Updated: New king and palace propaganda

30 12 2016

A new king means that the palace’s propaganda needs to be realigned. It has a network of tame authors and journalists who are prepared to continue their work of mythologizing the monarchy.

These lackeys are being mobilized to produce saccharin stories that seek to “correct” the negative stories that appeared around the time of accession. This palace propaganda goes hand-in-hand with the efforts of the military junta to suppress the negative accounts – and there are a lot of them – about the king and his foibles and faults. That includes the use of the draconian lese majeste law.

One of the trusted palace-connected journalists is Dominic Faulder, perhaps best known for his work as “senior editor” of the palace’s “semi-official” King Bhumibol Adulyadej. A Life’s Work. That was a lengthy, expensive and faulty response to Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles. In the palace handbook, Faulder is listed as having been a correspondent for the defunct Asiaweek magazine, a former president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand and an editor of another piece of royalist puff, The King of Thailand in World Focus.

Now listed as an associate editor of the Nikkei Asian Review. where he has authored a series of monarchist articles that reproduce much of the palace propaganda about the deceased king.

pattyThe most recent contribution to appear at Nikkei Asian Review is a puff piece that is the first that begins the reorientation of international “journalism” to the new king. In a series called “Agents of Change 2017,” Faulder fawns over Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol.

Who? Yes, plucked from relative obscurity (except for the royal news broadcast each day in Thailand), she “qualifies” because she is the new king’s first daughter.

Faulder describes her as holding “a unique position in Thailand, both by birth and from her life experience,” and trawls for something to say, quoting an unnamed diplomat from 2009 as saying  she had “an increasingly high profile and a reputation for being perhaps the sharpest of the royal family members.” That diplomat, if he or she really existed, was disingenuous.

Part of the reason for highlighting “Patty” is to do a bit of royal laundry. She “is the daughter of Princess Soamsawali, the first of three wives [we count 4] of then Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Her mother, a niece of Queen Sirikit, remains one of the most active and visible members of the royal family, despite being divorced in 1991.”

That refers to the queen’s desire to promote her “line” by having her son marry a first cousin. The deal on the messy divorce was that, unlike more recent women booted out by the prince, with noble blood and the queen a relative, she kept royal position and profile.

At 38, her life is said to involve “a lively social life among high society friends with a more serious side that sees her mixing with soldiers, officials, academics and diplomats.” Her hi-so lifestyle is “normalized” by the claim that she “likes to drive herself around in a red Mini Cooper S or a vivid green Volkswagen Beetle.” For those not in the know, driving oneself is considered “radical” for royals.

While she’s still single, Faulder lets on that there’s the “possibility of royal weddings after her grandfather’s elaborate cremation…”. Why is this relevant? Faulder doesn’t make the point, but as she’s the only offspring of the current crop of royals issued from the late king’s children who has royal blood on both sides of the family, Patty “is expected to play a leading role in support of her father, and in buffing the image of the House of Chakri, the Siamese dynasty founded in 1782.”

Like her royal aunts, she’s claimed to be well educated, having a law doctorate from Cornell University. (Has anyone seen her thesis?) That led to some promotion by the palace propaganda machine, with Faulder pointing out that “briefly joined the Thai permanent mission to the United Nations in New York as a first secretary,” before returning to Thailand to “work” as “a prosecutor in the office of the attorney general.” That seemed brief as well:

After returning to the Thai foreign ministry, she chaired the U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2011. She remained for two more years in Vienna as ambassador to Austria, a post she took up at the unusually young age of 34. She was concurrently Thailand’s permanent representative to the U.N. at Vienna, one of the organization’s four global headquarters.

Of course it is “unusually young.” Such things only happen to Thailand’s royals, who are all polymaths and where positions are created for them. No one dares complain that they are dull or unqualified.

Faulder loyally repeats much of the fawning that has already gone on about this princess. She “founded the Princess Pa Foundation with her mother in 1995 to help victims of flooding and natural disasters.” That is, when she was 17. She then “founded and personally funded with 300,000 baht ($8,600) the Kamlangjai (Inspire) Project for women imprisoned with their children…”. Recall that she’s now an heir to a fortune of about $50 billion and she gave this paltry amount. But that investment allows lackey journalists to claim this “gift” is meaningful.

odd-nationalismNothing much has changed in Thailand for the “work” of the foundations and women prisoners are abused and prison conditions in Thailand remain horrendous.

Faulder explains that one of her roles “is putting an engaged and contemporary face on Thailand’s time-honored institution.” This seems to include sharing the media space with her father as she did in the Bike for Mom event earlier in 2015. True to palace propaganda, Faulder adds that the event “showed a resilient, more youthful side to the royal institution, and revealed the future king in evidently robust health…”.

