Hundreds dead, royal honored

7 07 2021

With thousands of virus cases every day and now more than 2,000 deaths, and with the vaccination program deeply troubled, senior bureaucrats still have time for making royals look good (or so they think).

The latest pile of royal manure is reported in the Bangkok Post, where the dubious news that

the cabinet – surely it has better and more important things to do? – decided “to mark the princess’s 64th birthday on July 4 and to pay tribute to …[her] receiving a PhD degree in visual arts from the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University.”

We are guessing, but assume that the degree is another of the mandatory tasks of all Thai universities, as they fall over themselves to devalue all degrees they issue by awarding honorary degrees to dolts who happen to be born royal.

The new Thai font, which it is claimed the very ill princess “bestowed” is unflinchingly named after her, as ”Chulabhorn Likhit.” It will now be “adopted as one of the sets of standard fonts for use by state agencies.” Presumably there will be eagle-eyed royalists watching out to ensure it is used.

Some dopey official, now buried under a pile of buffalo manure, claimed the “newly-adopted characters are versatile and they will help preserve the integrity of Thai writing.”





Further updated: Lucky pricing, unlikely dealer

12 06 2021

According to several reports, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy has set the price of the Covid-19 vaccine procured from China’s state-owned Sinopharm at 888 baht per dose…”.

While the “Academy” secretary-general Nithi Mahanonda claimed the “price includes transport, storage and insurance against side effects of the vaccine.” So how amazing is it that all of that came to the lucky number 888!

It seems that the “Royal Academy” has become just another vaccine dealer in an increasingly privatized vaccine rollout.Princess plaything

It is offering “state or private organisations that want the Sinopharm vaccine from the CRA must be capable of providing it to groups of people who want alternative vaccines — including staff, family members and migrant workers.” But they cannot “use the vaccine for commercial gain.”

Remarkably, the Äcademy” claims the power to fine “violators.” Who knew?

It also seemed to demand that “[s]tate or private organisations provided with the vaccine by the CRA should also do society a favour by donating 10% of the vaccine to underprivileged groups.” But not the “Academy.” More, the buyers had to “find hospitals to administer the vaccine.” The hospitals can “collect service charges from such organisations, but not from vaccine recipients…”.

How much does the Sinopharm vaccine cost? Early on, it was remarkably expensive. A few months later, Hungary was paying $36 per dose or $72 for a course of two shots. Perhaps the “Academy” is getting Sri Lankan or Bangladesh prices?

As usual with matters royal, there’s no transparency, even when they are engaged in commercial activities. All they say is the vaccine is supplied at cost. Magically, that is 888 baht.

As The Nation reports, the dealing is expanding, and after the “first batch of 1 million Sinopharm vaccine doses [arrive] on June 20-21,” the “Academy” has “plans to import a total of 5-6 million doses of Sinopharm in batches every 10 days.”

One thing is sure, the regime is unable to meet current demand, but is the “Academy” simply replacing the delayed AstraZeneca vaccine from another royal enterprise?

Update 1: On vaccine shortages, see two stories in the Bangkok Post, here and here.

Update 2:For more on vaccine shortages, see here and here, and for more on the state’s “fake news” on these shortages, see here. As Thai Enquirer has it:

On June 7, coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha flanked by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and members of his Covid-19 management team declared that there would be no delays in the distribution of the vaccines.

Just over a week later, that promise has fallen flat on its face.





Updated: Chulabhorn lese majeste

2 06 2021

A property appraiser is facing prosecution for alleged lese majeste and computer crimes associated with comments reportedly targeting Princess Chulabhorn’s recent political and business intervention over vaccination.

As is becoming usual, it was Seksakol Atthawong and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s lawyer Apiwat Khanthong who “filed a formal complaint with Nang Loeng police in Bangkok against Sophon Pornchokchai…”, a man working in real estate.

They allege that “Sophon violated the lèse-majesté law and uploaded false information into the computer system.” Seksakol claimed Sophon “posted a message on social media that offended the ‘institution’ [he means monarchy]…”, even if the post had since been removed. Because the “post attracted public attention,” the rabid and official royalist protectors declared “[l]egal action was in order…”.

