Australia and palace propaganda

17 02 2021

A story on last evening’s royal news was about the king and queen visiting the Australian Embassy together with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, several Privy Councillors and cabinet ministers along with a bevy of senior officials – with not a mask in sight. The visit marked the embassy’s production of a “documentary” on the king’s several years in Australia when he struggled through some high school and then undertook military training.

Like all monarchy propaganda, it “will be aired on TV Pool until Thursday.” The first bit to be shown “highlights the visit to Australia by King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit as well as [the current king’s] early years in Australia. “

It is baffling why the Australians think it is a good idea to be complicit in palace propaganda. It seems remarkably like Cold War era efforts by the USA, Australia and other Western allies to link up with royalists and dictators in promoting the monarch.

The Australian Ambassador Allan McKinnon bubbled to the media, telling them that “the Australian embassy in Bangkok obtained footage of the King’s time in Australia from the National Archives of Australia and developed the footage into a documentary…”. The reason it did this is “to highlight the shared history between the Thai royal family and Australia…”.

The ambassador declared that the documentary and its associated photo exhibition demonstrates “the strength of the relationship between two countries, which was recently elevated to the status of a strategic partnership, signed by Gen Prayut, the Australian ambassador and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last November.”

It does sound ever so Cold War-like. As it was then, we doubt anyone will mention the protests and snubs the dead king received in 1962 or the current king’s somewhat checkered time in Australia.

We can point out some background information. During the dead king’s visit, the Secretary of the New South Wales Labor Council “said it was vulgar to display expensive jewellery (reported to be worth 240,000 pounds, or roughly $6.5m in today’s terms) and that ‘his heart went out to the poor people of her country’.”

Before that visit, the faculty at the Australian National University refused to offer an honorary degree to the king, and another was hastily arranged at the more conservative University of Melbourne. As Paul Handley has it in a footnote:

The trips were not all perfectly smooth. In Australia several small protests greeted the royal couple, as did uncomplimentary media coverage of Sirikit’s ostentatious jewelry and clothing collection. There was also turmoil surrounding Canberra’s plan to have Australia National University award Bhumibol an honorary doctorate. The university refused because Bhumibol had never earned an undergraduate degree from a college or university. Finally the government persuaded a lesser institution, the University of Melbourne, to give the king an honorary doctorate of laws.

For an account of Vajiralongkorn’s time in Australia, with some of the warts exposed – others remain secret – read our post of an important Australian newspaper investigation. We can be sure none of this will appear in the embassy’s contribution to palace propaganda.





With 3 updates: Gen Prayuth’s court let him off

2 12 2020

In a move that was never in doubt – forget the rumors of the last few days – the politicized Constitutional Court, with double standards in neon lights, let The Dictator off.

The Constitutional Court was never going to find Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha of malfeasance for having violated the constitution by staying on in his Army residence long after he officially retired from the Army.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Nation reports that the court “ruled that military regulations allow former officers to remain in their Army residence after retirement.”

The opposition had “accused Prayut of breaching the Constitution by staying on at an official Army residence in the First Infantry Battalion of Royal Guards … after his military retirement at the end of September 2014.”

He stood “accused of violating Sections 184 and 186 of the Constitution that forbid a government minister from ‘receiving any special money or benefit from a government agency, state agency or state enterprise…’.” It is clear that such free accommodation violates these  articles.

But the Constitutional Court has regularly ignored the constitution. We can recall then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej being ousted by the court for “expenses” totaling about $2,350 for appearing on his long-running television show a “Tasting and Complaining.” Gen Prayuth’s gains far exceed that paltry amount. Free rent, free services, free servants, etc. etc.

The Army “informed the court that the residence was provided to Prayut because he is PM and deserves the honour and security it provides.” It added that “[s]imilar housing has been provided to other former Army chiefs who are members of the Cabinet, the Privy Council and Parliament…”. In other words, the Army rewards its generals who serve as privy councilors, ministers – like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda – and appointed senators. It is a corrupt cabal, with the Army ensuring its people are never “tainted” by regular society.