Like her father, she’s portrayed as fit and well exercised. We are told that in “September, she led a mixed party up Fansipan, in northern Vietnam — the highest mountain in the Indochina region.” She took the cable car and then, quite oddly, planted a Thai flag at the concreted summit.

Now that the old king has gone, the queen is sick and senile and the new king is her dad, get used to the idea that she will be promoted and that the propaganda machine will whitewash the new king’s past.

Update: Readers may be interested in Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s take on this story about Patty.

Biking hierarchy

16 08 2015

The claims made regarding the Bike for Mum palace-military propaganda event are as expected. A quarter of a million bike riders we are told in most reports, although only about 80,000 in Bangkok, with the pictures suggesting less than that showing up. Like most things royal, the claim will stand without scrutiny.

Far more interesting than concocted numbers and claims are the reports citing The Dictator and explaining how the event was organized.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared the event another test of loyalty. He said it would show “love and unity among the Thai people” and urged people to show up. He reckoned it was an opportunity for the “Thai people” to express ever more “devotion” for the royal family: “The event will also showcase to the world how devoted Thais are to their Queen.”

She hasn’t been seen since May.

This “devotion” was organized as a reflection of the royal-military view of Thai society’s correct arrangement.

After a ceremony at the King Chulalongkorn equestrian statue “the Crown Prince led cyclists in Group A as they took off from the starting point. Cyclists in this group included Gen Prayut, Deputy Defence Minister and army chief Udomdej Sitabutr, Supreme Court president  Direk Ingkaninant, Constitutional Court president Nurak Mapraneet, National Legislative Assembly chairman Pornpetch Wichitcholachai and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda.”

His first daughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha “led Group B, which included heads of government offices and representatives of the private sector and various organisations.”

Bringing up the rear was the “general public formed Group C.”

That seems to be the way the royalist elite views society and its hierarchy.

This contrived display of unity and hierarchy wasn’t cheap for the taxpayer.

A police boss “said more than 9,000 policemen had been deployed to provide security along the 43-kilometre cycling route” in Bangkok alone. In addition, the “Public Health Ministry, military, police, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, private hospitals and health associations were deployed to provide medical care in three zones.” There were “more than 200 mobile teams of doctors and nurses with first aid equipment and ambulances were deployed along the cycling route in Bangkok.”

That expense is justified for its support of royalist loyalty and hierarchy.

Lese what? Pandering to palace propaganda

15 10 2013

For many years the Thai monarchy has done very nicely from a largely uncritical media that buys the treacle about great and grand royals inhabiting the expansive and expensive palaces of Bangkok. This lazy reporting has sometimes been buttressed by international institutions and universities that get pressured by Thai royal posterior polishers to make honors available to these royals. We’ve previously posted on some of this, here and here.

So it is disappointing to see the international media taking further palace propaganda as fact. We refer to the widely available “report” on 34 year-old Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol who already has a supposedly stellar career in the law, with a doctorate from Cornell, and diplomatic service, as Thai ambassador in Vienna, and as a “campaigner” for women’s rights.

The report doesn’t think to question how it might be that one so young can do so well. Or ask if it is even possible for someone who doesn’t carry the moniker of “Princess” and is eldest grandchild of the king. A little bit of common sense would suggest that this stellar performance should be considered in a context of the necessity of making every royal appear grander and/or smarter than they really are.

Perhaps the most bizarre element of this bit of nonsense masquerading as news is the claims made about her “campaigns”:

A Thai princess who became a criminal prosecutor and launched a campaign to help incarcerated women is now embarking on a global campaign to promote the rule of law and make “equal justice” a U.N. goal.

… she is also the driving force behind “The Bangkok Dialogue on the Rule of Law,” an international conference in the Thai capital on Nov. 15 [yes, a whole day!].

She is then quoted:

“Society cannot grow if there is instability and injustice,” Princess Bajrakitiyabha said in an interview on Monday.

“Without the rule of law, without a good justice system it’s always chaos,” she said. “I think the rule of law is a very important pillar to development, to economic growth, and of course to human rights.”…

… The princess said one goal of the conference is to broaden the next set of U.N. development goals to include the rule of law.

The report notes this statement:

Princess Bajrakitiyabha said if she could write a rule of law goal for the next U.N. goals, from 2016 to 2030, “I would say the equal justice — effective, efficient and transparent justice systems for all.”

We are not sure if this poor English is accurate, but we reproduce the report as written. The report then gushes about her “prison project”:

An advocate for women’s rights, she said she started a charity project called “Inspire” to help women “suffering hardship in prison, especially those pregnant and having babies … (who) touched me deep to my heart.”

The uninformed reader may be mightily impressed. Mercifully, though, the report does point out:

The princess, who is a staunch advocate of the rule of law, comes from a country whose lese majeste law protects the Thai monarchy from defamation. It is the world’s harshest and mandates a jail term of three to 15 years for violators.

