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.





Updated: Mad, mad monarchism

29 12 2020

Two stories at the Bangkok Post in recent days demonstrate how monarchists have gone completely bonkers.

The first story is about Lt Gen Soraphot Nirandorn, an old man with a terrible comb-over who claims to be the son of a member of Khana Ratsadorn, or the People’s Party. Ordinarily, that affiliation would not guarantee interest in Soraphot.

But in the royal and royalist efforts to roll back the 1932 revolution, Lt Gen Soraphot’s seeking of “forgiveness” for his father, prostrating “before the statues and portraits of King Rama VII, King Rama VIII and King Rama IX…” gained attention.

He says his father, Maj Sawek Nirandorn, or Khun Nirandornchai, one of some 194 “promoters” of the 1932 revolution, “felt remorseful that he as a soldier had violated the oath of allegiance.” He added that: “When serving on a committee examining royal assets, he did something inappropriate. His last wish was to seek royal forgiveness, but he died before he could do it…”.  Sawek doesn’t have much of a role in the standard histories of the period.

According to Lt Gen Soraphot, his father “left the military and was appointed by Khana Ratsadorn to take charge of the construction of the Democracy Monument and was also appointed as a member of a committee examining royal assets from 1932–1948.”

Some of the details here seem a little screwy, but that could be the reporting or the old man’s poor memory, but his angst seems to have to do with land. When asked “if he would return the assets, Lt Gen Soraphot said he has no objection but will have to ask for consent from the rest of the family.”

For those interested in the story of the land scandal of 1937, download Virginia Thompson’s Thailand A New Siam and read pages 93-95. There it is stated that 33 of the 34 persons named as having ripped off land returned it. Unlike the silence that surrounds royal seizures of land today, back then, there was a furious debate.

The second story is even more bizarre, with the monarchist management and owners of the newspaper deeming it necessary to “clarify” a story from 1950. Yes, that’s 70 years ago. Of course it is about the monarchy and it is also a “clarification” dripping with political intent.

Phibul

The Post finds itself caught up in a series of royalist attacks on the doctoral dissertation titled “Thai Politics in Phibul’s Government under the US World Order (1948–1957)” by Nattapol Chaiching. Nattapol refers to the Post for 18 December 1950 in claiming that the regent attended cabinet meetings and that this caused annoyance for Prime Minister Phibul who demanded that the regent follow constitutional rules.

The Post contorts itself stating that “the paper never reported such information…”. it adds: “In fact, the article ‘Premier May Sit In with Privy Council’ merely reported that several cabinet members had voiced their concern about the appointment of 50 senators by the Privy Council without consulting the government as stated in the full article below.”

That sounds a lot like nitpicking, and we can’t find the article the Post claims to reproduce. All of this is prompted by a nasty royalist campaign. For those who can read Thai, there’s an account of the royalist effort here. The campaign is aimed at a group of revisionist historians.

What is clear is that Nattapol’s basic point is correct. Phibul was working against royalists who were reasserting their power and, as usual, ignoring constitutional procedures. As Sorasak Ngamcachonkulkid has it in his 2005 thesis, “The Seri Thai movement : the first alliance against military authoritarianism in modern Thai history” (p. 539):

Soon after the 1947 coup, senior and traditional members of the royal family and the aristocracy came back to play a central role in politics. The two traditional elite groups began by extending their control to the upper House of the legislature. Although the military leaders attempted to place their own followers in the senate, the Regent, Prince Rangsit, ignored their request and appointed one-hundred senators from among the nation’s most venerable and highly-educated elite. Only eight senators were selected from the 1932 revolutionary group, and no senators were appointed from members of the recent coup. Of the 100 Senators, 90 of them were princes … and [from] the aristocracy….

As time went on, Phibul railed against the royalists, seeking to roll back their power grab and especially against the regent. Indeed, in 1951, when Prince Dhani was appointed regent, Phibul voted against him.

Our point being that the royalists are grasping at straws and again trying to put the genie back in the opaque bottle.

Update: In the context of the above notes, it is worth reading Voranai Vanijaka’s op-ed “2020: Khana Ratsadon VS the Chakri Dynasty Part 2.” It sets out some of the ideological underpinnings for Thailand’s journey back to royal absolutism.





