a bit of material is appearing that displays King Vajiralongkorn and his official no. 2 wife Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi.

In the most remarkable of these events was reported by Reuters. It states:

King and consort. Clipped from Daily Mail

Thailand’s palace has released photographs of King … Vajiralongkorn visiting prisons with his royal consort … as the royal family steps up public appearances following mass protests demanding reforms to the monarchy.

In a segment on the nightly royal bulletin on state and private TV channels on Saturday, the king and his consort – restored to her position last year after having been disgraced and stripped of her titles – are shown inspecting projects in jails across Thailand.

They are photographed sweeping floors and speaking to officials during the last two months of 2020, and the segment also featured interviews with inmates speaking about the benefits of the projects.

The odd thing about these images and reporting is that the king had previously jailed his love interest declaring her a terrible woman. It was only in September 2020 that she was reinstated and publicly declared “untainted.”

Clipped from Daily Mail

The Daily Mail refers to these appearances as “a publicity stunt for a new documentary” and published several unflattering photos of Sineenat.

PPT has seen a video that looks like a documentary, but missed the royal news. We have to say that the video we saw looked odd, with prisoners shown moving and working, but with all images of the king and consort being stills, some of which looked suspiciously like the images might have been constructed. That might be by the palace, but it’s impossible to know.

 

Clipped from The Straits Times

A couple of things are clear from this palace propaganda. One is that Sineenat is completely rehabilitated and roughly in the position she was back in mid-2019, before her temporary erasure. Second, it is clear that the demonstrations and protests have done nothing to alter the king’s neo-absolutist desires.





Royalists, academics and palace propaganda

10 01 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on advice to protesters. That advice was well-meaning. At the Asia Times Online, however, academic Michael Nelson of the Asian Governance Foundation, writes the protesters off: “[Gen] Prayut [Chan-ocha] does not seem to be in danger. The royal-military alliance seems to be unassailable…”. He adds: “The protesters, though big on Facebook, also have little backing in the population. And now, the government is getting tough with them…”.

That seems somewhat premature, even if the regime has the “benefit” of a virus uptick and can use the emergency decree to good ill effect. In any case, as far as support is concerned, we recall the Suan Dusit survey in late October that seemed rather supportive of the protesters. Things might have changed given the all out efforts by the regime and palace, but we think the demonstrators have had considerable support.

Another academic is getting into the fray to support the regime and palace. At the regime’s website Thailand Today, pure royalist propaganda by “Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai” is translated from The Manager Online. For obvious reasons, the regime loves the work of this royalist propagandist who tests the boundaries of the term “academic.” But, then, Chartchai is “an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA,” a place that has played an inglorious role in recent politics and where “academic” seems a loose term used to describe a person associated with NIDA.

Royalists ideologues posing as academics have been well rewarded. Chartchai is no different. His rewards have included appointment to the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee and its National Reform Council. In these positions, he opposed any notion of an elected prime minister and supported the junta’s propaganda activities on its constitution. He has also been a propagandist for “sufficiency economy,” a “theory” lacking much academic credibility but which is religiously promoted as one of the “legacies” of the dead king.

Self-crowned

His latest effort is a doozy. Published in November 2020, “Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age” is a defense of a neo-feudal monarchy. It seeks to dull the calls for reform by claiming that King Vajiralongkorn “has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.”

This sounds remarkably like the royalist defense made of King Prajadhipok after the 1932 revolution, suggesting he was thinking about granting a constitution before the People’s Party, a claim still made by royalist and lazy historians. In the current epoch, if the king is “reforming,” then the calls for reform are redundant.

Reflecting the good king-bad king narrative, in a remarkable contortion, Chartchai warns that the bad king should not be compared with his father. He declares this “unjust” and “unfair.” The bad king is “preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.”

That’s exactly the palace’s propaganda position on Vajiralongkorn.

How has Vajiralongkorn “sought to reform the monarchy”? Readers may be surprised to learn that the king has been “adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices.”

Of course, this is recent and the palace’s propaganda response to the demonstrations. Before that, the king worked to distance the palace from people. Not least, the king lived thousands of kilometers from Thailand.

A second reform – again a surprising construction for propaganda purposes – is the “reform of the Crown Property Bureau…”. The king officially taking personal control of all royal wealth and property through new, secretly considered, laws demanded by the king is portrayed as intending to “demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.”

There’s been no public discussion of this CPB corruption and nor is there any evidence that there is any transparency at all. In our research, the opposite is true.

We are told that the king’s property acquisitions were also about corruption and “public use.” The examples provided are the “Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage” and military bases in Bangkok.

The Royal Turf Club was a which was a “gathering place for dubious but influential people” and has been “reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities.” That “public use” is a recent decision, with the palace responding to criticism. Such plans were never mentioned when the century old racecourse was taken. It is also “revealed” that the military bases that now belong personally to the king will be for public purposes. Really? Other “public places” in the expanded palace precinct have been removed from public use: the zoo, parliament house, and Sanam Luang are but three examples. We can only wait to see what really happens in this now huge palace area.

Chartchai also discusses how “[r]Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.”

Now we understand why all the Rajabhats have been showering the queen with honorary doctorates. The idea that this king – who was always a poor student and didn’t graduate from anything – knows anything about education is bizarre. How the king gained control of the 38 Rajabhats is not explained.

What does this mean for the protests? The implication is, like 1932, those calling for reform are misguided. Like his father, the king “is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.” Is he under the constitution when he can have the regime change it on a whim and for personal gain?

Chartchai “explains” that “the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself…”. He goes full-throttle palace propaganda declaring the monarchy a bastion of “independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.” As such, Thais should ignore the calls for reform and properly “understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.”

For an antidote to this base royalist propaganda, readers might enjoy a recent and amply illustrated story at The Sun, a British tabloid, which recounts most of Vajiralongkorn’s eccentric and erratic activities.