The Army, the Constitutional Court and the regime are corrupt.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post failed to produce an editorial on this story. We can only guess that the editor’s desk is having to get their editorials approved by the owners. How else could they have missed this? We’ll look again tomorrow. The story it has on Gen Prayuth’s free pass from his court summarizes the Constitutional Court’s “reasoning,” resulting in a unanimous decision by this sad group of judges:

His occupancy was allowed under a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on base after they retire if they continue to serve the country well, according to the unanimous ruling read out at the court in Bangkok on Wednesday afternoon.

The court said the regulation had come into effect before Gen Prayut was the army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

The court said Gen Prayut served the country well as army chief, and the army regulation allowed its former commanders to use such houses, and subsidised utility bills.

“When he became prime minister on Aug 24, 2014, the complainee [Gen Prayut] was also the army chief in active duty. He was therefore qualified to stay in the house in his capacity as the army chief. When he retired on Sept 30, 2014, he was still qualified to stay as a former army chief. A prime minister who had not been army chief could not have stayed at the house,” the court said in its ruling.

Being a prime minister is an important position and security for him and his family is important. The state must provide appropriate security and an accommodation that is safe and offers privacy enables him to perform his duties for public benefits. It is therefore necessary to prepare accommodation for the country’s leader when Baan Phitsanulok is not ready, the court said.

The free utilities also do not constitute a conflict of interest since they are part of the welfare that comes with the housing.

In other words, the Court accepted every major point made by Gen Prayuth and the Army. It is easy to see who is the master and who is the pet poodle.

Just for interest, this is what Sections 184(3) and 186 of the constitution state:

183. A Member of the House of Representatives and Senator shall not:

… (c) receive any special money or benefit from a government agency, State agency or State enterprise apart from that given by the government agency, State agency or State enterprise to other persons in the ordinary course of business;…

186. The provisions in section 184 shall also apply to Ministers mutatis mutandis, except for the following cases:

1. holding positions or carrying out acts provided by the law to be the duties or powers of the Minister;

2. carrying out acts pursuant to the duties and powers in the administration of State affairs, or pursuant to the policies stated to the National Assembly, or as provided by law….

Compare that to the “reasoning” summarized by the Post and it is easy to see that the court has made yet another political decision for the regime and the social order it maintains.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has now produced an editorial. It actually says things that could easily have been made a day ago, but we guess lawyers and owners had to have their say. It notes:

Many observers have said the ruling did not surprise them in the least. This is not the first time the court, appointed by the military regime in accordance with the 2017 charter, and endorsed by the military-leaning Senate, has cleared up political trouble for the prime minister. Before this, there was the incomplete oath-taking case and the ruling that Gen Prayut, while serving as premier after the 2014 coup, was not a “state official.”

And on this verdict makes – as others have – the point that should never be forgotten:

In its not-guilty verdict regarding the welfare house, the court judges cited a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on at a base after they retire “if they continue to serve the country well”. The court said the regulation came into effect before Gen Prayut was army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

However, the court stopped short of explaining why a military regulation can overrule the country’s supreme law.

Constitutional Court judges make a ruling

The explanation has to do with the nature of the court – politicized – the nature of “justice” – double standards – and the power of the military (in alignment with the monarchy).

Update 3: As night follows day, the Constitutional Court has assigned Pol Cpl [a corporal? really? why keep that moniker with one’s name?] Montri Daengsri, the director of the Constitutional Court’s litigation office, to file charges with the Technology Crime Suppression Division against Parit Chiwarak for Facebook posts that the court considers “contempt of court.” Parit condemned their ridiculous legal contortions.

Cpl Montri also stated that Parit’s speech at the protest rally after the verdict was “defamatory in nature and violated the Criminal Code…. Police investigators were looking to see what charges would be pressed…”.

The court’s litigation office was also “looking into a stage play allegedly poking fun at the court over its ruling at the rally site.” No sense of humor as well as dullards and sham “judges.”





Monarchy, politics and partisanship

11 11 2020

Remember all the bleating about the king being above politics?

We all know that this is buffalo manure, demonstrated by the king himself in recent days.

Interestingly, there’s more evidence of the palace being directly involved in politics that emerges on an almost daily basis.

One example is in The Nation, where Parliament president Chuan Leekpai has stated that “he had consulted Privy Councillor [Gen] Surayud Chulanont … about plans for a national reconciliation committee to resolve rising political conflict.” Chuan added “that Surayud, a former Army chief and post-2016 coup PM, declined to express an opinion on the topic.” Sort of: “he asked all sides to consider the community at large…”.