Apparently no names were mentioned in the post, but Seksakol declared “[p]eople who read the message understood straight away what it meant…”. He added that a “part of the message also defamed the government…”.

We are not quite sure why, but Seksakol lied that “he and Mr Apiwat, as ordinary citizens, asked the police to press charges against Mr Sophon.”

Seksakol urged vigilante action across the country, saying “[a]nyone who comes across statements or messages that violate lèse-majesté can lodge a complaint with police…”.

Sophon denied the accusation, “saying he and his family have always been loyal to the monarchy.” He said his post “about a vaccine issue and the Chulabhorn Royal Academy should not be misinterpreted because he has never had bad thoughts about the monarchy…”.

As a footnote, it is of some interest that the Bangkok Post recently reported that the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society took “legal action against architect Duangrit Bunnag and Accap Assets Co, a real estate company, for allegedly fabricating documents about the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine and spreading fake news about it. It says the claims discredit the government.” What’s happening in real estate and why their flap over Chulabhorn’s intervention?

Update: Of course, we should have observed that the lese majeste law does not apply to Chulabhorn. But as others have been investigated and charged with lese majeste for all kinds of offenses not covered by the 112 law, perhaps this is no surprise.





With 3 updates: A royal shemozzle IV

31 05 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has provided “further assurances that all Thais will receive Covid-19 jabs and warned the media not to sow confusion over the state vaccination programme.” He did this as the government cancelled its booking app.

He continued to say that “the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine planned for next month … will proceed as planned.”

Meanwhile, the private sector is taking a increasing role in the vaccine campaign, especially in Bangkok, with department stores, malls, the Board of Trade of Thailand and private hospitals seemingly taking the lead.

And, it seems the Princess playthingChulabhorn Royal Academy’s ham-fisted foray into vaccines, cutting through constitution and law, is morphing. It is as if no person responsible for the administration of the “Academy” had thought much about the sudden royal intervention.

The Bangkok Post reports that Dr Nithi Mahanonda, the Academy’s secretary-general announced that “[o]ne million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Chinese state-owned Sinopharm will arrive in June and be offered as a paid alternative for particular groups who don’t want to wait…”. He specifically targeted the “private sector or any agencies which are at risk and want to speed up the process…”.

Dr Nithi added “that as the vaccine will be procured with the academy’s budget, it could not be offered free of charge.” He said the price would “not exceed 1,000 baht per shot…”.

This was something of a shock, for as the Bangkok Post states, “most people assumed that the imports would be offered free of charge as an adjunct to the state vaccination programme.”

The price is not out of line with prices cited in other places where the sale price per dose of the two-dose regime for the Sinopharm’s vaccine is reported to be between $19-$36. As usual, the Chinese government does discounts and “friendship prices” for some places. AstraZeneca is less than half of the lowest price in this range.

(For those interested in efficacy, this non-medical article might be of some interest.)

Nithi then further sank the public’s understandings and maybe even hopes when he stated: “I do not think that members of the public can come to receive it…”.

This led to predictable criticism, with Nithi clarifying: “I apologise if I might have talked too fast during the press conference, causing a misunderstanding that we’ll profit from the vaccine…. We won’t charge an extra baht…”.

We are left to wonder why? Why a royal intervention? Was it a propaganda opportunity? Was it a way to cover up for delays at Siam Bioscience? Did some royal do a deal in or with China? Did the Chinese government make an offer to a royal? Given the private sector’s increasing role, approved by the state, why was a royal intervention necessary if it is just acting like other vaccine procurers? More importantly, what of the constitutional and legal bending and cracking that it involves? Why?

Update 1: The shemozzle looks more bizarre by the day. Thai Enquirer reports that Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda has ordered that “provincial governments must gain approval from the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) before they buy coronavirus vaccines…”. This order “came after Pathum Thani governor Chaiwat Chuenkosum said that his province is ordering 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines from Chulabhorn Royal Academy (CRA).” This potential collaboration and sale has been confirmed by the “Academy.” So fully half of the vaccines it imports will be sold to one province. What on earth is going on? Any of our readers know?

Update 2: A comment by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha makes the royal (imported) vaccine muddier still. He is reported to have stated:

On the national Covid-19 vaccine rollout, he said the government will proceed according to its plan.

