Clown royalists and the monarchist laundry

11 03 2021

The Bangkok Post had a report that, if it wasn’t from royalist, neo-absolutist Thailand, would seem odd, even crazy. It is about a nutty minor royal, MR Priyanandana Rangsit, “taking legal action and seeking damages of 50 million baht from writer Nattapol Chai­ching and publisher Fah Diew Kan (Same Sky) for alleged slander.”

Minor princess Priyanandana, is “a granddaughter of the Prince of Chai Nat” and in the name of her princely grandfather, has lodged “a complaint with the Civil Court against Mr Nattapol, his two PhD thesis advisers and two executives of the Fah Diew Kan publishing house for disseminating false information.”

All of this stems from the work of royalist/yellow-shirted academic Chaiyan Chaiyaporn at Chulalongkorn University, who spent his time combing through Nattapol’s thesis seeking any error he could identify. He accused Nattapol of “false references,” in the thesis one of which was to a:

Bangkok Post article published on Dec 18, 1950, which said the Regent [Prince of Chai Nat] had been expanding his political role by frequently attending cabinet meetings led by prime minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggram. This move was said to have made Field Marshal Plaek unhappy and that he responded by demanding that he be allowed to sit in meetings of the Privy Council if the Regent continued to interfere with the administrative and legislative branches.

The Post later denied it had reported such information, “and said the article merely reported that several cabinet members had voiced concern over 50 senators being appointed by the Privy Council without the government being consulted.” Nattapol has admitted that error in referencing. As far as we know, the Post has not reprinted the article online and we have been unable to find an archive.

In any case, the claim that Phibul had problems with Rangsit and, at the time, actively worked against the royalists and their political machinations is hardly news. But what’s going on here is a royalist laundering of critical scholarship that tells the real story of the royal insurgency against the remnants of the People’s Party.

We were struck by the parallels with current writing on the British monarchy. This one seemed relevant:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish [Thais], it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.





Where are the monuments?

24 12 2020

A pro-democracy Silpakorn Community for Democracy group yesterday called on the House committee on religious affairs, arts and culture to “help locate the missing Khana Ratsadon plaque and the Constitutional Defence Monument.”

It is assumed that both monuments were removed on the king’s orders or by those who thought that he’d like them removed.

The 1932 revolution memorial plaque “disappeared” in 2017, just before Vajiralongkorn signed the junta’s constitution into law. Because everyone went unusually quiet about the nighttime vandalism, it is thought that the king ordered the symbol of civilian rule and constitutionalism removed.

The Constitutional Defence monument, celebrating the victory of the People’s Party government over over a royalist counterrevolution in 1933, “was removed to make way for the construction of the Green Line electric train.” That it was a registered historical site made no difference as the state’s vandals demolished it.

It is time to reveal the culprits. But, in royalist Thailand, this seems unlikely.





Remembering 1932 in 2020

24 06 2020

24 June 1932 is an important day in Thailand. The palace, royalists and military have persistently worked to erase it from the national historical memory.

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Banomyong. We do so again today.

On that day in 1932, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

24 June is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country only to see their efforts repeatedly crushed by military and monarchy.

Lopburi vandalism 1

Clipped from Khaosod

For anti-democrats and royalists, 24 June is a day they want to expunge. It recalls a thirst for democracy and is the essence of anti-monarchism in Thailand. The king has been working with the junta-cum-post-junta-regime (of crooks and generals) to destroy memorials and monuments to 1932. History books have been changed. Properties previously removed from the monarchy have reverted to the present monarch.

democracy in ruins

24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely officially noticed, except for the purposes of repression and preventing people from acknowledging the day and its events.

If royalists remember 24 June for anything it is to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and declare that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and he supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime before abdicating.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty.

As we do each year, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2020 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

Pridi

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





Going backwards IV

28 01 2020

The palace-initiated effort to destroy all symbols of the 1932 revolution and the People’s Party has gone up a gear. The campaign is now moving ahead with remarkable speed and determination. Thailand is having its historical memory erased, to be reprogrammed as a royalist fairy tale.

The latest report is from Khaosod. It seems this paper and Prachatai are the only brave newspapers in Thailand, willing to report this tragedy:

Yet another public commemoration of a 1932 revolt that ended absolute monarchy in Thailand was removed without any explanation.

