Succession and elections

14 01 2023

Singapore’s Mothership reports on a talk by Chulalongkorn University’s Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang who (bravely) asserted:

One of the biggest concerns for the country would be the matter of succession. Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati, the eldest daughter of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, was hospitalised [PPT: she’s dead] and eventually put on life support after she collapsed while training her pet dog on Dec. 14 last year.”

He explained:

While the Thai palace has never declared Bajrakitiyabha as the successor to the throne, she has been widely assumed to be next in line for succession.

“She studied law, she’s intelligible, approachable, and well-loved by many of the elite community,” Khemtong said, while “Prince Dipangkorn, the only male heir of [King] Vajiralongkorn, is said to be mentally challenged,” though Khemtong also stressed that as a “Thai person, [he] can neither confirm [nor] repudiate that accusation.”

We think that’s reasonably accurate, although Dipangkorn’s brief recent visit to Thailand suggested that there may have been some quick rethinking. In any case, dopey princes have previously become kings. It’s blood that matters.

His point is about the election:

“Now the king is in some kind of crisis. So the question is whether this crisis [will cast a] political shadow. Will we still have the election in May 2023?” Khemthong asked.

According to Khemthong, Thailand’s 2023 election is supposedly the biggest event of the year. It was expected to occur in May, but many believe the election might happen much earlier.

On the election:

Khemthong sounded pessimistic about the election, as he said, “The election will not be a transition. Actually, the election will help normalise this very unfree and unfair political arrangement of Thai politics.”

On linking palace and election:

But big questions remain. Given the Thai princess’s condition, how will the palace crisis affect this year’s election?

“The main question is that in times of crisis, will the palace resort to some extra-constitutional convention?” Khemthong asked. “At the very least, if there’s a state funeral, will it delay [the] election and for how long? And that’s the question that we don’t know the answer yet.”





Further updated: While we were away….

5 01 2023

It seems that a decaying regime and a largely tame mainstream media means that bizarre things happen and are reported as if they are “normal.” Likewise, some things – mostly to do with Article 112 are simply ignored. And then there’s the strangeness of The Family (the dysfunctional family that for many years has looked like something between The Addams Family and The Munsters but without much family togetherness or the good humor of those television families).

Obviously, the story that has been most difficult to comprehend is the death of Princess Bajrakitiyabha that the palace has not yet acknowledged. That story was scooped by Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

About three weeks ago the palace stated that, after a heart attack/aneurysm, her condition was “stable to a certain extent.” As the BBC added:

Medical bulletins from the royal palace in Thailand are typically vague and cryptic, and from the single statement issued about Princess Bajrakitiyabha, it is difficult to gauge how serious her condition is….

The statement says nothing about her state of health now. Some reports have suggested it is a lot more serious than stated.

Those reports stated that she was brain dead, being kept “alive” by machines. As the king’s favorite, her death is a personal blow, especially as she was only 44. It is not known why her death is not announced or even why there are no updates.

Meanwhile, millions of Thais are being regimented into “praying” for the princess’s miracle “recovery.” Uniformed Thais have led the “good wishes.”

Leaving aside the nutty stuff about what caused her demise, it does seem that succession has again become an issue. This seems to be based on assumptions that King Vajiralongkorn favored her. In fact, though, when succession was said to be in “crisis” a few years ago, it was Princess Sirindhorn who was the center of attention. Why she’s not in the mix now is not explained. Prince Dipangkorn is considered to have “health issues” (which royal doesn’t?) However, he’s now looking pampered, “handsome” to royalists, and must be a chance. But who knows?

A couple of points though. When there was last attention to a “succession crisis” and now, the one thing that has changed is that Bajrakitiyabha was the only full royal by blood. What hasn’t changed is that Dipangkorn is the only male (leaving aside the disowned lot in the USA). None of the royal princesses have male offspring and none of the female offspring seem intent on marriage and the production of offspring.

In the end, the dynasty seems to have reached its biological limits. Minor royals will be positioning themselves while more reasonable people would be looking to a republican future.

Update 1: A reader disputes that there are any “minor royals.” By “minor royals,” we mean those families that might claim royal blood from decades ago. There are still MRs and MCs around. Some of these have recently been seen in royal news undertaking royally-assigned tasks. The point is, as the reader acknowledges, in royalist Thailand, “anything is possible.” In that sense, some of the offspring in the USA might have royal thoughts.