“Every vaccine must be imported with the government-to-government method. We have a committee working on this,” he said.

So why was there an “Academy” intervention?

Update 3: The royal intervention has done little but has made the constitutional waters muddier than ever. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has reiterated that Siam Bioscience is a problem:

As for the bulk of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be mainly used in the country during the second half of the year, Anutin said that the allocation is based on the doses deliverable under the contract with AstraZeneca, regardless of where they have been manufactured. Some are produced in Thailand and some will be imported to meet the contracted deliverables.

Meanwhile, Chulabhorn’s self-named “academy” is now just an also-ran among “universities,” and a bunch of private sector forays into the vaccine market.





A royal shemozzle III

29 05 2021

In a report in the Bangkok Post, Nithi Mahanonda, the secretary-general of the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy, is reported as confirming that the latest royal intervention is to save the collective crown’s ass. He reportedly stated that “the CRA would procure ‘alternative vaccines’ until those produced in Thailand were sufficient to protect against the pandemic.” The king’s Siam Bioscience is not and was never up to the job the regime and palace handed it.

As an interesting footnote, Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn has stated that it was the royally-controlled Siam Cement Group that “brokered Thailand’s acquisition of AstraZeneca vaccines…” and the technology for local production.

Nithi went on to say that “the CRA was required to comply with the laws governing the production and importation of vaccines, and the registration of medical supplies for emergency use.” More on registration below.Princess plaything

The announcement has been cloaked in a surreal “legal” argument that this procurement is “part of the CRA’s regular missions under the law governing its establishment.” That law does not appear to us to go that distance. But the legalities are manufactured faster than a vaccine approval. And, nowhere in its mission statements does the Academy claim to be in this area of work.

Despite the Academy’s claims to transparency, the website is mostly an ode to the ailing princess.

Nithi states the “emergency plan was approved by the CRA council to support the government through the academy’s research and academic capabilities and special contacts with foreign countries.” As a hospital, we guess that the Academy could have imported vaccines with state approval, but it is the state approval that the decree circumvented.

In our view, the announcement/decree has little legal or constitutional support. Yes, we know that slimy royalists and regime fixers like Wissanu Krea-ngam will have arguments for the legalities and he would probably have the royalist judiciary for support, but these are the same people who reckon heroin trafficking overseas doesn’t count under Thai law or constitution. When it comes to royals it seems there are no limits on their desires, whims, and fancies.

In general, the reporting and commentary on the royal intervention has been limited and misplaced. That’s not unexpected in royalist Thailand under the (semi-)military boot and the lese majeste law.

Much of the attention in the babble about royal intervention has been about the slap in the face this gives Genral Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government. Thitinan Pongsudhirak begins his commentary on an appropriate note:

Just as Thailand’s murky vaccine plan has gone from bad to worse, the plot keeps thickening. The latest development centres on the May 25 publication in the Royal Gazette of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy’s authority to procure Covid-19 vaccines within the country and from abroad as needed for public health benefits. As has been promptly noted elsewhere, this vaccine bombshell could be perceived as a snub to the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, particularly Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. Thailand’s effectively dual-track vaccine strategy is now likely to engender major repercussions.

Appropriately, Thitinan observes:

…the Chulabhorn Royal Academy and Siam Bioscience — a pharmaceutical company owned by the Crown Property Bureau are connected. On Wednesday, the director-general of the academy made a five-point statement to explain how his team will proceed. Yet, we have not heard much from Siam Bioscience.

He seems to believe that:

The Chulabhorn Royal Academy’s assertion at this time that it will find and obtain all available vaccines for Thai people suggests that its role is paramount. Its complete freedom above and beyond the Prayut government and its related laws and rules may be a power play to say that public health supersedes government longevity.

That may be true. But, the commentary skirts difficult issues associated with Chulabhorn’s royal decree. We think that the short-termism of commentary and in the responses of opposition political parties that focus on damage to Gen Prayuth and his hopeless lot dangerously myopic on yet another grab for power by the palace.

