Thailand’s future politics I

2 11 2017

Post-funeral, there have been quite a few efforts to assess what happens now or in the near future. We can’t comment in detail on all of them, but here’s some of it.

A DPA/Bangkok report begins with a now common mantra idolizing the dead king and forgetting that his bloody reign was associated almost entirely with support for and from a murderous military.

That bleating completed, the report observes: “Now some are quietly wondering what kind of future Thailand’s 68mn people will face. Their questions are not being asked publicly due to fear of Thailand’s strict lese-majesty law.”

It claims that “[p]olitical analysts see an uncertain future gripped by anxiety.” This comes from loyalist commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak. He reflects Bangkok middle class and perhaps some elite opinion when he claims that “Thailand as we know it comes to an end…”. For those elite classes, perhaps things have changed because they so closely link their prosperity to the reign of the Sino-Thai king just passed. We don’t think workers and farmers are likely to see that much has changed in their lives.

Somewhat more surprisingly, dissident academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun claims: “Under Bhumibol at least Thai politics was predictable. Now things are different. Nobody can predict what the new reign will bring.”

Predictable? We suppose that repeated military coups can be considered “predictable.” Likewise the repression and long periods of military tutelage that followed them was probably predictable. But, really, this is a claim that is remarkably ahistorical. Yes, we realize that he is simply trying to make the tenth reign seem frightening and unpredictable, but gilding the past for a political point is doing little for historical accuracy and breaking the myths of monarchy.

Paul Chambers of Naresuan University does his gilding as well. He then comes up with the obvious: “His son [Vajiralongkorn] has extremely large shoes to fill…”. Bhumibol’s shoes were made of propaganda that became ever grander as the reign dragged on. A 65 year-old coming to the throne is unlikely to manage that, even if he comes to the throne under a repressive military regime. He also gets into ahistorical observations: “Under the new reign, a new king will oversee a more turbulent Thailand where the monarch is not as tried, tested and perhaps trusted as much by the people as the previous one…”. So that’s how the last reign began in 1946, with a “tried, tested and trusted” young king? Of course not.

Coming to the throne under a military dictatorship is important: “the military regime currently running the country has acted as a protector of the monarchy, using lawsuits and other means to strip power from the political opposition.” It has also sought to put the anti-monarchy genie back in the bottle and to seal it tight. That helps a new king.

And, lest it is forgotten, Vajiralongkorn is a military man, trained and promoted in the military since his mid-teens. So when the report states: “Even after the elections, analysts see prolonged military influence through the new constitution, which was drafted by the junta and approved by Vajiralongkorn and seeks to weaken major political parties and install military influence in the Senate,” underline Vajiralongkorn’s support for military tutelage. Indeed, as the report states: “The monarchy’s relationships with major players, especially the military, will likely dictate the future of Thai politics…”.

Thitinan is correct when he observes that the military-monarchy alliance is now a Cold War-like “symbiotic relationship.”

In an otherwise useful report by AP, whereas the previous report hung on monarchy, that body is oddly missing in action. The report is correct to observe that: “Thailand’s military government has emerged from the year of official mourning for … Bhumibol … with a firm grip on power and in no apparent rush to hold elections it has repeatedly delayed during the four years since its coup.” But it needs to add that its position is especially powerful as it does seem to have cultivated the symbiotic relationship with Vajiralongkorn.

The funeral was indeed “a mostly unblemished propaganda triumph for the junta that underlined its primacy and the sidelining of political parties.” The new king also came out of it without any public stumbles and further cultivated his image as loyal son.

Academic Kevin Hewison is also right to observe that prior to the death of the previous king there was considerable speculation of “a succession crisis, violence and all sorts of things but none of it happened…”. We are sure the successionists will say that it just needs more time to play out. However, the symbiotic relationship works against a crisis unless it is a rupture within that relationship.

In terms of an “election,” Hewison is also right to observe that “[a]ll the political parties look disorganized and not prepared for an election,” and that the “military has got the whip hand.” David Streckfuss is quoted as adding that “the junta hopes to create a ‘very muffled democracy’ that deprives the winning party or electoral coalition of a real ability to govern…”. Chaturon Chaisaeng defines the junta’s rules for its “election” as “very undemocratic. Extremely undemocratic…”.