Update 2: According to Prachatai, a new palace report has been released on Bajrakitiyabha. This time, the statement, released on 7 December, has it that “Princess Bajrakitiyabha collapsed due to severe cardiac arrhythmia relating to a mycoplasma infection. She is unconscious and is being given antibiotics, while her heart, lungs, and kidneys continue to be treated with medication and medical equipment.”





Koi is gone

4 08 2022

Andrew MacGregor Marshall has a new Secret Siam post “Koi gone.” Marshall doesn’t answer the burning question: What has happened to Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, known as Koi, the king’s official concubine?

She’s been gone from public view since 5 December 2021. No one is saying what has happened to her. She was there one day and then she disappeared. Her unexplained disappearance is not something usually associated with “celebrities” in the modern world. It is strange. But so is the Thai royal family.

If he can’t say what has happened to her, Marshall puts together the story of Koi as it is currently known. It will be of interest for many who follow the erratic Vajiralongkorn. Here’s some of the conclusion to Marshall’s account:

The royals finally returned to Europe in November 2021, taking over much of the airport hotel in Munich for their mandatory two weeks of coronavirus quarantine. They made day trips to Thailand on November 20 for the changing of the clothes of the Emerald Buddha, and on December 5 for the birthday of the late King Bhumibol.

The December 5 visit was the last time Koi has been seen in public. She has been missing for eight months. Here is the last image we have of her.

It remains unknown what happened during December last year between Vajiralongkorn and Koi….

The king flew back to Bangkok via Zurich on December 28 for Taksin Day, bringing [Queen] Suthida but — very unusually — not Koi, who stayed in Bavaria. He planned to stay in Thailand less than two weeks.

We are PPT don’t think it is certain that Koi remained in Bavaria.

But the plans were repeatedly changed…. Clearly there was some turbulence in the palace, with plans being changed so frequently.

Eventually, Vajiralongkorn decided he was not going to return to his pleasure palace in Bavaria for now. He has not been back to Germany since December and has not seen Koi since then.

The real reason [for Koi’s disappearance], royal sources say, is that Koi’s ambitions were causing so much conflict that Vajiralongkorn became increasingly angry and bored of the drama. Surprisingly, Suthida seems to have won the power struggle for now, with the help of Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari….

On July 28 [2022], the royals gathered to mark Vajiralongkorn’s 70th birthday. It was exactly three years since he had anointed Koi his royal noble consort, but she was nowhere to be seen.

For the moment, Koi is gone.





A royalist ode

21 11 2021

According to Royal World Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn, his queen and his favorite consort have been briefly back in Thailand before returning to Switzerland and Germany. In Thailand:

… King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida of Thailand, with … Princess Bajrakitiyabha, … Princess Rajsarini Siribajra​ and Princess Sirivannavari, along with the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Bilaskalayani presided over the ceremony of changing the seasonal attire for the Emerald Buddha into winter attire. The tradition of changing the robes seasonally; Rainy, Winter, and Summer, held at the Temple of Emerald Buddha….

There is quite a lot to think about in this event. First, why did he and his huge entourage decamp to Europe just a little more than a week ago, to return for just day? Was he trying to be out of the country when the Constitutional Court was promoting absolutism? Or is he just being his usual erratic and dull self? Second, why is the royal family unmasked, especially when they have been in Germany, where the virus is raging. Third, who pays for these expensive jaunts to and from Europe? Finally, why do royalists continue to turn out and support a king who has made it clear he’d rather not be in Thailand? The latter question sent us to poets, with apologies to Thomas Ford:

There is a king erratic and (un)kind,

Was never a face so pleased my mind;

I did but see him passing by. And yet I’ll love him till I die. His gesture, motion, and his grimaces,

His lack of wit, but his voice my heart beguiles,

Beguiles my heart, I know not why,

Yet, I will love him till I die.





Further updated: Fake reporting and conscientious non-reporting

15 02 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Back in the news

13 02 2021

Royal World Thailand has published pictures of the “missing” Queen Suthida and a newly shown “Princess Patty.” After the social media hullabaloo about the missing queen, this appearance will simply set off more speculation about her whereabouts over the past month.

Clipped from Royal World Thailand

Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s military-style haircut seems to be a part of her father’s promotion of her to full Army general and her taking up that new role. Like kings of yore, Vajiralongkorn likes to have favorites and family running things.

