Updated: Real news and rumors

29 01 2021

There were lots of royal rumors being shot around over the past weeks or so. Some of them refer to allegations of unspeakable acts against Sirindhorn by her brother, King Vajiralongkorn. Since she was reported as breaking both ankles in a “fall,” rumors gripped social media until they finally became “fact” through international reporting.

We can’t say if this rumor has any truth to it. And, we wouldn’t imagine that we would ever know. Not only is the palace notoriously opaque, but fear is likely to be at play if there is any truth there somewhere.

What we do know is is that the notion of stumbling and breaking both ankles is odd, and the palace gave no explanation of what happened to her. Nor did it say much after Sirindhorn had surgery. That said, she is getting on in years, has long been overweight, and was recently seen riding about official functions on an electric mobility scooter. So it might be that she has brittle bones. But who knows?

If the palace doesn’t say anything or give any depth to its reporting, then it can only blame itself when rumors go viral. But the international media should ask itself if reporting rumor is warranted.

Another story that did the rounds which, so far, is untrue, has been widely reported by tabloids internationally. The Daily Mail reported in one of its paragraph-length headlines: “Thai king ‘makes his consort his second queen as her birthday gift’ in historic move…“. Likewise, The Sun had a similar story, reporting this “fact.” Both “stories” were false and based on rumor.

On-again-off-again favorite consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi was not made second queen on her birthday. She did appear with the king in cheeky matching outfits to do the usual birthday stuff, releasing captive animals and so on. But no promotion.

At least, that’s how we understand it because such promotions are always made royal announcements. We suppose one could come out later and be backdated, but nothing emerged.

So why is the salacious part of the international media making rumor fact? And why do this when there are some juicy tidbits that have been officially announced.

We refer to the announcement on 27 January that the king had promoted both his next favorite consort and another one to higher military positions. The announcement was that Sutthatphakdi Borirakphuminth (สุทัตตาภักดิ์ บริรักษ์ภูมินทร์) was made a major-general and the more minor consort was promoted to colonel. Not much is known about Sutthatphakdi but BBC Thai has done the journalistic work and discovered all of the announcements about her over the years she seems to have been in the king’s inner circle.

This recent announcement suggests that Vajiralongkorn is unchanged by all the calls for reform and is continuing on with his neo-absolutist agenda. Maybe the media should be reporting on that and on the news that is real and confirmed about the king and his queens, consorts and wives. There’s enough material around to show that the king is an erratic, vengeful, and nasty person, unfit for any office.

Update: For a “story” that does get Sineenat’s non-promotion right, look at the South China Morning Post. However, the SCMP still feels the need to concoct a “story.” In this it is a “what if” line that is taken, with a claim that has PPT stumped: “Less than two years after her sudden pardon, the former military pilot may be named as King Rama X’s second queen according to unconfirmed reports – will Sineenat emerge as a style icon like Queen Sirikit, or a humanitarian beacon like Princess Soamsawali?” Well, it is less than a year since she was “pardoned,” but the notion that the portulent Soamsawali was a “humanitarian beacon” is quite baffling. How do they come up with this stuff?





Protecting princess property

27 12 2020

PPT noticed a recent Thai PBS report that had “Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok’s largest shopping malls,” complaining about “political activist groups” making use of “the mall’s property for political activities…”.

In a statement from the “management of the mall,” it is maintained that the privately-held company “has never consented or accepted the use of its property by any political activist groups.”

Siam Paragon’s management babbled about “investments” in “equipment … to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among customers and staff alike.”

As far as we know, no virus transmission has been attributed to any mass rally, so we assume this line is simply buffalo manure.

The report adds that “Siam Paragon is just a stone’s throw from Pathumwan skywalk, which has been a favorite rallying point for political activities, most recently by the Ratsadon Group. The Pathumwan intersection was also the site of a mass protest by the Group in mid-October.”

We recall that one of the charges against democracy protesters in 2018 was “illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace…”, meaning the Sra Pathum Palace, ” the official residence of Princess Sirindhorn…”.

Siam Paragon is royal majority owned through Siam Piwat Co, which is also the operator of the Siam Center and Iconsiam. As we understand it, Siam Paragon is on land owned by the princess. An academic once calculated that Princess Sirindhorn’s shareholding in Siam Piwat provided more than US$55 million per year from her property in the Siam-Ratchaprasong alone.

At the present time, royals are everywhere reasserting their power, wealth and personal preferences.