We hope that Hewison is wrong when he says “[t]he red heart is barely beating at the moment…”. Junta opponents pin their hope on the junta’s “election,” with red shirt spokesman Worawut Wichaidit declaring that any election is better than no election and that a “new government [that] is hamstrung” is better than military dictatorship. Streckfuss reckons that “an election next year would open the possibility for wider political debate than at present.” Yet he admits that the military has “tamped down, talked down, stamped down” the “democratic politics of the past decade but the long-standing tensions between the haves and have-nots of Thailand’s economic development will not go away…”.

Is that an optimism born of repression?





Updated: Yet another anti-monarchy “plot”

3 10 2017

Thailand’s recent politics has been awash with rightist and royalist claims of “plots” against the monarchy. The military dictatorship claims to have “discovered” another such “plot.” This time the plot is claimed to be a plan to disrupt the funeral for the dead king.

PPT can only express disdain for this political ploy and we can only wonder if anyone still believes such nonsense. As much as we’d like to see an an anti-monarchy plot in Thailand, we haven’t seen any evidence that there is one in the works now.

One of the first “plots” was the entirely concocted “Finland Plot.” The claim peddled by many associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and fabricated by notorious royalist ideologue Chai-anan Samudavanija and others. It claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra and former left-wing student leaders had met in Finland and come up with a plan to overthrow the monarchy and establish a communist state. These inventions were published in the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned newspapers and repeated many times by PAD.

As bizarre as this nonsense was, Wikipedia notes that the allegations had an “impact on the popularity of Thaksin and his government, despite the fact that no evidence was ever produced to verify the existence of a plot. Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations and sued the accusers. The leaders of the 2006 military coup claimed Thaksin’s alleged disloyalty as one of their rationales for seizing power.”

Back in 2015, even the politicized courts held that ultra-royalist Pramote Nakornthap had defamed Thaksin with these concoctions. Not surprisingly, many ultra-royalists continue to believe this nonsense.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Equally notorious was the anti-monarchy “plot,” replete with a diagram, that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government concocted when faced with a red shirt challenge in April 2010.

The government’s Centre for the Resolution to Emergency Situations claimed to have uncovered a plot to overthrow the monarchy and said “intelligence” confirmed the “plot.” Indeed, the bitter Thawil Pliensri, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council “confirmed” the “plot.” The map included key leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, members of the Puea Thai Party and former banned politicians, academics and hosts of community radio programs. Then Prime Minister Abhisit welcomed the uncovering of the “plot.”

CRES spokesman and then Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who just happens to be the current dictatorship’s chief propagandist, repeatedly declared this plot a red shirt effort to bring down the monarchy.

We could go on, but let’s look at the current “plot,” which not coincidentally comes from the same military leaders who were in place in when the above “mapping” of a republican plot was invented. It is the same coterie of coup plotters (and that was a real plot) that repeatedly accused Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul of various anti-monarchy plots and he was “disappeared” from Laos, presumably by the junta’s henchmen-murderers.

In the new “plot,” Deputy Dictator General Wongsuwan has declared:

Anti-monarchy cells are conspiring to disrupt the funeral of His Majesty the Late King this month, deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan said Monday.

Gen. Prawit described the alleged agitators as those who “have ill intentions toward the monarchy.” Although he gave no details, he said full-scale security measures would be implemented throughout the rites to place over several days culminating with the Oct. 26 cremation.

Prawit added that “[a]uthorities have learned of threats inside and outside the country, especially from those who oppose and have negative thoughts about ‘the [royal] institution’…”. He put “security forces” on “full alert.”

Careful readers will have noticed that the first mention of this “plot” came from The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha almost two weeks ago.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart “refused to elaborate in detail on the supposed threat in the latest intelligence report” but still declared that “[t]hose involved were among the ‘regular faces’ abroad wanted on lese majeste charges, but who still incite negative feelings towards the monarchy among supporters through social media.”

The fingerprints on this concoction are those who have regularly invented plots for political purposes. That’s the military. They read all kinds of social media and put 1 and 1 together and come up with anti-monarchy plot.

We tend to agree with Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who is reported as saying:

The cremation provides an opportunity for the security forces to strengthen their position politically using critics of the monarchy as an excuse to increase the state’s heavy handed policy to control society more tightly…. Critics of the monarchy hardly pose a threat considering how much they have been suppressed since the coup….