Clipped from Royal World Thailand

All of the recent hyperventilating speculation about the queen did send PPT to the royal news more often. What we noticed was an absence of royals generally from the news. After the huge profile taken in putting down the anti-monarchists, it seems that almost all of them are resting or convalescing. Never has the royal news been shorter than in the past week. There are some small mercies.





Updated: Royal matters

5 02 2021

We don’t follow Royal World Thailand all the time, but reading a story at the South China Morning Post regarding Queen Suthida not being seen for some time and observing “anxiety among some diehard royalist supporters” about her “disappearance.” The SCMP stated:

Neither has the palace moved to discredit rumours swirling online that Suthida might suffer the same fate asKing Maha Vajiralongkorn’s three former wives, who were either forced into exile or publicly humiliated.

We guess that, based on his past bad behavior, suspicions could be aroused.

However, a search of Royal World Thailand found a story about the king and queen handing out more virus stuff – mobile units – which the story claims have been funded from “their own personal wealth.” The total said to have been “paid” is almost 30 million baht,

This outing is dated 26 January 2021.

Skeptics might think this fake palace propaganda, hiding something more sinister….

Also at Royal World Thailand, is the story of the king promoting his first daughter in the military – he loves handing out military rank to his favorite women.

Vajiralongkorn has made Princess Bajrakitiyabha a full general. The detail is worth reproducing:

Clipped from SCMP

According to the Royal Gazette, following His Majesty’s Royal Command to transfer the Public Prosecutor to the Military Officer relies on the Article 15 the Kingdom’s Constitution 2017, together with Articles 4 and 9 of the Royal Service Administration Act 2017, Articles 10, 13, 14, 15, and 18 of Royal Decree Organising Governmental Affairs and Personnel Administration for Royal Service 2017, and Articles 4 and 5 of the Military Rank Act 1936.

Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha, The Princess Rajasarini Siribajra who holds the position of Expert Public Prosecutor (Grade 5) Region 2 Public Prosecutor Office of the Office of the Attorney General, has been transferred to the military position of Chief of Staff of Royal Guard Unit, The Royal Security Command with the rank of General on 2 February 2021.

As the King is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, he hence acts as the central unity of Thai army. Various military ranks have been granted to many royal members for decades. Some really works in military fields, e.g., teachers or specific commanders. Some attended trainings for gaining experiences. And some did not even join any trainings. Ranks were hence granted to be a personal honour.

For The Princess’s military pathway, she started the first military career in 2000 and received various ranks throughout the years:

    • 10 November 2000 – Second Lieutenant with Honorary Officer of the 1st Infantry Regiment
    • 23 October 2002 – Lieutenant with Honorary Officer of the 29th Cavalry Squadron
    • 10 September 2004 – Captain
    • 4 March 2018 – Major General with Honorary Officer of the Royal Guard Unit
    • 27 September 2019 – Lieutenant General
    • 2 February 2021 – General with Chief of Staff of Royal Guard Unit, The Royal Security Command

Besides working in judicial field as the Expert Public Prosecutor (Grade 5) of Region 2 Public Prosecutor Office of the Provincial Juvenile and Family Litigation in Rayong Province, the Princess attended the military training at Special Warfare School in Lopburi Province.

The Princess started the military career at the age of only 22, and received the respective ranks in general steps before pausing for almost 15 years. She was then skipped to the General ranks instead of Colonels’. Princess ‘Patty’ has unsurprising growing in military life for her 20 years of service, unlike Queen Suthida who has rapid military growing less than 10 years.

Updated: Several readers have commented that the story about the king and queen mentioned above was shown on the nightly royal news and did not include any video of the pair, just still photos overlaid on backgrounds. They suggest that it remains true that Suthida has not been seen “live” since late December.





On a few things royal I

5 12 2020

There are a number of royal “stories” that caught our attention today.

The first was a gaggle of stories about the dead king. Of course, 5 December – the dead king’s birthday – was made especially important by palace propaganda and before he became ill, on his birthday eve, the palace would round up the great and the good and the captive audience would sit through the king’s often incoherent ramblings. It would be left to the media to try and interpret the meaning of these sometimes long homilies.