Precious asses

19 12 2020

PPT had seen this story a few days ago in a Thai-language newspaper and we were skeptical. Could it be true that the Royal Thai Air Force was to spend over 54 million baht  to refurbish a lavatory on board a VIP aircraft?

Khaosod now reports that this seems true. It reports that the “54.43 million baht project is detailed in a document published on a military-run website earlier this week.”

The air force is reported as saying that the $1.8 million price tag is “reasonable.” The “excuse” is that “it involves sophisticated engineering…”.

Only a pissy $75,000. Clipped from DemotiX

The “golden toilet” is for an RTAF Airbus A340-500 (HS-TYV). It will leap into the ranks of the world’s most expensive loos.

This aircraft was acquired from Thai Airways in 2016 “for a price of reportedly 1.7 billion baht – paid from the state coffers.” It was “converted for use in ‘VVIP’ transport missions and entered into service under the 602 Royal Flight squadron.”

We can guess that this expense might have something to do with a royal bottom needing special care and complex engineering to separate royal excretions from common crap. Or maybe it is just a gift – paid by the taxpayer – for a “valued” consort? We are reminded of the need a few years ago for special potty arrangements that again bled the taxpayer. This was an expensive, temporary, and unnecessary loo for Princess Sirindhorn.

The Khaosod report goes on to list another royal suck on the taxpayer:

Another procurement document shows that the air force also awarded Thai Airways a 750 million baht contract to renovate the interiors of a Boeing 777-800 royal aircraft with the tail number HS-MVS.

Little is known publicly about the details of the project or the aircraft itself, though official records said the twin-engine jet entered into service in 2007 and is under direct command of King Vajiralongkorn’s Deachochai 3 Royal Flight Unit.

This is one of the aircraft that regularly shuttles the king, queen and their entourage around Europe and flits back and forth between Europe and Thailand, depending on where the king is. That’s a lavish fit-out for the taxpayer to fund.

It seems pretty clear that the calls for monarchy reform are not changing the way the military, regime, or royal family siphon funds from the public purse into luxury accoutrements for precious asses.





Gorging on state funds

21 06 2020

Reading the media the past couple of days and we feel like the regime, its ministers and its buddies are engaging in gluttony, seemingly gorging on state coffers.

One deal we posted on them recently got more press coverage:

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office’s Eastern Special Development Zone Policy Committee yesterday signed the [290-billion-baht] deal with winning concessionaire, U-Tapao International Aviation Co, an offshoot of the BBS Joint Venture that won the bid to develop the “aeropolis” in Ban Chang district of Rayong Province….

…[T]he BBS Joint Venture comprises Bangkok Airways, which owns 45% of the shares, BTS Group Holdings which owns 35%, and Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction (STEC) which owns 20%.

So we can identify two conglomerates involving two of the countries wealthiest Sino-Thai tycoons – the Prasarttong-Osoth family at Bangkok Airways and the Kanjanapas clan at BTS. It was Forbes lister Prasert Prasattong-Osoth giving advice to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha recently. It seems advice doesn’t come cheap. Then we have Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction:

Interesting. But what can we expect from people who are used to having with state officials in their pockets.

Then we saw that idea from convicted heroin smuggler and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao for seizing land  illegally occupied by resorts and hotels, and then renting it back to them. Brilliant! Thammanat is already a baht billionaire and this looks like a surefire way to double money and pay for more of his big brother’s parliamentary seats and maybe even some watches. A Bangkok Post editorial commented that the scheme “is so outrageous that it should be dropped immediately…”.

And what about the news that the “Finance Ministry is ready to consider retail operators’ proposal for tax breaks on shopping to stimulate domestic spending…” with 50,000 baht per shopper! Now, who could that help most? We suggest it would throw shiploads of money into the big retailers, like the Chirathivat and Umpujh clans who are also Forbes listers.

It also potentially helps out the royal family and specifically Princess Sirindhorn, a member of the country’s wealthiest family that already scoops up billions in taxpayer funds. It was Chadatip Chutrakul, chief executive of majority royal-owned Siam Piwat Co, the operator of Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Iconsiam, that “said the government should come up with measures to compel people to leave the house and spend more.”

Happy to grab more loot

An academic once calculated that Princess Sirindhorn’s shareholding in Siam Piwat provided more than US$55 million per year from her property in the Siam-Ratchaprasong alone. She may be a bit short this year, so the state purse becomes a surrogate source of wealth.