A statue of revolt co-leader Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram at the army-run National Defense College has gone missing when a reporter visited the site on Tuesday….

Royal vandalism (clipped from Khaosod)

It is said that it was Phibun who founded the College, but that does not prevent royal/royalist vandalism. The erasing of Phibun extended even to removing “a wall-size plaque bearing the Field Marshal’s biography…”. The space was painted over.

And you know that the orders for this destruction of some of Thailand’s most significant (non-royal) symbols are being smashed, removed and spirited away when no one wants to talk about it – the fear of the king is all too obvious:

I will not give you the information,” an staff member at the college – founded by Pibulsongkram himself 64 years ago – said when questioned where the statue of its founder went to. The man declined to give his name.

The College’s commanding officers are silent. Meanwhile, Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree and defense ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich both refused to comment.

Expect more of this until someone is brave enough to shout stop.





Going backwards III

28 01 2020

A few days ago, in a post on the removal of symbols of the 1932 revolution and the People’s Party, we promised updates when we saw them. Thanks to Khaosod – despite censorship, one of the only outlets reporting these events – we now have more information on royalist vandalism in Lopburi.

It is worth noting that the Khaosod report states: “The mainstream media were also discouraged from investigating or reporting about the disappearances [of these symbols].”

Statues dedicated to Phahol Pholphayuhasena and Plaek Phibulsonggram at the Army’s artillery base in Lopburi have been “removed” – perhaps destroyed – and, as might be expected in this palace-related vandalism, “were replaced with a huge portrait of the late King Rama IX.”

In addition, the name “Phaholyothin” – Phahol Pholphayuhasena’s birth name – has been removed from the name of the base. It is now just “Artillery Center.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Khaosod reports that “[c]onstruction workers were still removing concrete debris from where the statues once stood when a reporter visited the base on Monday afternoon.

Clipped from Khaosod

Two army officers were interviewed but “gave no explanation for the removals.” Perhpas they refused:

“We can’t tell you,” Lt.Col. Suppichai Paorith, an officer at the base’s civilian affairs division, said when asked about the name change and the missing statues.

His colleague, Col. Korn Ittiwiboon, said the new name is not considered official until an announcement is published in the Royal Government Gazette. An earlier media said the base would be renamed Fort King Bhumibol.

Both men said they have no knowledge of where the two statues might be, though one of the laborers working on the field said the statue depicting Field Marshal Pibul was removed “about a week ago.”

Of course, Army spokespersons are as fearful as everyone else in matters related to the erratic and obsessive-compulsive King Vajiralongkorn and his war on 1932 and the origins of parliamentary and electoral politics.





With a major update: Re-feudalization and repression

26 01 2020

Somsak Jeamteerasakul has posted another before and after picture of the destruction of symbols of the 1932 revolution and the People’s Party. This time at the Field Marshal P. Phibulsonggram House Learning and History Center in Chiang Rai:

Meanwhile, yet another critical report seems to have been removed from the Khaosod news website.In this case, an opinion piece by Pravit Rojanaphruk titled “Opinion: The Talibanization of Bangkok’s Architectural Heritage” about the erasing of post-1932 architectural style from Rajadamnoen Avenue, has gone.

When one looks for the article at the site, the return is:

It was there.

And it was circulated:

And it was re-posted in Thailand:

Frustratingly, PPT didn’t copy the article before it was taken down. If any reader has a copy, please email us.

The last time this happened it was a news story about the trouble caused by Princess Sirivannavari when she and some rich friends had a holiday in the south and officials closed land and sea to allow her to have fun with “security.” Ordinary Thais lost income and work while taxpayer funds were burned.

As far as we can tell, in neither case has Khaosod explained why the articles have been disappeared. We assume the management and owners came under pressure. But from where? From notions of self censorship? Or from the regime? Or from the palace?

The fear about commenting on anything royal is reinforced. The erasure of memory and history gathers pace.

Update: Thanks to readers, including @barbaricthais and “a republican reader,” we have located the deleted Khaosod op-ed by Pravit. It is clear that the equating of royal vandalism and Talibanization annoyed/scared/worried some. The op-ed is reproduced here, in full, but without the pictures:

What struck me as rather disturbing as I met with people along the Ratchadamnoen Avenue to discuss the upcoming renovation is their sense of fear.