Worse, some of that commentary considers the Academy “another government agency,” which fudges on many levels. If it is a government agency, it would fall under law and constitution, but it doesn’t – or so it seems and so it acts. And which government agency can produce the miraculous vaccine approval that followed less than 24 hours after the royal decree announcing it would import the Sinopham vaccine! The reports were of the documentation only landing with the Thai authorities earlier this week. Miracles do happen, if you are a royally-constructed, taxpayer funded outfit that is a plaything for a princess, established to burnish her reputation and contribute to the monarchy’s propaganda.

But what of the law and constitution? We are not lawyers but we wonder about the royal decree, signed by a princess.

We searched the junta’s constitution and there are several relevant sections, including 172 and 175. They are worth considering.

Section 172 is about emergency decrees and might be relevant:

For the purpose of maintaining national or public safety or national economic
security, or averting public calamity, the King may issue an Emergency Decree which
shall have force as an Act.

The issuance of an Emergency Decree under paragraph one shall be made only when
the Council of Ministers is of the opinion that it is an emergency of necessity and
urgency which is unavoidable.

But this would seem to be the decree already in place for many months, so we do not think it applies to the latest royal decree, except as context (noted in the decree).

Section 175 states:

The King has the Royal Prerogative to issue a Royal Decree which is not contrary to
the law.

We guess this is why Thitinan says that “Royal Gazette publications [proclamations/announcements/decrees] take immediate effect with complete legality…”. But this decree is not issued by the king. And is circumventing the state legal or is it that any royal is sovereign? If there are any legal eagles reading this, let us know what you think.

For us, the ability of the king to proclaim anything he wants if not contrary to the law is worrying enough. Having any royal do this is even more concerning. Thailand is yet another step closer to the king’s desire for an absolutist regime.





A royal shemozzle II

28 05 2021

A reader asks how it is that a person designated a princess, with no obvious constitutional or legal authority can issue a decree that appears to carry the weight of law?

We could simply say: well, this is ultra-royalist Thailand and strange, extra-constitutional happenings seem increasingly common.

The Bangkok Post observes:

His Majesty the King’s sister [Princess Chulabhorn] has approved coronavirus vaccine imports by an institution she sponsors, bypassing the government as it deals with surging infections and growing public anger over a slow and chaotic rollout.

As can be seen in this sentence, the princess is only a sister of the king and yet she may bypass government. As also noted in the sentence, she’s responding to anger about the government’s strategy. As everyone knows, from the beginning this strategy hinged on a “royal vaccine,” which now seems delayed (at best). In the Post’s words: the regime “relies heavily on AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured locally by a company owned by the king.”

This intervention was made without the knowledge of the health minister. Anutin is reported as “unaware of the royal order before it was published.” Notice that the Post as it as a “royal order,” as if Thailand is an absolutist regime. He is quoted: “I just saw the announcement last night…”. He then had to do the royalist-loyalist two-step: “But if it is a benefit to the country, we are ready.”

It was then level to the regime’s slimy legal eagle and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to try to clean up the constitutional and legal scraps, saying “the academy had to issue the announcement so it could qualify to import drugs and medical equipment and supplies.” That’s buffalo manure.

buffalo-manure

How high?

He added: “But this does not mean it can do so freely — it will have to comply with related laws in full, such as seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration.” We don’t believe him. The announcement gives itself the right to circumvent government, as it already has.

Wissanu then fumbled some more, saying “that the institute could do so only during the Covid-19 crisis and when the vaccine supply was inadequate.” In fact, other readings of the vague announcement suggest that the “institute” has wider self-awarded power than that.

He squared the circle when he “added the institute, like private hospitals, could deal with foreign companies to import the vaccine using its own budget.” The budget for the “institute” is provided by the taxpayer and it is not a hospital. And, if Wissanu is correct, then the announcement is not required. Nor is the “institute’s intervention needed when private hospitals have already contracted to supply and sell 10 million doses in addition to the state’s purchases and orders.

But the royals want to make some propaganda gains in a situation where the king’s company appears to be failing.

Who will sort out the constitutional and legal mess? We suspect that no one will and that the precedent will see royals having even more power to do whatever they fancy.

The students were repressed but they were right. The monarchy on its current course is seriously dangerous for Thailand.