Such “private” deals seem to be gathering pace under the virus crisis and rehabilitation plans. Recall how just a few weeks ago, the biggest of the business whales, multi-billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont was urging the regime to turn the country into a ‘safe haven’ for wealthy visitors.” His wish seems to be the regime’s command, with Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn declaring that the “government’s tourism-revival strategy is to target big spenders seeking privacy and social distancing in the Covid-19 era, rather than try to attract a large number of visitors…. He added that the virus “provides an opportunity to reset the sector, which had become reliant on Chinese groups and backpackers…”. With 11 million Chinese tourists in 2019 and a total of almost 40 million, it seems there’s a determination to crush most of the industry and all that flows from it to every other part of the service sector, which before the virus accounted 46% of total employment and 57% of GDP.

And, these “private” deals are being institutionalized, with the regime reviving a Prem Tinsulanonda-era idea, agreeing with the private sector “to revive the Joint Public-Private Consultative Committee (JPPCC) as a core forum for the two to work together on solutions for the country’s social and economic rehabilitation after the pandemic.” That was first suggested a year ago but looks increasingly likely to become a processing terminal for turning state funds into private gains.

Finally, we may have missed the announcements, but it seems that the long-delayed contracts for the Sino-Thai high (probably medium) speed railway are being doled out. If the reporting is right, it suggests smoke-filled rooms and cosy deals. We quote the Bangkok Post:

SRT governor Niruj Maneepun yesterday told the media that Contract 2.3 is worth 50.6 billion baht, which includes funds for the railway system, rolling stocks and staff training….

The signing of the contract will be carried out in October as planned, Mr Niruj said.

Contract 2.3 is one of seven railway contracts worth a total of 179.4 billion baht for the Bangkok-Nong Khai High-Speed Train Project. Contract 2.3 would cover the project’s first phase, which is a 253-kilometre stretch from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima….

The construction for the whole project has been ongoing since 2018 and it is expected to finish in 2023. [In fact, very little construction has occurred, apart from a very short section near Nakhon Ratchasima.]

So far, the SRT has said the project is making progress, noting it is finding contractors to develop all seven phases. It said a few have already agreed and signed some of the contracts.

That doesn’t look like open tendering, not that such systems stand in the way of the transfer of funds to private sector cronies and giant corporations.





One night/day in Bangkok…

7 04 2020

One night in Bangkok – well some of two nights and a day – was all King Vajiralongkorn could spare as it appears (still to be confirmed) that he nipped back to Zurich and, presumably, the harem.

Time flies doesn’t seem a minute
Since the Bavarian spa had the king and his girls in it

In the first addition to The Nation’s Royal News in over two months, it is reported that a “[r]oyal ceremony marking Chakri Day, …[had] King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida pa[ying] their respects to the King Rama I statue on Monday (April 6) near the Saphan Phuttayotfa or Memorial Bridge in Bangkok.”

Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

The king and queen “were accompanied by … Princess Bajrakitiyabha … and Princess Sirivannavari…”.

Clipped from The Nation

As we know from the royal news, he also made his “contribution” to his country’s virus work by not quarantining and not masking up providing taxpayer-funded medical equipment.

Siam’s gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness (or not)

Meanwhile, after a considerable time, Princess Sirindhorn, as the boss of the Chaipattana Foundation, ordered the establishment of “a fund to receive donations to battle the coronavirus outbreak…”. Those donations are from the public, cycled through the royals to give them extra credit, and then handed out as “gifts” from “heaven.”

It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity





Updated: The military and monarchy post-Korat

17 02 2020

The criticism of the military is missing  an essential point: the role of the monarchy. More realistically, it is being censored and suppressed. This is the parasitic relationship between monarchy and military. It is a relationship that has been mutually reinforcing for decades, and both monarchy and military have reached their current political and economic power through this relationship. Neither can do without the other.

The previous king built that relationship.

Bhumibol promoted the military as the monarchy’s military and the military promoted itself as the “protectors” of the monarchy and royal family. The relationship remained strong from the late 1950s, with the royal family militarizing itself.

As Bhumibol and his acolytes gained control over the promotion of the top military brass, he populated his Privy Council with retired generals, allowing the growing aura of the monarchy to envelop the military and protect its criminality and corruption, while in times of political crisis, Bhumibol intervened in ways that prevented the military being brought down. Promotion came to those military men who could best satisfy members of the royal family.

King Vajiralongkorn was trained as a soldier from his earliest days and being a soldier has been one of the few constants in his life. He appears to love discipline, bullying and uniforms. As a fellow student explained:

what marked him most was his enthusiasm for the Combined Cadet Force…. Here, he so excelled in the meticulous wearing of kit, the parade-ground drills, the shouting and saluting that he was promoted to some sort of officer status, allowing him to lord it over the rest of us….