The king and his antics II

11 09 2020

Thailand’s king and his antics in Europe have attracted plenty of unfavorable comment, The most recent is from The Statesman. While we think that most of PPT’s readers will know all of the facts and antics recounted, we consider the article by Francis Pike, with our added illustrations, worth reproducing in full:

The depraved rule of Thailand’s Caligula king
Protestors are risking it all to take on the monarchy

Fu Fu

The Roman emperor Caligula was renowned for his extravagance, capricious cruelty, sexual deviancy and temper bordering on insanity. Most famously, before he was assassinated, he planned to appoint his favourite horse as a consul. This is probably a legend. But King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the Thai throne in 2016, adopted Caligula’s playbook for real. In 2009 the then crown prince promoted his pet miniature poodle Foo Foo to the post of air chief marshal, in which capacity he served until his death in 2015, aged 17. Foo Foo’s cremation was preceded by four days of formal Buddhist mourning.

The poodle first came to the attention of the general public when a video was released showing him eating cake from the hand of Vajiralongkorn’s third wife, Princess Srirasmi, while she cavorted in a G-string at the dog’s lavish birthday party. At a 2009 gala dinner in honour of Vajiralongkorn, Foo Foo was kitted out head to paw in black-tie dress and, according to a WikiLeaks-revealed account by US ambassador, Ralph Boyce, ‘jumped onto the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own’.

When on parade the new king wears crisp, snowy-white, gold-braided, Ruritanian military uniforms or elaborate Thai regalia that make him look like a Buddhist temple in human form. In downtime his dress code can at best be described as kinky: trainers and low-hung jeans paired with the skimpiest of crop tops. His back and arms are festooned with possibly fake tattoos.

Vajiralongkorn is famously lecherous. Indeed, in his youth, Thai aristocrats would pack off their daughters to Europe to get them out of his clutches. Happily for Bangkok’s elite, the crown prince’s tastes, after his divorce from his first wife, an aristocratic relative of his mother, were consistently low-rent. His second wife was an aspiring actress, albeit of the soft-porn variety.

Prince, and kids in earlier times

The marriage did not last. After Vajiralongkorn put posters all over the palace accusing her of adultery, she fled to London and later to the US with her children — apart from a daughter who was kidnapped and brought back to Bangkok. The daughter was elevated to the rank of princess, but her mother and brothers had their diplomatic passports and royal titles revoked by the crown prince. The Thai public was left horrified by his treatment of his family.

Another marriage followed in 2001, to the aforementioned Srirasmi, though it was not publicly announced until 2005 when the crown prince, by then in his early fifties, declared it was time to settle down. How-ever, in 2014 he stripped his wife of her royal titles because of her relatives’ corruption. Srirasmi’s parents were jailed for two and a half years each for lèse-majesté.

Sineenat

Five years later, on 1 May last year, and just three days before his official coronation, Vajiralongkorn married for the fourth time, to Suthida Tidjai, a former Thai Airways hostess, giving her the title of Queen Consort. The Thai people were dumbfounded when just two months later, the new king named his mistress, Major General Sineenat Wongvajira-pakdi, as his Royal Noble Consort; it was the first time this form of address had been used for more than 100 years. The new relationship lasted three months. On 21 October, Sineenat was stripped of all her titles and disappeared from public view, supposedly for being disrespectful to the queen.

The king’s extravagance is no less remarkable than his private life. A monarchy that was impoverished in the postwar period had, by some estimates, increased its wealth to between $40 billion and $60 billion by last year. Most of the wealth resides in land; ownership of some four square miles of central Bangkok makes the Thai monarchy the world’s wealthiest by a large margin. Overseas holdings include a major stake in the Kempinski hotel group.* Indeed, for years Vajiralongkorn has spent months on end at the Munich Kempinski with his harem and servants. In addition, he owns a mansion on Lake Starnberg to the southwest of Munich. In spite of his huge allowances as crown prince, affording him ownership of two Boeing 737s, it is thought that he had to resort to begging funds from the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to cover his gambling debts.

Why do King Vajiralongkorn’s private shenanigans matter? Royal families throughout Europe have long weathered sexual and financial scandals. Juan Carlos may have had to step down as king and go into exile, but the Spanish monarchy has survived. So too has the Belgian monarchy after the former King Albert II admitted to a love child. There is no suggestion that Prince Andrew, cherubic by comparison with King Vajiralongkorn, will bring down the British royals because of the Epstein imbroglio. But the key difference is that, unlike Thailand, all those are constitutional monarchies.