The Bangkok Post outdid most other media that we looked at, with four lengthy propaganda pieces. One was a PR piece about the Bangkok arm of the former junta, the BMA, recalling that the day is also father’s day. That came about after an order from military dictator and double coup leader Sarit Thanarat who made the king’s birthday National Day in 1960. Then there are almost obligatory stories on the late king’s interventions in the nation’s water policy, including his backing of huge dams, sufficiency economy, reproducing all the usual blarney from the world’s richest monarchy, and education, in a country with what is now an awful education system, so bad that its students have revolted.

The passed king is said to have “spent decades trying to combat the twin crises besetting Thailand: droughts and floods,” yet these problems persist and plague the nation every year. Chalearmkiat Kongvichienwat, a deputy director-general for engineering with the Royal Irrigation Department describes the late king as “a great hydrological engineer.” We should recall that the king only had a high school diploma and that his “reputation” as an “engineer” was manufactured by palace propaganda and RID, which gained huge amounts of cash for its projects.

RID observes:

… there are 3,481 royal water projects in which the department is involved. Among them, 3,206 projects are already complete.

They comprise 1,277 projects in the North, 758 in the northeastern region, 498 in the Central region and 673 in the South. These royal projects when completed will provide water to 589,000 households living on 4.90 million rai. The projects can store a total of 6.771 billion cubic metres of water.

Some 87 of the 275 remaining projects are expected to be completed by 2024 and 188 are in the pipeline.

That’s a lot of money. We wonder how many continue to operate and at what cost to environment, locals and taxpayer. The propaganda value for the king and palace was inestimable.

There’s no mention of the dead king’s support for dictators, coups, or the military.

A second story line that is appropriate for today is from Bloomberg at The Japan Times. It is focused on royal wealth: “Thailand’s taboo-breaking demonstrations are about more than the right to criticize the monarchy without fear of going to prison: Protesters want taxpayers to control investments and real estate worth tens of billions of dollars.” It has some of the existing information, but there is some additional information.

On the current king’s PR efforts, a third story line caught our attention. As is usual, there are royal pardons and sentences are cut for thousands of inmates. Also usual is the handing out of bags of charity goods to victims of natural disasters, said to be from the king, and usually accompanied by royal portraits. In this case, it was flood victims in the south. The Army claims that “[m]ore than 300,000 households in 90 districts in 11 southern provinces have been affected by flooding…”. The king “donated 10,000 relief bags to flood victims in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, where at least 13 people have died in recent flooding.” Clearly, a symbolic effort by the world’s richest king.

Then we saw, at The Nation, a series of photos about a recent royal outing-cum-PR exercise. It has the king and queen, accompanied by Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati, the Princess Rajasarinisiribajra and Chao Khun Phra Sineenat Bilaskalayani,” attending a religious event for the dead king “at the Royal Plaza in front of Dusit Palace…”. Given all the recent social media attention and some news reports of rifts in the palace, between queen and consort and between princess and consort, we wondered if they didn’t look rather happy together in this photo, suggesting that some of the speculation might be overcooked:

Happy family outing? Clipped from The Nation

Finally, we want to suggest that readers might want to watch a BBC video story about the students and their revolt against the monarchy.





Palace PR at full throttle I

13 11 2020

The palace public relations machinery has long had to “manage” Vajiralongkorn’s “problems.” His explosive “divorces,” his erratic behavior and , and the rumors of violence, illnesses, philandering and associations with crime. Generally, the PR exercises revolved around strategies that had “worked” for his father.

The explosion of dissatisfaction with Vajiralongkorn that has been seen recently, reflecting tension over his neo-feudal absolutism, his bahavior and his preference for living in Germany, has seen a new twist on palace propaganda. This involves a rebranding of Vajiralongkorn and the younger royal family members as celebrities. This might be called the Hello! strategy. Obviously, this follows the model of royals in some other countries.

As PPT has said previously, we think this new PR strategy reflects the influence of the royal family’s younger women, including Queen Suthida, Princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, and some of the harem.

After rousing the raucous royalists in Bangkok, and getting good PR in Thailand (always expected and demanded) but also internationally, with that CNN interview contributing to an image of “compromise” and “popularity,” ignoring the king’s unsteadiness and giving him an instant free pass on all his previous black marks, the palace “influencers” have decided to have the king do “populist tours.”

Reuters reports that “Vajiralongkorn wrote messages of national unity and love on Tuesday during a visit to the northeast of the country two days after protesters sent him a letter demanding royal reforms that would curb his powers.”