A royal shemozzle I

27 05 2021

It has been an exceptionally busy 24-36 hours for the regime’s virus “strategy.” Failures, turnarounds and a royal intervention point to a shemozzle. More significantly, they point to a royal/royalist failure and a rescue attempt.

The media is reflecting a broader discontent as it refers to the aspects of the vaccine “rollout” as a “fiasco” and talk of corruption hampering the regime’s response to thousands of cases a day, pointing to human smuggling:

In January, Gen Prayut set up a special panel to tackle labour smuggling, but it’s unclear what the panel has really achieved.

By setting up such a panel, the government hoped to appease critics, by giving the impression something was being done, when in fact the opposite was more accurate. The panel also gives credence to the belief that regular mechanisms are dysfunctional or beset with graft…. It’s an open secret that unscrupulous officials are involved in these activities.

It seemed clear to most people that there were major problems unresolved:

In October last year, the government chose the AstraZeneca vaccine as its main weapon against COVID-19. However, arming itself with AstraZeneca shots has proved difficult, and it now looks like the shortage will last longer than expected.

Then, in no particular order, a series of revelations pointed to the deadly results of the shemozzle. First, there was the report that the surge of virus cases in prisons continues, despite an earlier assurance from the Corrections Department that it could “bring the situation under control.” It has only gotten worse and deadly. The Corrections Department has now “reported 1,243 new infections and three deaths among inmates, raising the total number of prison cases to 17,138.” Being in prison now means almost certain virus infection and the possibility of death.

Second, it is clear that the cases among mostly migrant workers in construction camps around Bangkok are rivalling the rates in prisons, and the response is essentially to lock the workers up, infected and uninfected (so far) together. Businesses wanted to keep working and their profits rely on migrant workers. Leaky borders require official connivance in keeping wages low and migrants in shit conditions, even as they are infected and die.

Third, the regime began panicked changes to its own virus measures.

Vaccine registration through app Mor Prom was suddenly suspended. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s explanation that this was “to forestall a bottleneck” seems to confirm that the vaccines are just not available in sufficient quantity to meet demand. We had posted on the delays to vaccine availability earlier, associated with the king’s company Siam Bioscience. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had announced that “Thailand would take delivery of another lot of AstraZeneca vaccine in June.” He then added: “that this did not mean they would be available on June 1,” saying: “If the shots made in Thailand are not ready, the company is bound to find them from somewhere else to fill our order as stipulated in the contract…”. This probably put him in conflict with the monarch’s outfit and he may well have been saying that he wasn’t prepared to wear the criticism for Siam Bioscience’s failings.

Then, the palace responded (that’s how it appears to us). Overnight on Wednesday, without fanfare, a peculiar announcement appeared at the Royal Gazette website, purportedly signed by the ailing Princess Chulabhorn and on behalf of her personal fiefdom, the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy and Chulabhorn Institute.

It declared that:

the academy had granted its secretary-general the power to enter into a trade agreement with public and private organisations, both domestic and overseas, in matters relating to the provision of medical and public health services during the emergency situation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement added that:

…all medical equipment, drugs and vaccines imported by the academy would be considered its property for the purpose of medicine and public health and will not be liable to any kind of legal execution.

The “academy” promises to provide more information on how it plans to procure and import Covid-19 vaccine from Sinopharm.

As we know, earlier in the week, “Bio Genetech Ltd, an importer of Sinopharm’s Covilo vaccine, had submitted complete documentation to register the vaccine for use in Thailand and expected approval to come soon.” We can’t find any information on that company, but it may well be a Thai subsidiary of a Chinese company. WHO information on the vaccine is here. Information on Sinopharm is available here.

Thai Enquirer has two reports. One says of the announcement:

The announcement, which was ambiguously worded, could be interpreted to say that the institute would now be able to bypass government red-tape [regulations] and bring it vaccines as it sees fit…. [It] also gives the organizations sweeping powers to carry out work….

But the other report goes entirely royalist being written by the deeply yellow Fuadi Pitsuwan. While noting that the right to procure and import vaccines “was reserved for only the Thai government,” it somehow construes the power grab as “most certainly a benevolent gesture by the Institute,” adding that “it highlights the royal frustration and the split among the ruling elites over how the Prayuth government is handling the crisis.” It babbles on:

HRH Princess Chulabhorn is taking the matter in her own hands. She is trying to do what she can to alleviate the dire healthcare situation and to compensate for the delay in vaccine procurement by the Ministry of Health and its relevant agencies.