The cremation and the coronation that will follow are critical political events for the military dictatorship. They want to be seen to be ensuring that everything runs smoothly for both events as the junta moves to stay in power, “election” or “no election.”  Finding a “plot” can make them look even more like the “protectors” of the monarchy.

Update: We don’t know why, but Khaosod’s most recent report on this “plot” seems to be supportive of the the junta’s claims. The claims this report makes amount to little more than reporting chatter. Similar chatter has been around for some time, encouraging individual acts that do not amount to anything like rebellion or disruption.

Some of the material that has been circulated may well derive from the state’s intelligence operatives seeking to disrupt and identify red shirts.  The thing about concocting a plot as a way to discredit your opponents is that there has to be elements in it that seem, at least on a initial view, feasible and believable. That was the point of the diagram produced above, naming persons known to be anti-monarchy. Putting them in a plot is something quite different.





Updated: Royal wealth and the squeeze on the taxpayer

13 09 2017

Academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun has recently published an op-ed at The Japan Times. “A very wealthy monarch grows wealthier” examines the July “reorganization of the Crown Property Bureau, to pave the way for his [King Vajiralongkorn’s] control of this financial wing of the monarchy.”

Pavin observes that:

The new legislation was approved by the military government of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, which appointed Vajiralongkorn as the sole authority over royal wealth. This dismantled the traditional mechanism put in place by his father … who appointed a government official to manage the crown property. Instead, under the new bill, Vajiralongkorn will set up a board of directors to oversee his assets.

We don’t think this is entirely accurate. It is odd to call the previous arrangement “traditional.” Rather, laws that have been revised a couple of times since 1932 established that the Minister of Finance would chair the CPB (as Pavin later notes). It is that governmental link that has been removed and the CPB made the preserve of the king. Pavin is right to note that:

There are two key characteristics of the legislation. First, the king is entitled to appoint the board members, as well as to remove them, at his discretion. Second, the law prohibits the taking away of royal assets without the king’s approval.

As others have noted, this new arrangement means the “Crown Property Bureau is the corporate arm of the monarchy, performing as the major shareholder of the kingdom’s biggest cement company and one of the largest commercial banks.” It’s also correct that “the most valuable assets owned by the royal family are huge swaths of land, much of it in prime areas in central Bangkok.”

Pavin is also correct to argue that “the financial status of the monarchy [the CPB and private wealth combined] has dominated Thailand’s economic landscape. The super-rich status of the king played a vital part in buttressing the political power of the royal family.” Likewise, it is certainly true that part of the CPB’s business success “derived from special privileges granted to the monarchy in conducting business” without transparency or accountability.

Then there’s the capacity of this fabulously wealthy monarchy to leech off the taxpayer. Not only does the CPB pay no taxes (its listed companies do) but there’s a seemingly bottomless money pit that takes money from the taxpayer and redistributes it to the richest of Thailand’s rich.

The much touted “royal projects” are funded by the taxpayer – thank General Prem Tinsulanonda for that redistribution when he was unelected premier. And then there is the cash spent on the “operations of the Bureau of the Royal Household and the expenses of the monarch and his extended family members,” along with bags of money for “promoting” the monarchy.

Despite the wealth of the Crown Property Bureau, the monarchy is allocated generous funds from the government for private and public expenses. Around $170 million annually in state funding covers the salaries of staff working in the Royal Household Bureau and other palace offices, including protection provided for the royal family by the security forces.

Pavin reckons the “budget for the promotion of the dignity of the monarchy,” was almost $400 million in 2003, increasing to $438 million in 2015.

We looked at the 2016 and 2017 budget years in documents available from the Budget Bureau (Thailand’s Budget In Brief), and we think the figures are striking. In 2016, the amount for “upholding, protecting and preserving the monarchy”under the National Security Strategy, on its own, comes to about $555 million. As can be seen in the attached snip, there’s more in the budget for “unified reconciliation.”

The interesting thing is that when one goes through the budget lines provided it is decidedly unclear if the strategies listed as 2.1 and 2.2 overlap the roughly $340 million for royal projects, royal travel, royal bureaus, royal vanity projects and so on. Given that every ministry and department will spend oodles on royal promotion not covered under the programs above, we are thinking that, in 2016, the monarchy cost Thai taxpayers something like $700-800 million.