Like others whose sense of superior status is toxically combined with insecurity and isolation, Mahidol could suddenly drop his pretence of amiable normality and become a vile bully: indeed, his behaviour might now be described as bipolar….

With few academic skills, his training as a soldier continued at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. The Bangkok Post has the officially approved story of Vajiralongkorn as soldier, described as a “fondness for military affairs.” It adds that he has:

served as a career officer in the Royal Thai Army (RTA) and attended the Command and General Staff College in 1977. He also served as a staff officer in the Directorate of Army Intelligence, and later became head of the King’s Bodyguard Battalion in 1978.

Part of that military service has been lauded by Gen Apirat Kongsompong. In one of his more deranged haranguings he pointedly connected military and monarchy, saying the king had:

helped soldiers fight against communist troops in … Loei province on Nov 5, 1976…. His Majesty was in the operation base, ate and slept like other soldiers. His Majesty visited local residents, gave moral support and fought shoulder by shoulder with brave soldiers.

He added:

The royal institution, the military and people are inseparable. In the past, kings were on elephants surrounded by soldiers. Those soldiers were the people who sacrificed themselves in battles beside kings….

The point he makes is obvious: the military and monarchy are bound together. That obvious relationship is currently being ignored/avoided/censored.

Yet everyone knows that Vajiralongkorn holds the ranks of general in the Royal Thai Army, admiral in the Royal Thai Navy, air chief marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force and is constitutionally he is “Head of the Thai Armed Forces.”

The silence is deafening.

And Princess Sirindhorn should not be let off this particular hook either. She’s also a general in the Army, admiral in the Navy, and air chief marshal in the Air Force. As a uniformed instructor at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy she has been an enthusiastic supporter and shaper of the current military-monarchy relationship and of the sordid mentality that allows Gen Apirat to consider the Army as “sacred institution.”

Her most recent military boostering was reported in Indian newspapers as she enjoyed yet another taxpayer-funded tour right after the Korat massacre. With a 20-member delegation, she visited the Indian Military Academy “to strengthen engagement and defence cooperation between the two countries.” Sirindhorn reportedly “expressed keen desire to take defence cooperation with India to the next level,” (This might have her Chinese sponsors a bit concerned.)

Interestingly, all the royal family seem to have been too busy to do much about Korat. In what should be a PR disaster – except that in feudal Thailand no one can gripe – the king skipped the funerals and ceremonies, sending “representatives from the Privy Council.

The king’s message seems to be that he’s either not really interested in dozens of deaths and injuries and/or that he’s throwing his support (again) behind the current belly slitherers who pass for the military brass.

But he did send his 904 volunteers for the clean up at Terminal 21. More accurately, according to the t-shirts in the picture, the Army deployed them for him.

Clipped from Prachatai

That all seems rather too mechanical and uncaring. But, then, the royal family and the king in particular are never keen for the military to get too much criticism.

Update: Prachatai has a summary assessment of 2019’s politics. Among other things, it says this: “Put concisely, the most important theme of 2019 is how the power of the monarchy and military in Thai politics persists or changes…”.





What next?

5 05 2019

AP reports that its pundits reckon that after more than two years on the throne, “[w]hat Vajiralongkorn … will do with the power and influence the venerated status confers is still not clear.”

We don’t agree. It seems pretty clear that this king is a politically interventionist rightist, legalistic when it suits him, craving a return to pre-1932 absolutism, greedy and unpredictable. Perhaps it is the last characteristic that befuddles the pundits.

They do note his “assertiveness” but we are confused when they say he has a “seemingly hands off approach in other matters…”. The report says this has something to do with his long stints in Germany, but perhaps they have forgotten his demanded change to the constitution that gives him hands-on influence wherever he is.

The argument that he “suddenly announced his fourth marriage, to a former flight attendant who is a commander of his security detail, and appointed her Queen…” suggests a “fresh commitment to his royal duties” is nonsense. He’s been at his “royal duties” – as he sees them – since well before his father’s death. He’s been regularly intervening in the work of the junta. Even a humble office worker the report quotes knows this.

In any case, marrying just before coronation is exactly what his father did.

“Vajiralongkorn is likely to remain burdened by old gossip about his personal life that has dogged him” for decades. But the propaganda is gradually erasing this. And, the king doesn’t care any more. He’s powerful and can do whatever he wants.

