All masked up

20 03 2020

When we saw the video below, we were bemused that the royals were hard at the money-making venture known as graduation, but were all masked up and gloved.

A remarkable number of masks in evidence in this event.

Then we saw a story at Khaosod that might explain the precautions.

It says that Julie Jensen (known in Thailand as Princess Ubolratana) said “her daughter underwent a test for Covid-19 after she fell ill.” The result was negative

As far as we can tell, and we may have missed a lot in all the mayhem, this represents the first (semi-)royal comment on the virus. Julie stated: “The Covid-19 outbreak situation seems to be getting worse. [no kidding] There are probably many more people who are infected but not in the reports… [a criticism of the regime’s failures?].” She added layperson’s advice that “rigorous testing was necessary in containing the outbreak.”

That may be correct, but we would have thought that the usual royal role – even for a semi-royal – is to provide support for “the nation” and “the people” rather than engaging in unconstitutional activism.





The billion dollar monarchy

13 03 2020

Prachatai has a post on royal funding. One of the last freely available pieces of information on the billions that flow from public coffers – the taxpayer – to the royal family is in draft budget papers from the Budget Bureau that go to parliament.

The headline budget expenditure for 2020, for the “stability of the main national institutions” is about 5.35 billion baht. Yet this is misleading as funding to the royal family is scattered throughout the budget.

The headline figure is that the monarchy costs the taxpayer $1 billion.

Expensive

Prachatai comes up with a provisional additional expenditures of more than 29.72 billion baht. It finds “direct expenditures” of 19.68 billion baht and “indirect expenses” of 10.04 billion baht.

Direct expenditures are those made directly to the monarchy, such as the security budget, travel budget, and institutional protection budgets. Indirect expenditures are what might be called “related expenditures” which includes things like royal projects and the ubiquitous “public relations” expenditures for propaganda. Every ministry has “projects” that “honor” the royal family and monarchy.

Then there’s a third set of funds that cost some 1.26 billion baht. These are projects named for the monarchy, so also fall into the category of royalist propaganda. These expenditures include things like “training” for farmers in the dead king’s sufficiency economy “theory.”

All of this means that total expenditure is around 31 billion baht.

While Prachatai has considerable detail, we won’t include here. We do note that the report makes the point that this massive sum does not include budgets from universities, local government organizations, state enterprises, the budgets for constructing and maintaining buildings and infrastructure that “honor” the monarchy and the royal family.

In the detailed commentary, we did notice some interesting line items:

– Travel, flights and head of state operations: 6.52 billion baht.

– Ministry of Interior budget for “honouring” the monarchy: 2.38 billion baht.

– Ministry of Defense funds for honouring, acting on the monarch’s wishes and whims 1.71 billion baht.

– Royal projects: 847 million baht.

– Royal decorations: 505.5 million baht

– To Be Number One (non-Princess Ubolratana’s propaganda project): 17.4 million baht.

Let us know if we got any of the calculations wrong.





Royal infection

31 01 2020

It seems that in neo-feudal Thailand, any utterance from a royal is newsworthy. That apparently includes even Ubolratana, who “resigned” her royal status but still enjoys her “princessness” as a member of the royal family and the king’s elder sister.

As the regime arrests people for spreading “fake news” on the Wuhan coronavirus, perennial attention-seeker (non)Princess Ubolratana,

took to social media to question the government’s inaction as well as giving her own experience of trying to avoid the coronavirus in Bangkok. The government said the repatriation could begin by Feb. 4, but added that they have yet to secure permission from the Chinese authorities.

“I don’t know what the government is waiting for. They’re starving over there!” she wrote in response to a comment on Instagram.

“Starving” in Wuhan is not something that has regularly come up in reports from Wuhan, except from one tabloid story about a panicked Thai student.

In another report, another woman “all kinds of rumors online” and some shortages of food as people in Wuhan stocked up.

Other reports are of the Chinese government ordering

… farmers to step up vegetable production, opened roads for delivery trucks and is punishing those trying to profit in order to keep feeding residents of the locked-down city….

Why Ubolratana should be telling the government what to do is reflective of Thailand’s royalist fever. Should she be more careful in her public attention-seeking? Of course she should.

Evacuations are not easy, and returning people who may add to the infected population and require considerable forward planning and preparation as well as Chinese permissions. The BBC lists the countries evacuating citizens and it it clear that its really only Japan and the US that have arranged flights so far.

Many foreign nationals in Wuhan also hold Chinese passports, which further complicates things.

Until yesterday, “World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that the UN health body “does not recommend the evacuation” of foreign nationals from virus-hit Hubei province as he called on the international community to remain calm.”

Like the average social media user, perhaps Ubolratanta should have a bit of a think before tweeting. Not least because the royal virus in Thailand means she’s an “influencer.”





On coronation II

4 05 2019

One of the most noticeable things among the bland and sometimes downright posterior polishing masquerading as reporting today was the censoring of journalists.

Khaosod reports that the BBC was taken off the air in Thailand yesterday and today.

Self-crowned

As the report notes, this came just a day “after Thailand marked its ‘press freedom day’.” As usual, no reason was provided, but everyone knows that it had something to do with reporting of the king.

The Thai provider, TrueVision, owned by Sino-Thai monarchists, “has blacked out broadcasts by the BBC and other foreign media agencies that touched on sensitive subjects in the past.”

That means monarchy.

One of the most interesting aspects of reporting is that, despite claims about joyous crowds, most of the photos of the coronation that we have seen so far do not suggest crowds extending much beyond those the regime ordered to show up. Of course, the diehard royalists also showed up to cheer.

Clipped from The Nation

Another noticeable set of social media reports showed photos of the royal family, including Ubolratana being hugged by her brother.