How does this look in 2017? The format provided is different, but we located this:It seems highly unlikely that the programs have changed this much. Rather, the changed format is suggestive of covering up the huge amount on “upholding, protecting and preserving the monarchy” in 2016. What we do observe is that the second program has gone up by about 60%. In looking at details of funding to royal projects, royal travel, royal bureaus, royal vanity projects and so on, there has been a 37.8% increase, thanks mainly to the creation of a budget line for the Chulabhorn Research Institute (about $115 million). The total budget in these lines in 2017 was $472 million. We might guess that the total taxpayer bill for all things royal is around $1 billion.

(Correct us if you think we are wrong in our calculations.)

Whatever way you look at it, this fabulously wealthy king and royal family, worth perhaps $50-60 billion, also leeches off the taxpayer to the tune of another $1 billion a year.

Update: Somsak Jeamteerasakul wants to challenge some of the points made by Pavin:

Pavin’s article contains some significant errors or misleading statements, and this post doesn’t correct them, even repeats them. For instance. it’s not “right to note” the “two characteristics” of the new legislation. Those two were already there in the previous law. In fact, the second ”characteristic” is quite misleading to put it that way, both in the case of the previous law (article 7 which was more suit to describe as Pavin does, but still isn’t entirely apt) and the new law (article 8 last para., which doesn’t really mean what Pavin says; it is not about [others] ‘taking away’ royal assets at all, just saying that the king-appointed committee couldn’t sell or make any transaction of the asset without his formal approval). Pavin was also wrong to say the late king “appointed a government official to manage the crown property”. The next sentence is also mistaken: “instead, the – no, it’s not something King X does ‘instead’; his father also did. Pavin was wrong again to say “Under King Bhumibol, the board of directors for the royal assets answered to the finance minister.” In both the letters of the old law (read carefully article 4, nothing about ‘answered to’ at all) and in practice (for 70 years, finance ministers of all successive governments did have any say in the management of the CPB). In consequence and in this context, Pavin’s next sentence is also incorrect: “NOW, it is independent of the government.” It isn’t “now” that the CPB is ‘independent of the government.’; it had always been since 1948.

As we said above, there were some problems with Pavin’s characterization of the new law, but Somsak is rather picky on this stuff, being immersed in the detail. We don’t believe that Pavin states that the “two characteristics” are new in the new law. Somsak prefers a very careful reading, and that’s fine. We pretty much agree with his other points.

However, we were more interested in taxpayer funding to the monarchy. As we said above, we are keen to know if our calculations are wonky.





More on the king’s personal prison

2 07 2017

Not that long ago we posted on Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s article in the Japan Times where he wrote of  a small prison established in King Vajiralongkorn’s Dhaveevatthana Palace. He said it was used to “lock up those betraying the trust of the new … king…”. He had some details.

We also noted the response by Thailand’s ambassador in Japan, saying little more than “we object.”

Interestingly, there is now a response to the ambassador’s letter,headlined, “Thai prison is real, should be shut down.” We reproduce it in full with the hyperlinks:

In his letter to The Japan Times in the June 11 edition, Thai Ambassador Bansarn Bunnag accused Pavin Chachavalpongpun of making unsubstantiated claims when he reported that there is a temporary prison on the grounds of the Daveevattana (Thavi Wattana) Palace of Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn, a prison that inmates describe as “hell on Earth.” The prison is real, and our organization has already translated the public documents authorizing this prison into English and paired it with a Google Earth map, so both Thai- and English-speaking people can know the shocking facts. You can see the evidence at tahr-global.org/?p=32209. [PPT guesses that following the link or reposting it might constitute lese majeste.]

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights has been concerned about this prison since we learned of its existence at the beginning of March, when Jumpol Manmai, who had been a close aid to the king, first disappeared, then reappeared, and was taken from court back to this prison.

So the prison exists. The only remaining mystery is what all goes on there. Having a secret prison that cannot be visited by the public, at the home of a king who is above the law, is a recipe for rampant human rights abuses, including enforced disappearance, torture and even murder. Indeed, Chachavalpongpun lists the names of three men who died there under suspicious circumstances.

If the rumors of rampant human rights abuses are false, the king can put them to rest by inviting an international human rights organization such as Amnesty International to visit the temporary prison. If they are true, the Thai government should close this shadowy prison and take away Vajiralongkorn’s power to persecute people on a whim.