Very few whom I interviewed wanted to be identified. Some even said they did not want to talk at all about what could be the most significant change to the landscape of the historic avenue in 80 years.

The reason is rather straightforward. All of the ten art deco buildings along the avenues are to be replaced with a new “neoclassical” pastiches per instruction from the Crown Property Bureau, who owned the structures since the time when it was still under the oversight of a civilian government that overthrew absolute monarchy in 1932.

In the present time, the agency is a different kind of entity. Following a vote in 2017 by the junta-appointed rubber stamp parliament, the Crown Property ceased to be under the control of state and was placed under the supervision of new monarch, King Vajiralongkorn.

In early 2019, the Crown Property Bureau invited tenants of these art deco buildings along the 1200-meter stretch of the avenue to a meeting, and informed them that a decision has been made to replace the structures with a neoclassical façade.

Words of the meeting were relayed to me by one of the participants, who was apparently at a discomfort of discussing the topic, but I assured him there was nothing to worry; what he told me was perfectly in line with the Crown Property’s very own announcement of the plan on Jan 17.

Not everyone is thrilled by the makeover. Critics like Chatri Prakitnonthakan, an expert and author on buildings from the era of the revolution that toppled the absolute monarchy, told me the new façade will be “fake” because it’s more like applying a veneer on art deco architectural structure which is fundamentally different.

He also suspected a deeper agenda. Chatri said art deco architecture in Thailand symbolized a break from feudal absolutism. He believes there is a sinister attempt by some people to exact revenge on the long-dead revolutionaries by removing any relics related to their memories.

No matter what your political ideology is, Thailand has lost enough architectural heritage when its old capital Ayutthaya was sacked by the Burmese in 1767; the city was also subject to a series of looting and vandalism by both Thais and Chinese merchants in the centuries that followed.

Bangkok is relatively new, anointed as the capital in 1782. Why, then, are we defacing and deconsecrating the few architectural legacies and monuments that we have?

Let us not Talibanize our tangible heritage, our past, our history – lest we end up not knowing who we are, where we came from and surrounded by Disney-like environ.

In the fast-developing megacity of Shanghai, the Chinese managed to preserve many buildings constructed by former colonial powers despite the bitter history. Thais should also learn to cherish material cultures, buildings included, that speak about a crucial portion in our history, instead of trying to deface what we do not like.

Many have given up, resigned to the fate that one of the most historic landmarks in Bangkok’s Old City will be Disneyfied with the shallow neoclassical veneer.

Some even fear that Democracy Monument, the most visible memorial to the birth of parliamentary democracy in 1932, might be either altered or removed altogether eventually. Some have begun taking selfies with the symbolism-filled monument in a half-nervous jest. Just in case.

And if the renovation is truly inevitable, I hope they save at least one art deco building on Ratchadamnoen Avenue: the imposing Royal Hotel at the southeastern end of the avenue.

It was opened in 1943 by none other than the revolution’s co-leader Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, and has since played a role in several key moments of Thai political history. Like when it was a safe haven for protesters in the May 1992 uprising against the military rulers, until soldiers invaded it, beating and forcefully arresting those inside.

I wonder if anyone will launch any campaign to save these historical relics at all. Given the current climate of fear and sensitivity of the issue, I wouldn’t be surprised if many will think more than twice before lending their signature – or even change their mind afterwards.





Remembering II

12 01 2020

We are pleased that another article on remembering is available. At Khaosod, Pravit Rojanaphruk has an op-ed on resisting the erasure of history and memory.

Pravit refers to “pro-democracy activist Arnon Nampha [who] announced on his Facebook that in 2020, he will keep posting content about the revolt which ended absolute monarchy nearly 88 years ago … because he felt its memories are being threatened.”

Arnon declared that “… we shall continue the mission of the People’s Party to the utmost,” and called on others to “think and act on the matter, adding, “We shall fight together next year [2020].”

His first post reproduced the Announcement No. 1 of the People’s Party (1932).