Bhumibol and Ananda

In Thailand the monarchy is integral to the country’s real power structures. This was a 70-year legacy of Vajiralongkorn’s father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bhumibol’s reign started under a cloud following the killing of his 20-year-old predecessor, King Ananda Mahidol, by a single shot to the head with a Colt .45 pistol. After a questionable trial two servants were executed for the murder, though it is widely suspected that the king was accidently shot by Bhumibol, his brother. For the first decade of his rule King Bhumibol was entirely powerless and lived under the rule of the quasi-dictator Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram, who, during the second world war, had allied Thailand with the Axis powers.

Bhumibol, Sirikit, Prem

But gradually, as Thailand inched towards a democracy, Bhumibol won the adoration of the Thai people thanks to his moderating influence and good works, such as paying for medical facilities for the poor. His political power increased. In 1952 he bravely refused to preside over ceremonies for Phibunsongkhram’s new militaristic constitution.** However, Bhumibol’s finest moment came in 1981 when he faced down the ‘April Fools’ Day’ coup d’état by fleeing Bangkok and raising the Thai royal standard at the military base at Khorat, where General Prem emerged as the new military strongman. There followed what is now known as the ‘Network Monarchy’ era, a coalition of military interests and those of the financial and industrial elite based in Bangkok. As a former American deputy-president at Thailand’s Bank of Asia noted: ‘Thai politics has been about dividing up the pie among the elite.’ At the centre of the web stood the Thai monarchy. Elected democratic institutions remained largely an adornment to this oligarchic structure.

In 2001 a business chancer and mobile phone billionaire, Thaksin Shinawatra, later the owner of Manchester City FC, swept to power with his Thai Rak Thai party promising a populist agenda including reform of health and education. Much to the chagrin of the ‘Network Monarchy’, Thaksin won a sweeping electoral victory again in 2005. Bhumibol, who loathed Thaksin, gave tacit support to the coup that first removed him and then sent him into exile two years later. Until his death in 2016, Bhumibol thwarted, either by military or judicial coup, the democratic will of the Thai people, who since 2001 have consistently voted into power Thaksin-backed parties and their proxy leaders. Bhumibol’s historic reputation, albeit tarnished by his thwarting of the democratic will, became an important pillar of resistance to Thaksin’s outsiders. After Bhumibol’s death in 2016, the critical power of the monarchy was left in the hands of his dissolute playboy son.

Will King Vajiralongkorn redeem his dire youthful reputation and do a ‘Prince Hal’, moving to the path of royal righteousness? The signs so far are not good. Just over a week ago, the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat suddenly re-emerged with no information other than an inventive Royal Gazette announcement that ‘It will be regarded that she was never stripped of the royal consort title, military ranks and royal decorations’.

More important than this saga of extra-judicial fiat, the king intervened in the drafting of a new constitution by the military junta in 2017 to grant himself new powers over the appointment of regents. In addition, the new constitution asserted the king’s rights to ‘manage’ during any constitutional crisis. Given that Thailand has had 17 military coups since 1932, this is not trivial. Two crack regiments have also been put under his direct control. As the political exile and professor at Kyoto University Pavin Chachavalpongpun has noted, the king ‘is basically running the country now, though he’s not doing that like his father did through moral authority. He’s using fear to solidify his position and to take command.’

It is therefore interesting that in the past month, demonstrations of up to 10,000 people have called for the powers of the king to be curtailed. Protestors have defied Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté laws — which can incur up to 15 years’ imprisonment — to chant ‘Down with feudalism’. It remains to be seen whether the protests are a straw in the wind of future political instability. The new king’s attempt to transition from a monarch with influence within the ‘Network Monarchy’ to a monarch who rules is fraught with danger. But at least Vajiralongkorn is unlikely to come to Caligula’s sticky end; the king has a ready-made home for an exile in his beloved Bavaria.

*For discussions that reflect changes in ownership, see here and here.

**The refusal to attend was a fit of pique and self-interest.





Royalism trumps virus

27 03 2020

When it comes to the virus, the regime remains muddled and dopey. When it comes to pleasing the king, the regime is conducting business as usual.

Khaosod reports that the absent and silent king has “approved a name change for two military bases, ditching the names of two revolutionaries behind the 1932 democratic revolt.”

The “Phahol Pholphayuhasena Artillery Center and Fort Pibulsongkram in Lopburi province are hereby known as Fort Bhumibol and Fort Sirkit, respectively, after the names of King’s Vajiralongkorn’s parents.”

By his repeated actions, it is obvious that the king feels the need to roll back 1932. At the same time, he feels the need to build his legitimacy by drawing on the status of his dead father and ill mother.