What’s wrong with that? After all, the old meddler, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, was interfering all the time. But that was wrong. Like the king, the Privy Council is supposed to be above politics, and under the constitution, providing advice to the king, not to leaders of the legislature.

A second example is about other bodies that claim to be “neutral.” The Office of the Chularatchamontri claims that it and all “Islamic organisations at all levels maintain political neutrality.” This didn’t stop them staging “a mass gathering for Muslim residents who stand united in wanting to protect the country’s three pillar institutions.” The report adds:

The event called Ruam Palang Muslim Pokpong Sathaban Chart Sat Kasat (Uniting Muslim Power to Protect the Nation, Religion and the Royal Institution), was presided over by Aziz Pitukkumpol, the Chularatchamontri.

The event took place at the National Administration Centre for Islamic Affairs Chalerm Phrakiat in Bangkok’s Nong Chok district. It was attended by a large crowd of Muslim residents who wore yellow and waved the national and royal flags.

We understand that the Office is a bureaucratic and state organization, and probably was ordered to mobilize, and that the Chularatchamontri is appointed by the king, but why babble about “neutrality” and then act in highly partisan manner?

No one is above politics, and the right continues to use offices of the state for political purposes. The king will be pleased.





Further updated: The monarchy-coup two-step

8 11 2020

Prior to the rally in the evening, it was reported by the Bangkok Post that some”15 companies of crowd control police” were to be “deployed at the Royal Plaza and the Bureau of the Royal Household to maintain law and order during today’s rally by anti-government protesters.”

The police stated that they expected the protesters would march on “Ratchadamnoen Avenue to either the Royal Plaza or the Bureau of the Royal Household.” And that’s pretty much what happened.

In anticipation, a “national security unit had prepared negotiating teams to talk with the protesters to minimise the rally’s adverse impacts on the general public … [and] “would strictly prohibit the protesters from demonstrating within a 150m-radius of HM the King’s palace.”

Metal barriers were set “between the anti-government protesters who will gather in front of McDonald’s and a group of royalists who intend demonstrating on the opposite side of the monument to reduce confrontation…”. There was no clashes as most of the yellow shirts – as if by magic – had all left by the time the pro-democracy event got fully underway.

Police also use “55 public buses from the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) to support their task of ‘facilitating traffic’ at the pro-democracy rally at Democracy Monument.”

The buses were used near the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace complex, together with some razor wire and metal barricades, with hundreds of police manning them.

Clipped from The Nation

The “Free Youth group posted a message inviting people to join the demonstration.” It reportedly stated that:

a letter listing their demands would be submitted to HM the King via the Office of His Majesty’s Private Secretary, the Bureau of the Royal Household, the Privy Council as well as the PM. The letter also says the protesters do not want a violent confrontation and will call on the government to stop hurting the people and violating their rights.

They also assembled post boxes to receive letters from the public to the king.

All of this seemed quite well choreographed, so it was rather odd to learn that “Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the government has not prepared any special measures to handle the protesters.”

As the protesters marched, they “were prevented by police on Sunday evening from reaching the Palace Office to petition for reform of the monarchy.” In doing that, at “around 6.45pm, police had used high pressure guns to spray water on the protesters.”

Oddly, the police could then be heard apologizing for using water cannon – no dye and no irritants – this was confirmed in live broadcasts by protest leaders. They stated “they accepted the apology with a grain of salt, and asked them to explain their past behaviour.”

While protesters breached an initial police cordon, they stopped short of the main police line, and the Bangkok Post reported that volunteer marshals kept the protesters away from the main police cordon.

At that point, “protest leaders read out a collectively agreed message, undersigned by the ‘People’, calling for reform of the monarchy before the crowd dispersed and the rally ended” at around 9.30pm.

It was difficult to assess the size of the crowd. As we write this post, the only estimate we had seen was “tens of thousands.”

The rally appeared somewhat less spontaneous and innovative than past events and it remains to be seen where the protesters go from here.

Update 1: Prachatai reports on the rally and says that “[a]ctivist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon said that the letter writing activity is organised because they want those in power to listen to the voice of the people…”. A translation of the joint statement is included:

From the untainted people to King Vajiralongkorn,

With care, not cruelty

With well wish, not hatred

With hope, not fear

It is an absolute truth that all humans are both loved and loathed. Blood and roots do not judge whether a man should be loved or hated. Love and faith come from your own action.