Pravit says that Arnon was galvanized into (Facebook) action by “the army’s decision to remove statues of two leaders of the 1932 democratic revolt and rename an artillery base in Lopburi province. The statues would be replaced by one depicting the late King Rama IX…”.

Pravit notes a “sinister trend [that] began nearly three years ago, in April 2017. That was when a plaque marking the spot where the [1932] revolt took place was mysteriously removed.”

Actually, it marked the site of the announcement of the People’s Party seizing of power.

He goes on to mention other monuments that have been destroyed or removed to unknown locations. Pravit rightly laments:

Disturbingly, most Thai mainstream mass media simply pretended the theft of such epic proportions was not worth reporting about. Or they were told not to report about it, though I have no hard evidence of that possibility.

More likely is that self-censorship and fear took hold, as it usually does when the monarchy is involved in unsavory events.

Pravit then observes the obvious:

It should be clear by now that there is a deliberate and concerted effort to delete parts of Thai political history, or at least make Thai people forget about them. It was as if five years of junta’s rule wasn’t enough. Now, certain people want to take away our collective memories and replace it with a sanitized royalist version.

And they are so dishonest that they refuse to claim responsibility for their actions, preferring to hide under the shadow of anonymity.

In our view, much of this work emanates from the palace. It is no coincidence that erasure coincide with the king’s land grabbing.

And, Pravit informs his readers that “Arnon is not alone in this campaign.” He refers to:

Some political activists, like Nitirat Subsomboon, are compiling a calendar of important dates related to Thai people’s struggle for a more equal and democratic society over the centuries. These episodes in history tend to be ignored, wilfully or not, with hardly a mention in school history textbooks.

We are pleased to know that:

It’s now clear that there are dissidents who will not just let others tamper with their memories without putting up a fight. They are starting the preservation effort by declaring that certain Thai political history is an endangered species – at risk of being erased.





Erasing history and memory

7 01 2020

PPT is almost a month late in posting on Anna Lawattanatrakul’s Uprooting Democracy: The War of Memory and the Lost Legacy of the People’s Party, which appeared at Prachatai on 19 December 2019. We are posting now because we feel that this is an important article.

We won’t recount it all as readers should look at it in full. We’ll just highlight some basic points, all of them pointing to the efforts by the palace and state to erase the 1932 revolution from history and memories.

It is important to recognize that, from the day of the revolution on 24 June 1932, there most basic schism is Thailand’s politics was between royalists and those associated with the People’s Party that overthrew the monarchy all those years ago.

Because the royalists and the royal family were so incensed by being pushed aside and losing some of their privileges and power, generations of them have been struggling to scrub out the legacy and symbols of the revolution and the People’s Party.

As Anna’s article points out, this process has accelerated:

The war of memory has been more intense since the 2006 coup, through, for example, the demolition of the Supreme Court complex, the construction of the new parliament, the enclosure of Sanam Luang, the Rattanakosin Island conservation and development project and including the disappearance of the People’s Party plaque and the Constitution Defence Monument at Laksi.

That coup also saw the decline of King Bhumibhol and the rise of King Vajiralongkorn. This suggests two items of speculation. First, that there’s a feeling that the monarchy has been under threat from a new generation of republicans, and second, that Vajiralongkorn has inherited a mindset that demands a restoration of the monarchy’s political power and a rolling back of 1932.

The list of the destruction of symbols, including some fantastic modernist buildings, is long (and sad) but not comprehensive. For example, the zoo has been “given” to the king. This is not just a land grab, but is a part of the king erasing all symbols of 1932 from what he seems to think is rightly a “royal precinct” that he taking back (the parliament building, Suan Amphon, the Ananta Samakhom Hall, Royal Turf Club race track, Suan Sunandha, the Si Sao Thewes residence previously occupied by Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, and several large plots of land and bases formerly owned by the military). Interestingly, Sanam Luang, a public space since 1932, has now been fenced off.

Clipped from Prachatai

Then there’s the destruction, by theft and vandalism, of symbols and monuments related to 1932: the People’s Party plaque, The Lak Si monument and many provincial memorials dedicated to the constitutional regime.

Many of the provincial memorials were in the northeast. The region was a political stronghold of the People’s Party and is seen today as politically dangerous for the Bangkok-based ruling class.