The change was made “retroactively effective from December 2019.”





On neo-feudal restorationism

2 02 2020

Pravit Rojanaphruk deserves considerable praise for daring to take up the case of the royalist vandalizing of statues commemorating the 1932 revolution and its leaders.

His latest op-ed “Why Did Statues of a Former PM Have to Go?” is a must-read. While he can’t name names, his view that this latest act of royalist erasure is cause for deep concern: “the removal of two bronze statues of him is something all Thais should be worried about.”

1932: The end of the absolute monarchy announced

On the lack of any explanation for the recent acts of cultural vandalism, he says:

To this day, I never received any straightforward answer from those running those facilities why the statues had to go. On my visits, it seemed to me that the military personnel were under a lot of pressure to remain taciturn, perhaps because the answer may be too complicated for the public to understand.

Phibul

In fact, most Thais have a pretty good understanding of these events. They know that King Vajiralongkorn is seeking to further aggrandize the monarchy. They know that the king has been land grabbing and is now building a huge palace precinct that “requires” the erasing of all other symbols of 1932 and the end of the absolute monarchy.

As Pravit has it, “If statues of someone so influential to modern Thailand could be removed without a trace, modern Thailand as we know it is in deep trouble.”

He observes:

Scholar Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian noted in her book “Thailand’s Durable Premier” that Pibulsongkram’s own goals were most likely to “permanently eliminate the rule of absolute monarchy and its deep-rooted prestige and influence over the people in the country.”

Could this be the reason why, in a climate where concerted attempts are being made to restore and revive the supreme dominance of the monarchy, that Pibulsongkram statues must go?

Yes, that’s it.

And he adds that Plaek Phibulsonggram’s ghost “and the ghosts of his fellow revolutionaries who overthrew absolute monarchy, are still a haunting threat to some. And to the powerful, ghostly threats must be exorcised.”

Probably, but we know that both his father’s and his mother’s families were vehement opponents of the 1932 revolution and that his father loathed Phibul.

Pravit concludes: “In the end, it is not just the memories of Pibulsongkram that are at stake – but that of modern Thai history itself.”

That’s true. But it is also Thailand’s political future that is at stake. Will the royalists overcome democrats and can the palace complete the more than 80 year struggle to undo the 1932 revolution?





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.





Further updated: Going backwards I

23 01 2020

Earlier this month we pointed to another effort directed by King Vajiralongkorn to erase all symbols of the 1932 revolution.

We pointed to reports that memorial statues to two leaders of the 1932 revolution – Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram – were to be removed at a military base in Lopburi.

This was just the latest in a string of secret, then semi-secret and now brazenly open re-feudalization efforts by the palace to de-memorialize 1932 and replace it with symbols of the monarchy.

We observed that history is being re-constructed as we watch.

This dirty deed has now been done, in the depths of night, as shown in social media posts of before, during and after the official vandalism.

What’s next? The Democracy Monument? Changing street names? We think anything is possible under a king who wants more absolutism and mad military monarchists who cravenly lick his boots.

Update 1: There’s now some confusion on social media about this removal of statues. The photos above referred to a statue of Phahon Pholpayuhasena being removed. Some reports had it as a statue of Phibun. It seems the latter’s statue remains. If we see any further news on this we’ll update.

Update 2: The confusion on statues seems to relate to a Phibun statue in Bangkok, which is still in place. The social media commentary on statue removal referred to Lopburi. Prachatai has a graphic summarizing the destruction and memory erasures:





Defining 2019

1 01 2020

Several recent topics, actions and reports have defined 2019 under the junta, its military-backed “elected” government and the ever more powerful monarchy:

Law for the rich and powerful

Suchanee Cloitre (clipped from LePetitJournal.com)

Reporters Without Borders has condemned a “draconian two-year jail sentence that Thai journalist Suchanee Cloitre … received for allegedly defaming an agribusiness company [Thammakaset] in … Lop Buri in a tweet more than three years ago…”.

This is the maximum sentence given and its for an old tweet in an old case, where the journalist for Voice TV told the truth – the company was treating its workers as if they were slaves.

Her tweet was about a court “ordering Thammakaset to compensate 14 migrant workers who had been forced to work up to 20 hours a day on the company’s chicken farms while being paid less than the minimum wage and no overtime.”

When she referred to “slave labour,” the company sued.

In criminal defamation cases, truth is irrelevant. These cases flutter about like confetti as the rich and powerful use their law to silence critics. This includes the current regime. The media is so cowed by such cases that almost no one is prepared to tell the truth.