A common man might have a choice to be surrounded by those who love and have faith in him. Even though it might turn out that around him are full of immoral, incompetent, obsequious people, still it is his choice.

However, a king cannot do so for he cannot choose between love and hatred.
It does not matter whether the people love the king or not, he must love them all the same.
If the king can talk to the people who love him, he must also talk to the people who do not all the same.

When you hear all the flattering praise from the people, you must also hear fearless criticisms and suggestions all the same.

When the king truly cherishes democracy, all people will find happiness.

The three demands from the people are the utmost compromise.

With power of equal human dignity,

“People”

Prachatai also reports that one innovation of note: A “We love the king” sticker with added words:

“We love the king that allows us to check.”
“We love the king that spends the tax worthwhile.”
“We love the king that do not endorse the coup.”

Update 2: Quite a few newspaper accounts – and a couple of readers – disagree with our statements that the protest yesterday “seemed quite well choreographed…” and “somewhat less spontaneous and innovative than past events.” They reckon it was another remarkable event. For example, Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt says “What happened last night, 8 November, was unprecedented.” He adds:

Ratsadon marched to the Grand Palace to submit letters to King Rama 10, with an envelope addressing him by his first name. The official letter’s content explained to the king how a king should behave.

Think about it in the context of Thai culture, a group of tweenies addressing the king by his first name and writing a letter explaining how the king should behave.

It’s not only unprecedented. It’s a world turn upside down.

After firing water cannons into the crowd, the police commander told the protestors he could not let them pass, for the area he’s guarding is a sacred site.

“Sacred” is the keyword.

Ratsadons are defying Thailand’s most sacred institution….





Updated: The political judiciary

28 10 2020

From long being a pretty somnolent part of the bureaucracy, in the 21st century, Thailand’s judiciary has shown that it can move politics in particular directions. The judiciary has demonstrated a capacity for politicized decision-making that has supported rightist, royalist and military interests. Its double standards are now legendary.

Sure, sometimes a court makes a decision that goes against the political grain, but these are exceptions to what is now a rule.

The most politicized of judges, who do as they are required, get rewarded. The most recent is the appointment of Nurak Mapraneet as a privy councilor. He is a former president of the Constitutional Court. He became court president in 2007 following the 2006 military coup. During his tenure there, the Court dissolved six political parties, removed two prime ministers, nullified the 2014 election, banned scores of politicians, and accepted a king’s announcement as law. Quite a record and now he’s rewarded.

All of this is a preamble to an observation that the judicial system and the courts are again being used by the regime as a political weapon.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer published a list of Thailand’s latest political prisoners. It is a list of list of university students, activists, and musicians who have been charged, since 18 July 2020, under Article 116 with sedition (21 persons) and Article 110 for committing an act of violence against the queen or her liberty (3 persons). It notes that “at least 60 other protestors have been charged for joining the pro-democracy protests between October 13 and October 24, according to TLHR and Amnesty International.” Many of these were charged with violating the emergency decree. Astoundingly, that number includes “two children, aged 16 and 17, and they will be prosecuted even though the severe state of emergency decree was lifted…”.

The courts get involved in these cases almost from the beginning. From a phase where those arrested were soon bailed by the courts, that has now ceased for those deemed to be “leaders.” It is as if an order has come from higher up, telling the judges not to release them. For example, there have been several instances where the political detainees have been granted bail and then immediately arrested on other charges. The most recent example is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was bailed by a Chiang Mai Court and then immediately re-arrested and transported to Bangkok by road to face another period in detention.

As was the pattern in lese majeste cases, we see the judiciary, police and corrections being used to punish, detain, and harass. We refer to this as “lese majeste torture.” The most awful example was the treatment meted out to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He’s now in jail and denied bail again. Also well aware of this tactic, having also been a lese majeste prisoner, is Akechai Hongkangwarn. He’s now denied bail on a spurious Article 110 charge.

Then there are the young “leaders.” Not only are they repeatedly denied bail, but the system ensures that they are treated to all the feudal rules of the prison system. While they have not yet had their heads shaved, they are given king-approved haircuts and made to wear prison uniforms and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been made to “dye her hair natural black,” if those words from the Bangkok Post make any sense at all.