The Thai ambassador also claimed that Thailand respects freedom of opinion and expression, when in fact Thailand’s barbaric lese majeste law prescribes three to 15 years in jail for anyone saying anything negative about this king, and Chachavalpongpun has been exiled simply for doing his job as a political scientist. If only Thailand did have free speech, ongoing human rights abuses could be brought to light and future abuses prevented.

Ann Norman, Executive Director, Thai Alliance for Human Rights, Pittsburgh





Imprisoned

11 06 2017

Almost a week ago, Pavin Chachavalpongpun had an op-ed at The Japan Times. In it, he stated:

Inside the sprawling Dhaveevatthana Palace in Bangkok is a prison built to lock up those betraying the trust of the new Thai king, Vajiralongkorn. On March 27, 2012, during the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, the Ministry of Justice issued an order regarding the construction of a prison within Dhaveevatthana Palace on a 60-sq.-meter plot of land. Named Buddha Monthon Temporary Prison, it is under the authority of the Klong Prem Central Prison.

Dhaveevatthana Palace or Residence, in Bangkok’s west, was one of Vajiralongkorn’s residences, favored until he ditched and demeaned his former consort, then Princess Srirasmi.

Pavin had mentioned this prison previously. He makes several claims about the prison and how the royal residence is used.

What is more interesting is the response of Thailand’s ambassador in Japan, in a letter to The Japan Times. It is interesting because it says little other than “we object.” Here it is, as published:

Regarding the column by Pavin Chachavalpongpun in the June 3 edition, while Thailand respects freedom of opinion and expression, this right has to be exercised responsibly in order to protect the rights and reputation of others.

In the article, several unsubstantiated claims were made by Chachavalpongpun, who, to the best of my knowledge, has never been to the palace in question.

As Chachavalpongpun himself acknowledged, there is a lack of information about the palace and that rumors thus play an important part. The article is biased and reflects the author’s hidden personal agenda. It is intended to offend the institution of monarchy, which is one of the main pillars of Thai society and highly revered.

I therefore strongly object to the publication of this article.

BANSARN BUNNAG
THAI, AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN

Several of Pavin’s claims are unsubstantiated, but that is the nature of reporting on a monarchy that is made as opaque as possible and where any real commentary on it risks years in jail. What is substantiated is that the prison exists – it was announced in the Royal Gazette, as Pavin says – and that former Grand Chamberlain Jumpol Manmai was held there.

So Bansarn and the military junta he represents may object but they are unable to convincingly deny the refeudalization of “justice.” Officials like Bansarn are imprisoned too; they cannot escape having to defend a decrepit royalism.





King, fear and feudalism

26 05 2017

A couple of recent articles that seek to comprehend the admittedly odd politics of contemporary Thailand deserve wide attention. We summarize and quote below.

The first is by Pavin Chachavalpongpun at the Washington Post. Pavin looks at the oddness that has emerged in the early months of this reign, with the military junta frantic to control the king’s image. He says “Thailand finds itself in the grip of a strange political fever.” It is a potentially deadly disease.

He notes that “there’s nothing particularly new about Thai officials displaying zealousness in their efforts to protect the image of the king.” But, there’s something different: “there is a palpable sense that the current government is reacting with much greater sensitivity in the case of the current king — far more so than at any other time in recent memory.”

Pavin continues to the widespread view that the “mysterious incident six weeks ago, when a modest memorial plaque suddenly disappeared from the sidewalk of the Royal Plaza in Bangkok” was on the king’s orders.

He continues, noting that “the removal of the plaque and the intense official reaction to any online questioning of King Vajiralongkorn’s image show that he [Vajiralongkorn] is beginning to exert his influence over the state.”

That’s scary enough, but its scarier still when Pavin says that the king “is clearly very serious about reintroducing royal absolutism, and not at all interested in defending democracy or free speech.”

That raises a question. Will the king’s “increasingly hard-line policies … reinforce support for the monarchy or ultimately contribute to its weakening.” We are betting the latter. But it could be very messy.

The second article is at Asia Sentinel. It pulls no punches, beginning with this:

Thailand, once known as the Land of Smiles, is a country today seemingly trapped in a perpetual nightmare, headed by a half-mad king determined to return the country to the era before … the last absolute monarch of the country after the military ended [royal] absolute power in 1932.  Nobody appears willing to stop him.