The report quotes the usually critical academic Paul Chambers results in the odd claim that the hands-on Vajiralongkorn’s style is “more hands off” is a bizarre claim with the report going on to contradict this silliness saying “he has brought more of Thailand’s administration directly under the palace.” How’s that for hands off!!

It quotes old royalist and conservative Sulak Sivaraksa who is closer to the mark: “The new king is a very decisive man, and he’s a very daring man, unlike his father…”. Sulak loathed Vajiralongkorn’s father for he ‘suffered fools (gladly)’ around him…”.

His “decisive” new king is intolerant, erratic, headstrong and dangerous. Think of all the people he’s had jailed on bogus charges in recent years. He’s often done this, as academic Michael Montesano notes,”bespeak an interest in gaining or exerting greater control over certain institutions,” and he uses his power to grasp what he wants. Think of all the buildings and land he’s been accumulating.

As the report notes, the “powers he acquired centralize royal authority in his hands and make explicit his right to intervene in government affairs, especially in times of political crisis.”

He’s also been publicly interventionist in politics, even directing how people should vote in the recent election.

Vajiralongkorn also seems to have the support of the royal family – despite previous claims of splits and the problem he had with his big and equally balmy sister recently.

At the coronation, Princess Sirindhorn “represented the Royal Family … in offering their best wishes to … the King” and declared “every member of the Royal Family was determined to uphold the truth and promised loyalty to the King.” That’s to be expected as they all benefit from the monarchy and its wealth.

In other words, Chambers’ hands-off king is a facile myth.

Vajiralongkorn has also brought the palace’s billions under his personal control, rolling back these arrangements many decades.

The article reckons that “Vajiralongkorn’s greatest challenge is likely to be sorting out the palace’s relationship with the military.” He’s already moving on that, and the shape of the appointed senate is likely to be a pointer. He’s already secured an Army commander who will polish his posterior. Once he sees off Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, his relationship to the military will be highly personalized and interventionist. He believes he’s a soldier and that other soldiers must obey him.

Even Chambers and Montesano agree that the balance of power has and is shifting to the king and his palace.

Another academic once referred to a kingdom of fear and favor. That holds more now than when the claim was made. Watch as he grasps more for himself, in terms of political power, wealth and status.





Updated: Another royal moneymaker

13 03 2019

Both The Nation and the Bangkok Post has virtually identical “stories” about the property giant Siam Piwat.

The cause of of the “stories” was that the private company, “the operator of Iconsiam and Siam Paragon, will spend 70 billion baht during 2019-23 to develop two large-scale malls and acquire office towers and logistics centres…”.

Clipped from IBTimes

The “stories” point out that the firm is making money hand over fist and its monstrous Iconsiam center “alone is expected to boost revenue by 42 per cent this year.”

What neither story tells readers is that the opaque company is essentially a royal company, with Princess Sirindhorn scoring big bucks in investments that often involve personal and royal property.

So what you might say? And we’d say that readers may consider that such royal links give enormous advantages. We recently mentioned such advantages when posting on the Siam Cement Group. Then there’s the June 2017 decision by the junta to approve a plan for a 4.6-billion-baht observation tower in Bangkok without a call for bids. Why was that? Look at the partners.

For background on Siam Piwat, see this post from 2013.

How wealthy is the monarchy? We don’t know, but when estimates are made, they do not include such private companies and investments.

Update: Khaosod too has the Siam Piwat story and no mention of the royal connection.





Judiciary hopeless on royals

2 01 2019

Prachatai reports on a lese majeste case that began life in 2012 and where a final decision has been handed down by the Supreme Court.

It was claimed that on 26 October 2012 Anan (family name withheld), now aged 70, defamed Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali in Pathum Thani Province. He was eventually charged under Article 112. The defendant denied the accusations.

When the accusation was investigated in 2012, no charge was filed. However, following the 2014 coup, prosecutors were ordered to trawl over previous 112 cases, and Anan’s was taken to court after a “committee of the Royal Thai Police ordered that the case be prosecuted and the officer who did not file charges be subject to disciplinary punishment.”

The first verdict was given on 29 September 2016. It was complicated. The court found Anan committed the acts he was prosecuted for. However, the court, having advice from the Royal Household Bureau, ruled that Article 112 did not cover Sirindhorn and Soamsawali.

Thus, unable to convict Anan under the lese majeste verdict, the court itself cobbled together a conviction, reasoning that the defendant defamed Sirindhorn and Soamsawali. Despite the fact that neither of the two royals had lodged a defamation complaint, the court “found the defendant guilty of violating of Article 326 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, totalling 2 years.”