But none of this makes much sense. It is just a dictatorial regime acting under orders.

Update: Khaosod reports that police are looking to charge some 16 persons: “Deputy Bangkok police chief Piya Tawichai told the media yesterday the police were gathering evidence to prosecute the embassy protesters…. Maj. Gen. Piya said a number of laws were violated, such as the public assembly act and libel.” Pro-democracy activists Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa are among those being “investigated.”

It is not reported whether the police are taking similar action against the yellow shirts who protested at the same embassy before the pro-democracy thousands.





Privy Council silence

7 10 2020

We doubt that anyone expected the Privy Council to reply to the reforms demanded of the monarchy, delivered to the metropolitan police chief on 20 September.

Khaosod reports that Arnon Nampa has said “the movement has not heard back from either the government or the Privy Council about their 10-point demands for political reforms.”

The report states: “Protest leaders said at the time that the petition, which called for reforms of the monarchy, had to be heard by the palace, but Arnon said that does not seem to be the case.” He said: “I don’t think it was relayed to the king. I don’t think the government dares to…”.

We would guess that’s unlikely. The traffic between the regime and the king in Germany is pretty regular, so we’d think has a copy as we don’t think the regime would dare not pass it on. In any case, he could download the demands like anyone else.

Arnon says that the protest leaders are still considering “how they will make sure that the demands reach … the King.”

Panupong Jadnok reckons “protesters need to make their voice louder to make the 10 demands heard, and that means more people on the streets.”

This makes the 14 October rally more important for the protest leaders as they must mobilize tens of thousands.





Long memories, retribution, and rewards

1 10 2020

Back in late 2015, the military junta promoted events to make then Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn look more normally king-like. These were the “Bike for Mom” in August 2015 and the “Bike for Dad” in December 2015. Not everything went to plan.

Amid rumors of a plot to assassinate someone, Major General Suchart Prommai was charged with lese majeste. He and several others were said to have fled Thailand. The others were: Pol Col Pairoj Rojanakhajorn, a former chief of the Crime Suppression Division’s Sub-Division 2; and his then deputy Pol Lt Col Thammawat Hiranyalekha, as well as Col Khachachart Boondee.

Suchart was a former 11th Infantry Regiment commander, and was stripped of military rank. At the time, a report stated that he and his co-accused had “solicited money which they claimed would be used to fund the production of T-shirts for the ‘Bike for Mom’ cycling event…”.

These charges/accusations also involved fortune-teller and then prince confidante Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, known as Mor Yong, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp, Suriyan’s aide, and Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapha. They were secretly arrested on or about 16 October 2015, charged with lese majeste. The three were taken to a then secret temporary prison inside the 11th Army Circle base.

A week after they were incarcerated, fears were expressed for their safety. A report stated that “special wardens” were appointed including “military officers and guards from the Corrections Department,” and their task was “to take care of three suspects…”.

Both Suriyan and Prakrom were soon dead. Screaming cover-up and following his earlier assurances that all men were safe and healthy, the Minister for Justice Gen Paiboon Khumchaya declared the cases closed in less than 36 hours.

The military junta quickly washed its hands of Suriyan’s death, just as it had of Prakrom’s, and it was business as usual.

Years later, Khaosod reports that two of the officers accused of lese majeste in 2015-16  were recently stripped of their royal decorations by a palace order:

An announcement published in the Royal Government Gazette said Lt. Col. Thammawat Hiranyalekha and Col. Pairot Rojanakachorn lost both of their police ranks and any decorations they received from … the King. The order cited the court’s arrest warrants on the two men for royal defamation and falsely claiming ties to the monarchy for personal gains.

Another police officer, Lt. Col. Thanabat Prasertwit, former deputy chief of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division, was also said to have conducted similar wrongdoings and subsequently stripped of his royal decorations in the same announcement.

Pairot, who served as a commander of the Crime Suppression Division, and his deputy Thammawat were charged in 2015 after police launched a crackdown on a massive criminal ring in which nearly 30 people were arrested for profiteering from their royal connections.

Pairot, Thammawat, and Thanabat were said to be close aides of Prakrom, whom police said was the mastermind behind the alleged crime ring. They are believed to have fled overseas.