Back in the 1930s, the “People’s Party representatives from the northeast played an outstanding role at the time and the population was politically very active.” At the time of the revolution, “in Udon Thani province … the people listened incessantly to the news on the radio…”. They knew that the king was “under the law, citizens had equal rights, government officials were the equivalent of being the employees of citizens with the duty to help relieve the sufferings and maintain the happiness of the people.” Northeasterners flocked to the government side against the royalist plotters led by Prince Boworadej in 1933.

Hence, the rubbing out of symbols and memories has been intense in the northeast: “At present there remain only 5 constitutional monuments in the northeast: in Maha Sarakham, Surin, Roi Et, Khon Kaen and Chaiyaphum.”

The military has been a willing accomplice in all of this:

As the legacy of the People’s Party was disappearing piece by piece, on 9 October 2019, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the opening of the Si Sitthisongkhram Room and Boworadet Room in the Royal Thai Army Museum in Honour of His Majesty the King.  The two rooms are named after Prince Boworadet, leader of the Boworadet Rebellion, and Colonel Phraya Si SithiSongkram (Din Tharab), a core leader of the Boworadet Rebellion and the grandfather of Privy Councillor Gen Surayud Chulanont.

Other officials either willingly or out of fear support the great rub out:

In March 2019, the Dean of the College of Politics and Governance, Mahasarakham University, made a request to install a replica People’s Party plaque as a learning resource for students, but the University refused, giving as a reason that it was a symbolic expression and not within educational objectives.  It also feared that it would create division within the University.  Finally there was a compromise that the finished plaque would be placed on a shelf for display.

This process of enriching the palace’s land bank while rubbing out 1932 is likely to continue throughout 2020. Vajiralongkorn seems energetic in these efforts.





Updated: 1931 moves closer

10 10 2019

A defining feature of recent royalism and especially of this king’s (still short) reign has been the rolling back of limits on the monarchy’s “prestige.” That has meant expunging the changes that made for a constitutional monarchy. It is clear to PPT that King Vajiralongkorn wants his reign to mark a return to the monarch’s economic and political power prior to the 1932 revolution.

The king has made it clear that he hates the limits on his power. He has demanded and got changes to the junta’s constitution – the changes made in secret – and taken full personal control of the monarchy’s treasure and made the Crown Property Bureau his own, expunging even the minor limits on what he could do with his property and huge wealth. Those limits were imposed after 1932 (and watered down under his father).

The king has grabbed land that he reckons belongs to his royal family and that was “lost” after 1932. New laws in 2018 gave the king enormous power to grab land.

The king has vastly expanded his political power by taking control of large police and Army units – up to regiment size – for his and his family’s “protection.” Most recently, this has involved the illegal use of emergency powers in the constitution.

At the same time, the obsessive–compulsive king has promoted retro-fashion that favors pre-1932 uniforms, haircuts and attire. Personally, he has promoted royal polygamy.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Why are we recounting all of this? One reason is because the king has, with the support of the military junta and now supported by the post-junta military-backed government, he’s gotten away with all of this with barely a peep of dissent. (Of course, dissenters are threatened, jailed, disappeared, tortured and murdered.)

Under this king there’s also been a concerted effort to expunge the symbols of 1932. It wasn’t that long ago that a monument to the defeat of the royalist restorationist rebellion in 1933.

Known as the Boworadej Rebellion, it was led by Prince Boworadej and supported by the anti-democratic King Prajadhipok.

The king, probably reflecting the influence of his grandmother’s and his mother’s family’s hatred of the 1932 People’s Party revolution, the king has demanded that the military adopt symbols of the pre-1932 royal family.

The most recent effort has involved the Army’s celebration of leaders of that rebellion – a coup – who engaged in treason and mutiny.

It is reported that:

two halls in the army’s museum are named after royalist rebels who attempted to overthrow an elected government eight decades ago.

Clipped from Khaosod

Prince Bovoradej and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram, who led the 1933 failed revolt, now grace the two rooms at the Royal Thai Army headquarters’ newly renovated museum, which honors illustrious figures in army history. The rooms were inaugurated today by none other than Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong.

The Army “said the naming was meant to honor the two men for their loyalty to the monarchy…”.