Going backwards

Khaosod reports on yet another effort directed by King Vajiralongkorn to erase all symbols of the 1932 revolution. This is the latest in a string of secret, then semi-secret and now brazenly open efforts by the palace to de-memorialize 1932 and replace it with symbols of the monarchy.

History is being re-constructed as we watch.

In this instance, memorials to two leaders of the 1932 revolution – Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram – “are due to be removed from public view…” at a military base in Lopburi.

Apparently, the statues will be sent to a museum. We fear they will be destroyed.

It is no surprise that the statues will be replaced by “a new statue depicting the late King Bhumibol…”. No one will be permitted to contest the palace’s actions. A military spokesman stated that the two statues were “commoner statues [and] have to make way for the new [royal] statue…”.

In addition, the military base which “bears the name of Phahol Pholphayuhasena, will also be renamed to King Bhumibol Base per an instruction from the current monarch…”.

When will Thais stand up for their history?

Royal Household Bureau via Khaosod

An op-ed writer in Manila has bought the monarchist nonsense piled high in Thailand. He seems to believe that Thailand is “stabilized” by a “revered” monarchy.

Vajiralongkorn hopes this monarchism infects the citizens of Thailand to facilitate his reign, rule and grasping.

So far, he’s getting his way. And the king seems very intent on getting his way: land, money, laws, constitution, wives (who come and go) and much more. The more he gets the more he wants.

The missing … and “protecting” monarchy and regime

Vajiralongkorn and his henchmen in the military seem to have gotten his way on disappearing some of his opponents – probably meant as a “message” to anyone who dares speak against the monarchy. They should not be forgotten.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

When they are not being murdered, political opponents are bashed .It is this regime of fear seems to have replaced the use of lese majeste.

Clipped from VOA News

We feel that this strategy has been devised by the palace in an effort to maintain both monarchy and military-backed government.

Regime gangsters

All of this “protection” serves monarchy and regime well (at least for the moment).

After manufacturing an election “victory,” the razor-thin majority that allowed the military junta to steal government, it has protected ministers and members who are needed to maintain the huge, unwieldy and Election Commission manufactured coalition.

Perhaps the best example of protection is deputy minister Thammanat Prompao, a convicted heroin smuggler. He also flaunts fake university degrees. But he’s not just a political fixer for the government’s Palang Pracharath Party who is being protected. He claims connections to the top.

When under arrest in Australia, he “told police he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand, had been an army spy…, and ran a side business while serving as an assistant to a top general.” That’s how it works in Vajiralongkorn’s Thailand.

Then there’s Palang Pracharath MP Pareena Kraikupt and her father. Her recent case of acquiring and using land that is supposed to be for poor farmers and/or national park seems unlikely to go anywhere as a cover up goes on.

The only thing keeping the issue in the cowed media is her father’s penchant for hit-and-run driving and mad media conferences, filled with lies. Once he’s quiet, watch Pareena squeeze out of her own problems. The regime prefers no criticism of it or its MPs.

Again, the rich and powerful can get away with murder (probably literally in Thammanat’s case), heroin smuggling, theft and other misdemeanors.

Make overs for the evil

Perhaps the weirdest of all news reports in late 2019 was when local “anti-corruption agencies awarded the Thai army for having the highest score on transparency and integrity among government agencies at an event held to commemorate the International Anti-corruption Day on Dec 9. It scored 97.96 points out of 100.” Weird, unbelievable and very silly. However, the point is the whitewashing. The powerful seem to relish whitewashing almost as much as it relishes ill-gotten gains.

Eating the state

Corruption is a bit old-hat these days as there are plenty of ways to feed at the breast of the private sector as it exploits the state and Thai taxpayers.

We couldn’t help noticing that on 15 December it was reported: “Airports of Thailand (AoT) is likely to scrap bidding to run duty-free pick-up counters at Don Mueang airport after only one company [King Power] expressed interest in the contest.” Of course, AoT didn’t. A few days later it was reported that the “board of Airports of Thailand Plc has awarded a 10.5-year duty-free concession at Don Mueang airport to King Power Duty Free Co, which offered a yearly 1.5-billion-baht minimum return…”. King Power, the current monopoly duty free store at all airports now has new 10-year contracts for all those airports.

There must be many in various military and state offices – right to the top – who will benefit from these new contracts.

Somehow we doubt that 2020 will be better than 2019.