This is self-censoring rubbish to avoid Article 112, adding:

But the royal move, exercised in this manner however well-intentioned, calls into question the political legitimacy of the government and its authority in the management of the crisis. It is a no-confidence censure and a royal rebuke of both Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and Minister of Health Anutin Charnveerakul.

To be fair, the report notes dangers in another royal interference.

When our top institution becomes too involved in people’s welfare, whether it exercises that power directly or through an agency, it exposes itself to being politicized and thus such a move is a double-edged sword that could end up hurting its own reputation and sanctity.

It adds:

For now, we can be sure that the ruling elites have split and that move by … Chulabhorn has highlighted the royal anxiety over the government’s mishandling of the crisis. What this means in practice is that our government is no longer in control of its health care apparatus and there is a functioning, competing alternative health-care system led by … Chulabhorn herself.

And, the author does worry about a broader royal takeover:

If Prayuth and Anutin do not step up their game quickly, it will be to no one’s surprise when a more powerful intervention beyond the healthcare arena finally takes place

This latter point is certainly true. The royal family is politically dangerous. But, while we think this general interpretation of the intervention could be true it  misses a lot because of its royalist spinelessness.

We think that the whole AstraZeneca/Siam Bioscience deal was concocted by the regime and the palace to “save” Thais with the “king’s vaccine.” The fact that Siam Bioscience has failed leads to claims that the whole regime-royal strategy has failed Thais. This throws a spanner in the whole royal propaganda machine. With Anutin demonstrating that he isn’t prepared to take the blame, the the monarchy has had to find another means to be seen to be “saving” Thais. 

Whichever interpretation is correct, the monarchy’s interfering is dangerous for Thailand.





Another royal hobby

5 08 2019

Being honest, we have to say that we had never heard of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy until a reader sent us this story from an Australian source.

To be sure, we had heard of the  Chulabhorn Research Institute, which is said to be headed up by (a now very ill) Princess Chulabhorn. The latter’s website in English looks dated, although there are bits and pieces that seem updated, and its Facebook page has been unused since 2013. Has there been a loss of interest?

The Chulabhorn Royal Academy is said to have been established in January 2016 with a royal decree making it “an advanced research and higher educational institute, and the HRH Princess Chulabhorn College of Medical Science to be a college within the academy specialising in medicine, nursing and health sciences. PCCMS admits about 30 students per year in the MD course…”. It is claimed that it “consists of the School of Medicine and Public Health, School of Nursing and the Sonographer School. It is an academic institution affiliated to Mahidol University…”.

This Academy’s website is more up-to-date and interesting, not to say professional when compared with the Institute.

Both the Instiute and the Academy appear to have had considerable funds poured into their buildings, we assume at taxpayer expense.

To the Australian story. It is reported that the University of Newcastle, a relatively low-ranked Australian school “plans to partner with a royal Thai academy to offer a dual med engineering degree…”. It reports:

VC Alex Zelinsky has signed an MOU with (deep breath) Dr Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol of Thailand, to develop a dual degree with HRH’s Chulabhorn Royal Academy.

The four-year programme combines medical innovation and engineering degrees. Students will start with 18 months in Thailand, followed by two years at Uni Newcastle and a final six months on business and entrepreneurship at Chulabhorn RA.

It adds that this arrangement:

will be a bolster for Uni Newcastle’s med science standing in SE Asia. In April it was one of three Australian and 100 overall international med schools whose graduates were dropped from the Singapore Government’s approved for practice register.

The Academy appears set on partnering with a range of second and third tier universities world wide. At the same time, it seems to be operating as yet another palace propaganda outfit. We guess no one dares ask about its worth or its cost to the taxpayer.





Further updated: Unsubstantiated rumors and speculation

13 10 2016

Because the palace provides little information, there is considerable speculation about the king’s dying days.

Social media has some pretty long and involved discussions of what’s happening and what will happen.