In a PR stunt, the king wrote a message to the governor of Udon Thani province: “We all love and care for each other. Take care of the country, help each other protect our country with goodness for prosperity and protect Thainess…”. Going full-on celebrity on a “picture of himself and the queen … the king wrote”: “Love the nation, love the people, cherish Thainess, real happiness.” Another message stated: ““Thank you for all the love and support. We love and care for each other. We must take care of the country, and we must help each other protect it with virtue for it to prosper. Preserve the marvel of Thainess…”.

If the protests against the king have been unprecedented, so is the palace PR response, seeking to create a new image for the king. Previous efforts at this kind of image making have been undone by Vajiralongkorn’s inability to stick with the PR plan and messages.

As these reports of “good king” are being managed, there’s also been “bad king” reports. Hype (Malaysia) had this”

King Maha Vajiralongkorn was married to his third wife, Srirasmi Suwadee, in 2001, before divorcing her in 2014.

Since then, the ex-princess is currently under house-arrest and has decided to take on life as a nun.

Back in 2014, Srirasmi’s uncle, parents, sister and three brothers were convicted with several offences, including “lèse-majesté”, which is defamation to the monarchy. They were all sentenced to prison with different offences and Srirasmi got her royal title stripped of the same year.

As aforementioned, Srirasmi is under house arrest as she hasn’t been seen in public ever since she was forced to leave the royal house. As per China Press, Thai royal experts have exposed photos of the King’s third wife in white robes with her head shaved, as a sign of her nunhood, at her house in Ratchaburi province in central Thailand.

In the photos, she can be seen living a simple life of planting seeds and sweeping leaves in her backyard, despite previously living as a monarch. However, it might not be so simple for her as her eyes tell a different story.

According to SCMP, she was forced to leave her son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, who is the next in line for the throne after the king. There are photos on the internet of Srirasmi’s last meeting with her son before she was forced to leave the palace.

We’re unsure of the exact reason behind her sadness but being under house-arrest while separated from your child can definitely drain one’s mental health.

But the PR/propaganda rattled on. In a Bangkok Post report it is stated that the king “has been told that many red-shirt villages that used to support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are now sworn to uphold the monarchy.” Apparently, the person doing the telling was the queen: “They are from the red-shirt villages to protect the monarchy…” she said as she and the king were “mingling with supporters at Wing 23 of the air force in Udon Thani on Tuesday night.”

Of course, many millions of red shirts never considered Thaksin an enemy of the monarchy, but the queen seems to have taken this position. How does she know? For one thing, the yellow shirts constructed this narrative and clearly Suthida has imbibed the yellow shirt kool-aid. She’s had this view reinforced by the fawning betrayers of the red shirts, Anon Saennan and Suporn Atthawong, both of whom sold out to the rightists long ago.

The king appreciates the turncoats. The regime has rewarded Suporn with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions.

As the report states:

Mr Suporn was prosecuted for disrupting the Asean summit in Pattaya in April 2009, but the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship member evaded the charges because police could not find him before the case expired in April last year.

An earlier Post report adds further detail, stating that Suporn:

a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office. His appointment to this political post is said to be a reward for his defection from Pheu Thai to the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party prior to the March 24 election.

We assume the regime and the military are pouring funds into the Suporn-Anon anti-red shirt campaign.





Bolstering monarchy

7 11 2020

The royal family’s younger women, including Queen Suthida, Princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, and some of the harem, appear to be pushing for a new PR strategy and rebranding of Vajiralongkorn and themselves as celebrities – what might be considered the Hello! strategy. Obviously, this follows the model of royals in some other countries.

Sirivannavari’s photo clipped from Hello!

At the same time, the royalist dinosaurs occupying government seats continue to follow ninth reign strategy. For example, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda have “urged provincial governors across the country to help protect the monarchy and prevent fake news.”

During a video conference, Gen Prawit ordered governors “to promote the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.”

This approach seems unlikely to mesh with the notion of royals-as-celebrities, pioneered by Sirivannavari and (more bizarrely) by big sister Ubolratana.

If we are to believe that Vajiralongkorn – who has recently appeared ill and unsteady – is to go down the Hello! celebrity path, then he’d need to also acknowledge that such a rebranding usually goes along with subjection to the constitution, the acceptance of criticism, and the ditching of ninth reign repression and “demi-god” status. So far, the evidence is of some leniency on criticism while also mobilizing fascist yellow shirts, which would seem to mitigate against a celebrity status.








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