The Army has tried to downplay this move, but no one should be fooled. This is yet another nail in the coffin of the constitutional monarchy as the king pushes for a neo-feudal political arrangement.

A democracy activist, Abhisit Sapnaphapan wrote:

“This is a declaration that even though they did not succeed that day … their legacies are being continued today…. Welcome to the old regime of absolute monarchy.”

Another observed: “Thai people united and brought down Bovoradej’s revolt to defend their constitution, yet Tuu [Gen Prayuth] is naming a meeting room after Bovoradej…”.

It is late 2019 but 1931 seems just around the corner.

Update: Readers might find an interview with Pridi Phanomyong from 1977 of some interest. It has emerged from behind a paywall, here.





With 3 updates: On (the real) National Day

24 06 2019

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong. We do so again today.

Pridi

In 2009 we noted that in recent years the anniversary of the event was barely noticed among the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries.

In this reign and under the military junta, there has been a determined attempt to erase the symbols of 1932 and to erase anti-monarchism.

Royalists and the king seek to erase an event they consider horrendous for reducing royal powers and granting sovereignty to common people. Of course, for many years, the royalist aim has been to push the events of 1932 from the public agenda and to “forget” that the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy.

As we did in 2009, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if the mad monarchists could get away with it.

PPT has extracted and lightly edited this document from the excellent book Pridi on Pridi, translated by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, and published by Silkworm Books. It is available from the Pridi/Phoonsuk website.

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

Update 1: Pravit Rojanaphruk at Khaosod has a useful op-ed on the real National Day. He says that “Today, only history buffs and pro-democracy activists care to mark the day as one of the most important in the Kingdom’s history. Few newspapers have mentioned it this year.” We don’t think that’s entirely true. PPT has met many who remember the day, but they dare not do much about it in royalist Thailand. Then this:

What’s more, some important relics of the 1932 revolt have mysteriously disappeared. A brass plaque at the Royal Plaza marking the June 24 revolt went missing in 2016, only to be replaced by a new plaque extolling royalist ideology. No one has claimed responsibility.

At the end of last year, something even larger disappeared. The Constitution Defense Monument at Bangkok’s Lak Si intersection, which was at least three-stories tall, was removed. Again, no one was held responsible and the majority of the Thai press neglected to report the incident. The monument had marked the defeat of a royalist rebellion which sought to restore absolute monarchy.

It’s almost as if the day never existed, which says a lot about today’s Thailand.

Now, the press extols the virtues of royalist ideology instead….

Update 2: Seemingly making Pravit’s last point, the Bangkok Post produced an atrociously royalist and unnecessarily nasty attack on those who don’t think like Patcharawalai Sanyanusin and other mad monarchists. While the attack is couched in terms that suggest something milder, this op-ed is one of the ugliest we have read in the Post for some time.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS marked the day with a schizophrenic piece that acknowledges 1932 but then lists the role of monarchs after that event. Nor does it discuss why National Day was changed to King Bhumibol’s birthday by a military dictatorship in 1960. It is breathtakingly royalist.

Showing that 1932 remains a potent political symbol, Khaosod reports on “Opposition politicians … marking the 87th year since the birth of Thai democracy by calling for charter amendments aimed at ridding the junta’s influence.” Likely to cause royalists even more angst, it is reported that:

In an online post, the Future Forward Party said the 1932 revolt inspired Thais to seek not only a constitution to govern their country, but one guaranteeing rights, liberty and equality among citizens.

“Not every constitution is a ‘constitution’ by itself,” the party’s statement said. “Some documents that they are trying to describe as a ‘constitution’ may never really constitute a constitution, because they lack the principles we discussed.”

Update 3: What is it with the “new” Bangkok Post? Has it been decided that it has to be triumphantly royalist? As far as we can tell, 24 June came and went with not a peep from the elite’s newspaper, except for a nasty snipe at anti-monarchists. Now, two days later, it comes up with a story of “Siam on the world stage.” Nothing to do with 1932, but about Siam’s royals belatedly deciding to join the allies in WW1, not doing anything much at all, but getting in on the peace deal. So what’s the big deal? Nothing much at all. It is a footnote in anyone’s serious history. But, it is celebrated now because it is about royals and their doings. Pile it high!