Lese what?

Lese what?

Indeed she does. But the report just lets it drop. But what has she done about lese majeste?

As far as we are able to tell, precious little. Back in 2009, the Asian Human Rights Commission issued a very important open letter on the case of lese majeste convict Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul.  Addressed to this particular princess as the Director of the Kamlang jai Project at the Ministry of Justice, the AHRC reported key information about the mistreatment of Darunee.

We imagine that something might have been done behind the scenes, but it hardly matters as Darunee remains locked up with her human and constitutional rights having been trampled by the justice system and multiple royalists.

The question has to be asked: why isn’t equality and rule of law applied in Thailand? If the princess was serious, wouldn’t she be aware that her “human rights” and “rule of law” position is hopelessly undermined by the failings of her own country to meet international standards on both? We guess she isn’t as this “campaign” is little more than more taxpayer-funded palace propaganda.

Royal advantage

5 09 2012

Europeonline reports that yet another royal has seen the advantage of birth lead to an appointment that normally requires years of service and work.

It states: “Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday approved the appointment of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s eldest granddaughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha, as ambassador to Austria.” That must be a highly desirable position in Thailand’s diplomatic corps.

The 33 year-old daughter of Prince Vajiralongkorn will reportedly “take up her post in January, after finishing her current job as chairperson of the 21st session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna…”. Obviously, she like Vienna, so this keeps her there.

That she is a princess obviously trumps age and experience in gaining a plum position.

Royal law and lese majeste law

10 05 2012

It is sadly ironic that the Cornell University Law School reports that it will host a visit by alum Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, eldest daughter of Prince Vajiralongkorn.

The visit is sadly ironic because it comes just two days after the death in custody of lese majeste victim Ampol Tangnopakul. The princess will provide a guest lecture at Cornell based in part on her exalted appointed position as “Ambassador and Alternative Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice…”.

Just seven years post-J.D., she is said to have “a wealth of practitioner’s experience to the policy-making process of the Commission, particularly in strengthening standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice…”. Like all other royals, she has been showered with awards at a remarkably early age, including by U.N. agencies that get never-ending award pressure from supplicant Thai officials.

While she is said to have a particular interest in the conditions of women prisoners, it seems that little has changed in Thai prisons. Claimed royal interest seems to be about things “international” and reputation burnishing rather than promoting much needed and thorough-going prison reform.

It remains clear that prison conditions in Thailand remain horrendous and that there are certain women prisoners who are singled out for especially horrid treatment and denied even their constitutional rights. All prisoners held on lese majeste charges are treated in unconscionable ways. And, as the Ampol case demonstrates, lese majeste is a crime that can be a death sentence.

Open letter from AHRC details persecution of Darunee in prison

23 09 2009

The Asian Human Rights Commission has just issued a very important open letter on the case of Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul.  Addressed to Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, in her capacity as the Director of the Kamlangjai Project at the Ministry of Justice, the AHRC reports key information about the continued mistreatment Darunee is experiencing at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution.

In particular, the AHRC highlights the following:

“First, she is suffering health problems but has not received treatment. Her jaw is locking and she is unable to open her mouth properly to eat or brush her teeth. As far back as January, while awaiting trial, a doctor examined her and recommended that she receive treatment outside the facility, but to date she has received none. Her attempt to get bail so that she could seek medical treatment at her own expense also failed. As you will be aware, there are many other prisoners in need of outside medical help that are not getting any, and in this respect her case is typical rather than exceptional.

Second, since her detention she has been kept isolated from other detainees throughout the daytime. She is kept outside a guardpost and made to sit under the roof there alone. At nighttime she is brought back to sleep with other detainees; however, other detainees have reportedly been warned not to speak to her and to inform the guards if she tries to communicate.

Third, since her conviction she has been issued a prison uniform that is brown with red on the sleeves. According to the advice that the AHRC has received, this uniform should only be assigned to convicts in very serious criminal cases, such as drug dealers where the amount of amphetamines recovered exceeds 100,000 tablets.

Fourth, since her conviction the wording on the card that she must carry with her in prison to identify her offence was changed to a much more serious expression from that on the original card. Whereas the previous card identified her offence as having defamed the monarchy, the new card uses the Thai word “arkhatmadrai”, which is often translated as “threaten”. But as you are aware, the connotation of this word is grave; it does not indicate a passing threat but suggests deep malice that a person may carry throughout her life.”

As the AHRC comments, the treatment of Darunee in prison is structured in such a way as to deepen her punishment. Eighteen years is apparently not a high enough price for her dissent.

PPT joins the AHRC in calling on the Princess to take action. The Princess is a UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador. Perhaps the appropriate phrase here would be: “Liberté, égalité, sororité”