Much of this is highly speculative. For example, there social media speculation that the prince returning to Thailand by a TG flight is seen as significant of something by some, such as control by the military junta. Some see his return as evidence that there will be no intervention in succession. We will soon know if any of this speculation and guessing is worth the huge efforts that go into it.

One current social media rumor is that the “old brass” from the Privy Council is currently meeting with the junta’s “new brass.” This seems  reasonable speculation and we’d guess that such a meeting would not be the first. If there is going to be any interference in succession, these are the main players but there’s no recent and compelling evidence to suggest that there will be such an intervention, but the junta’s Thailand is highly secretive and that needs to be kept in mind.

Reports from Thailand suggest that there is a calm “waiting” going on. That said, we can expect considerable grieving when it is announced that the king has died.set-index

Update 1: Here is another claim that needs to be considered carefully before believing it. And we mean the one by the junta’s “Deputy junta head for the Economy” Somkid Jatusripitak, who declares that the “authorities are now hunting for people who are causing Thailand’s stock market to plummet rapidly.” Apparently now infected by junta-itis, which affects the brain, detaching it from reality, he says he “has ordered Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC) to find people who are spreading rumours causing rapid fall on the nation’s stock market…”.

It’s the Royal Household Bureau’s announcements and then the failure of the junta and palace to say anything about the way they are dealing with the king’s demise that are causing the drop.

Somkid “said that Thai people should not become victims of those who are spreading rumours for personal gains, adding that people should trust in the nation’s economic potential and follow news from the government sources only.” See what we mean? Only believe the military dictatorship!

Then, remarkably, he added to the rumors: “This country is now at a very important moment and things will gradually get better…”. So the king is dead or about to die, now confirmed by this statement.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Princesses Sirindhorn, Soamsawali, Chulabhorn and Prince Vajiralongkorn are again at Siriraj Hospital. We see no mention of the queen, who is also hospitalized.





Anniversary and operations

9 06 2016

Two monarchy stories have been prominent this week. One is about the 88-year-old king’s ongoing and tortuous last years as his health declines and the royal doctors work to keep him alive. The second story is of the muted commemoration of the king’s 70 years on the throne – a throne that he came to in still official mysterious circumstances of his brother’s death. Of course, as Andrew MacGregor Marshall says, the unofficial story is that the present king “killed his brother,” without necessarily implying intent. One newspaper report mentions the event.

Superstitious types might link the two stories.

About a week ago, the Royal Household Bureau reported another problem in the the king’s health, saying he was being “closely monitored for irregular function of his heart muscles…”. We commented that this might be cardiac dysrhythmia, that could indicate a heart attack, but that it could also be many other disorders. Within days, it was reported that the king had “received treatment for narrowing of the heart arteries with ‘satisfactory results’,” dealing with the coronary artery disease that often impacts the elderly.

The report states that “[d]octors performed a procedure known as balloon surgery to widen the arteries on Tuesday … after tests had shown insufficient blood in the heart muscles. Arteries on both sides of the king’s heart had narrowed…”. The Bangkok Post reported the Royal Household Bureau also inserted a “stent and rotablator in some locations, to widen the arteries…”. Details on the use of rotablator can be found here. Information on stents and balloon angioplasty is here.

Less reported in the international media has been the sickly Princess Chulabhorn’s hospitalization. The latest report on her condition – third report from the palace – is that she remains in hospital following a “biopsy on May 20 at the hospital after a polyp was found in her neck.” Late in May, doctors stated she “had a high fever at times and was still very weak.” The latest report says ” she remained very weak, and doctors therefore had recommended that she put off royal activities for a while longer.” It refers to “a successful operation to remove a tumour from her neck…”.

The commemoration of the king’s 70th year on the throne is not at all like the massive series of events staged on the 60th anniversary. With the king more or less out sight, unable to effectively do anything and very ill, such celebrations were never likely. Newspapers have specials, wire services have stories, the “compulsory” commemorative banknote has been released, world leaders sent regards and the military junta has arranged a few things.

The international media has shown some interest, with the International Business Times UK having not much of a story but quite a few high-quality photos that can be interpreted in various ways. Interestingly, the only two prime ministers of Thailand we can identify in them are Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.