It continues on the king’s time in waiting:

The prince, now 64, is said to be regarded with loathing by many within royal circles for his associations with Chinese gangsters, his womanizing and his apparent refusal to adhere to royal rules, according to official US cables leaked in 2011 by the Wikileaks organization, verbatim copies of which were carried in Asia Sentinel.  He has repeatedly scandalized the nation despite the military’s desperate attempts to use the world’s most restrictive lèse-majesté laws to keep a public lid on his behavior.

Since becoming king, he has largely lived up to his ominous promise….

And there is talk of the king’s bizarre and macabre behavior and how the junta must support it and even condone it:

“For decades, the Thai Army has used the excuse of upholding the monarchy to justify their actions and deeds that have included feathering their own nests, suppressing people’s rights, and conducting multiple coups to hold on to power and retard progress towards democracy,” a western source said. “So now Prime Minister Prayuth [Chan-ocha] is hardly in a position to meaningfully oppose Rama 10’s power grab that takes the situation back to the pre-1932 coup era, when palace officials had no protection and were subject to the king’s every whim, or in the case of this latest monarch, every cruelty.”

So far, the source said, “most of the new king’s abuses have been inflicted upon his own entourage, but the fear is what happens after Rama IX’s funeral in October, when the memory of his father is laid to rest and the last restraints on his power are released?  Will he start inflicting abuses against perceived opponents or dissenters in the wider populace? Will he launch a campaign against those who he views as having slighted him in the past, since it is well known that he has a list of such people?…”.

Who will be willing to stop him?





No laughing matter

13 05 2017

The military junta has laid its bets on King Vajiralongkorn for ensuring the future of the monarchy and the system of hierarchy, privilege and wealth it underpins.

Nothing about the king can be a laughing matter.

Yet the junta knows the king is erratic and demanding, as well as odd in his demands and personal foibles. He’s also showing he’s a political neanderthal, which might be expected of a monarch, but when combined with his other traits and limited intelligence, that makes him dangerous and unpredictable.And probably not very funny.

Some of that may have said about his father, but that king was young and subject to controls by the military, mother and old princes. Once the palace propaganda was put in place for that king, in the popular imagination, he became a polymath and a savvy politician.

By the time the military was firmly in the hands of leaders who got to the top simply by their capacity for royal ego polishing, the king and palace became a locus of political power.

That’s why the dictators have been so desperate to ban and erase all of the foibles associated with Vajiralongkorn. That’s not easy when he spends a lot of time overseas, behaving oddly. Seeking a kind of Chinese firewall without the investment, the military junta is trying to bully ISPs and international corporations into doing their censorship.

Yet that is making the situation worse. Ham-fisted censorship makes a nonentity king reigning in a relatively small and unimportant country become international news of the tabloid variety.

Among a range of other channels, VICE News recently got interested, stating:

Facebook has blocked users in Thailand from accessing a video that shows the country’s king strolling through a German shopping mall wearing a crop-top revealing his distinctive tattoos, accompanied by one of his mistresses.

Asking what was in the video banned by Facebook, VICE posted it. The report states the king was filmed while shopping at:

Riem Arcaden mall in Munich on June 10, 2016….  The video shows Vajiralongkorn walking through the shopping mall, with a woman who is believed to be one of his mistresses, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, aka Koi. The king’s bodyguards are also visible in the video.

The junta “banned” Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul for posting some of this kind of material and then rushed about arresting seven people in Thailand and accused them of sharing posts or liking them when they were considered by the junta as defaming of the king. Odd that, for the king is the one dressing up as some kind of anime character and prancing about public places with a concubine.

This has caused even wider publicity to royal shenanigans and the junta’s remarkable desperation to defend the king’s “honor” and “reputation.”

The junta holds few good cards, but is betting even more of its treasure on the “protection” of the king. They prefer to show him dressed in full military uniform, accompanied by a uniformed woman who is, at least for the moment, his official consort or the No. 1 wife.

Meanwhile, in the king’s preferred home, in Germany, the publicity provided by the junta’s actions, arrests and threats to Facebook have brought considerable attention to the royal immigrant ensconced in Tutzing (when he’s in Munich).

That leads to television reports that make the king appear weird, guaranteeing even more scrutiny and sharing; exactly what the dopes at the junta think they are preventing.

Even without German, a viewer gets the message. The junta doesn’t. For them, covering up for the king is no laughing matter. It is protecting their bread and butter, and they want lots of it on their plates.