Also present, in addition to the new queen, was one of the king’s concubines.





Anurak and Ubolratana

27 04 2019

PPT have already posted on the harassment of and assault on activist Anurak Jeantawanich (Ford Redpath). Here’s some more background.

Soon after this, Anurak was charged with computer crimes.

He went in to hear the charge at the appointed day, and went alone, and he says there were men in SWAT gear standing by while he heard the charges. He felt he would be arrested at any moment. He was allowed to keep only the last page of the charge sheet as a photocopy including the supposed law-breaking post. Anurak has posted a copy of the Facebook post in question to show people what happened and had it translated to English.

Here it is, as shared with reporters.





Updated: The king “votes” again II

30 03 2019

King Vajiralongkorn has signaled that he will not have a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai led government.

Matichon reports on a new royal announcement, commanding Thaksin to relinquish all of his royally-bestowed decorations.

Of course, this probably has to do with Thaksin’s liaison with (former) Princess Ubolratana, but the political message is clearer than anything that has emerged from the Election Commission.

Update: All major English-language media (here, here and here) now have this story on yet another of the king’s political interventions.

The Post notes that the ostensible reason for removing Thaksin’s royal decorations was the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions sentencing of Thaksin on 21 October 2008 over the Ratchada land case. It also notes that the statute of limitations on that case “has already expired…”.

As The Nation does, Khaosod also observes the connection to the election and the Army’s removal of Thaksin’s “name … from the school’s hall of fame and stripped him of his Chak Dao alumni achievement awards.”

The Nation’s story, which is from AFP, also makes these points:

King Vajiralongkorn had issued an announcement on election eve calling for Thais to support “good” people to prevent “chaos” — a declaration replayed right before polls opened on March 24.

The monarch also sent jitters across the country in February after a party linked to the Shinawatras nominated Princess Ubolratana as a candidate for prime minister — which he swiftly called “inappropriate” in a royal rebuke….

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, but the palace holds unassailable powers and is shielded from criticism by a harsh royal defamation law [lese majeste].





With a major update: The king “votes” again I

24 03 2019

“Vote early and vote often” is a phrase used in relation to elections and the voting process that encourages corrupt electoral activity.

King Vajiralongkorn “voted” once already when he forbade his older sister and Thaksin Shinawatra’s significant other, resulting in the dissolution of yet another pro-Thaksin party. His second “vote” came last night, at 8.44 pm, 2 hours and 44 minutes after campaigning was meant to cease.

As the Bangkok Post has it:

the King had the Lord Chamberlain deliver a part of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s message 30 years ago urging the promotion of good people to govern so they can prevent bad people from creating trouble.

It cites the dead king:

Maintaining national peace and order is … not about making everyone good; it’s about supporting good people so they can govern and prevent bad people from grabbing power and creating trouble and unrest.

According to the announcement, the king expressed hope that:

all citizens and government officials, including civil servants, the military and the police who are duty-bound to ensure national security and people’s happiness, to consider the royal message.

The announcement stated that the king

is concerned about national security and the feelings and happiness of citizens. The reference to the royal message is aimed at giving moral support and encouraging the performance of duties for the sake of unity, national security and people’s happiness. It is also a reminder of the great contributions of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty the Queen of King Rama IX, the announcement read.

It seems likely that this “vote” was and absentee vote as it seems the king had already left Thailand for his home in Tutzing, near Munich.

Channeling his father, this message will give great heart to the junta and its devil party, Palang Pracharath. The announcement’s message is an extended version of that party’s campaign slogan and mirrors The Dictator’s campaign message.

It may also be a response to his sister’s most recent personal political intervention.

What was that about a constitutional monarchy?

Update 1: Prachatai has a fine and brave discussion of the king’s statement and related events. It makes the point – one we neglected – that the term “good people” is “not neutral in Thai political lexicon.” Indeed, it is a terminology used by royalists and anti-democrats for several decades as a defining characteristic of “Thai-style democracy,” a royalist-inspired notion that promotes anti-democracy. It notes that in the battle with Thaksin, the “military junta and non-elected institutions have been using this word to justify their actions, and oftentimes at the expense of democracy.”

Update 2: For those interested in democracy, the Election Commission has had yet one more massive failure. Spineless EC chief Ittiporn Boonpracong supported the king’s unconstitutional intervention, saying:

I call on all Thais as well as officials to be mindful of King Rama X, who expressed his concerns about the election and choose good people to manage and move the country forward. I want everybody to exercise their voting rights while keeping the Royal announcement in mind….

In other words, vote for pro-junta parties! And this is the agency supervising the “election” and will have responsibility for dealing with perhaps hundreds of complaints. It’s pretty easy to see that the EC will do all it can to support pro-junta parties.

Update 3: It is beginning to look like the king’s announcement may have been a coordinated effort to change voting intentions with the EC boss, military brass and senior officials reinforcing the king’s “advice when electing their representative…”.

In a supposed constitutional monarchy, this kind of intervention should be unthinkable.

Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong was primed and “urged voters … to consider [the king’s]… advice, saying that following this advice will keep the country peaceful.” He clearly believes that this is a win-win intervention; he can support the king and the junta’s devil parties.

Armed forces supreme commander Gen Ponpipat Benyasri joined in, mimicking Gen Apirat, “saying the military has called on voters to elect ‘good people’ to become their MPs.” Military and monarchy! He stated: “The military adheres to the Royal advice and relevant regulations and orders…”. The orders come from the junta and Apirat.

Kanchanaburi Governor Jirakiat Phumsawat “also called on voters to consider …[the king’s] advice,” adding “I believe Kanchanaburi people will vote for ‘good people’ to run the country.”

One thing is clear in all of this unconstitutional interference: the monarchy remains deeply involved in Thailand’s politics.