In other words, Anan was convicted of a crime for which he had not been charged, which had not been investigated and for which he was not tried.

An Appeals Court considered Anan’s appeal and issued its verdict on 20 May 2017. The article doesn’t clearly state the outcome but it appears that it found for the defendant, presumably leading to a prosecution appeal to the Supreme Court.

On 27 December 2018, the Thanyaburi Provincial Court read the Supreme Court’s verdict. It “found Anan guilty on 2 charges of personal defamation, and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, suspended for 3 years, and a fine of 20,000 baht for each offence.”

Defense lawyer Thitiphong Sisaen made the following observations:

1) The Supreme Court has set a standard for defamation cases (Article 326). Even if the victim does not file a complaint, if there is an investigation into the offence, the prosecutor may file a lawsuit….

2) The Supreme Court referred to the 2017 Constitution as the criterion for the legitimacy of the investigation (the state has the duty to protect and preserve the monarchy and national security), but this case occurred in 2012 and the charges were filed in 2015. This means the Supreme Court has set down a new legal principle, stating that laws are effective retrospectively in order to punish the accused.

When it comes to royals, the judiciary is simply hopeless, makes stuff up and promotes injustice.





What happened to that palace “crisis”?

9 12 2018

Readers may recall that, in the period before Vajiralongkorn came to the throne, there was a widely-held view that there was a “succession crisis” in Thailand.Nothing was seen publicly, although when the incoming king did not take the throne for a period, the media was abuzz.

Earlier, PPT wrote that it had to be admitted that Wikileaks, the 2006 coup, the role the palace played in that, the royalist opposition to electoral representation, the infamous birthday video, and the rise of the successionist line in blogs and on social media have changed the way most of the world thinks about Thailand’s monarchy.

There were also those stories circulating that the then Crown Prince was close to Thaksin Shinawatra and red shirts. This even led to a forlorn hope that the new king might be “more democratic.”

Then there were stories about rifts in the palace, most notably between the then prince and Princess Sirindhorn, who were characterized as competing for the throne. One story reckoned she was preparing to decamp for China if her brother became king.

PPT wasn’t convinced by this successionist argument., but we couldn’t ignore the way discussion of succession merged with rising anti-monarchism.

We can’t determine whether this crisis was a beat up based on limited evidence coming from an opaque palace, wishful thinking, an effort to destabilize the palace under the junta or something else. What we did notice was that the 2014 coup had a lot to do with snuffing out anti-monarchism.

In the end, it turns out, the biggest “crisis” for the palace occurred in late 2014, when the king-in-waiting “cleaned” out his family and continued a palace cleaning and reorganization that saw dozens of lese majeste cases and saw many jailed and some die.

All of this is a long introduction to a new op-ed by Pavin Chachavalpongpun at FORSEA. On all of the above, he now states: “There was no such war. Vajiralongkorn was already firmly in charge of palace affairs before his father passed away in October 2016.” He adds:

After the long authoritative reign of Bhumibol, some would have hoped that the new monarch would be more open, liberal even. Yet, they were wrong. Now that Thailand has installed a military-trained king on the throne, who is determined to expand the monarchy’s powers, the country’s future does not seem bright. The new monarch promises authoritarianism rather than democracy.

The op-ed deserves attention for its focus on what Vajiralongkorn has been doing on the throne:

Vajiralongkorn is striving to re-establish the power and authority of the royal institution, fully enjoyed by Thai kings prior to the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932….

This is the first time since 1932 when a new Thai king holds more formal power than his predecessors. The entrenchment of the monarchical power has been made possible by a renewed alliance between the monarchy and the army through a repressive military regime.

His economic and political power has expanded. Under the junta, no one can say anything much about this.

Pavin mentions the huge land grabs in Bangkok:

has taken into his possession a number of major public buildings in Bangkok, from the Dusit Zoo to the Nang Loeng Horse-racing Track. Both are located within the close radius of the royal palace. The confiscation of these buildings was supposedly meant to be an expansion of the spatial power of the new king. A dream of redesigning Bangkok to mimic London where royal properties have been integrated finally comes true under Vajiralongkorn reign. The only difference is that whereas the British royal parks are open for public, those in Thailand will be forever shuttered.

The grabs in the area of the palace – also including Suan Amphorn, the so-called Throne Hall and the current parliament buildings and land – have coincidentally been about erasing 1932.

In terms of politics, it seems pretty obvious that all of this palace work depends on the extension of authoritarian rule.