This sorry tale sheds further light on how the king’s palace operates and how slitherers are rewarded. We note that Gen Paiboon Khumchaya was soon appointed to the Privy Council and that former Corrections Department director-general Naras Savestanan was recently made a deputy Lord Chamberlain in the palace.





A tale of two demolitions

22 09 2020

The Crown Property Bureau’s voracious appetite for land isn the so-called royal precinct has finally gobbled up the Si Sao Thewes residence, which had belonged to the Royal Thai Army.

The Bangkok Post reports that the residence is now demolished. This follows the death of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the former prime minister, president of the Privy Council, and incessant interfering old man who lived there, on the taxpayers’ account, from 1979 to 2019.

The army is reported to have “returned the historical residence and grounds to the Crown Property Bureau in 2019…”. This is a bit like how the national zoo was “returned” to the king in 2018. This grasping is so the king can build an enormous palace. Given that he resides in Germany, this is just an erection to show how superior he is. But perhaps he’ll move back when the new palace is completed. He’ll be well into his 70s then.

Indicating that the Army was “pushed” into giving up the land, the report states there had been a “plan to turn a building situated on one side of the grounds and used as the army club into a museum of valuable woods.” As army chief, “Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha … presided over the laying of a foundation stone for a new army club there.” Soon after, that plan was shelved and the lad was gulped up by the CPB.

(We should correct the Post story. It states that Prem left the premier’s position “[a]fter eight years … refusing to stay on for another term, saying ‘I have had enough’.” True, he did say this, but the real truth is that many in the political class wanted him gone. Ignoring the conflict to make Prem “revered” is a nonsense.)

Related, as they protested the monarchy’s land grabs, the demonstrators on the weekend declared Sanam Luang to be Sanam Ratsadorn and planted a people’s plaque.

Clipped from Khaosod

Within hours, the plaque was gone. It is reported: “The plaque appeared to be removed some time after 10pm, when Sanam Luang was closed off from the public, and before 5am, when the gates reopened.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Police had already stated that “they considered the plaque illegal, since it was placed there without permission from the authorities.”

On cue, Fine Arts Department director Sataporn Thiengtham jumped about spluttering that “the group behind the plaque … broke the laws that protect historic sites.” When asked if he wasn’t babbling double standards, he denied this.

As the report points out, stooge Sataporn’s “department took no action when several key monuments associated with the 1932 revolution that toppled the absolute monarchy disappeared in recent years.” This included the “commemorative plaque on the Royal Plaza…”.

All of this is about the king’s neo-absolutism and his need for wealth and land.





Reform demanded

20 09 2020

In wrapping up the student-led rally on Sunday morning, a large group moved from Sanam Luang to an area near the headquarters of the Privy Council to deliver their 10 demands for the reform of the monarchy.

Initially, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “had asked to submit the demand with a representative of the Privy Council but after negotiations with the police agreed to leave it with the metropolitan police chief.”

The rally leaders had read out the demands at the rally site.

In part, the letter accompanying the 10 demands stated:

The purpose of these demands is not to overthrow the monarchy…. Instead, it is with good intentions to honor and maintain the monarchy … under the democratic system, to sustain [the monarchy]… in the context of the modern world. The monarchy … must not have political powers, must be subjected to checks and balances, must be opened to criticism, and must not burden the people. Therefore, the monarchy … shall exist honorably under an internationally accepted democratic system.

Protest leaders have called for another rally on 14 October.





Monarchy and conflict II

3 08 2020

Prachatai has an important post that reproduces a 24 June op-ed from The Manager Online defending the king. It is remarkable that, on the anniversary of the 1932 revolution felt the need to “defend” the king. Prachatai notes that this piece “is one of many responses to negative sentiments towards monarchy as anti-government protests grow.” The threat of rightist violence has increased. As Prachatai notes:

The opinion piece came out amid proliferating protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, many elements of which are seen by many as involving the monarchy. The protests also took place in July, which is the month of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. Many have asked the protesters not to involve the monarchy, including former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the leader of the Kla Party [and former Democrat Party boss and PRDC supporter] Korn Chatikavanij, and the rector of Rangsit University [and ardent yellow shirt], Arthit Ourairat.

The piece is authored by Dr Arnond Sakworawich, an Assistant Professor in Business Analytics with qualifications in statistics and psychology at the Graduate School of Applied Statistics in the National Institute of Development Administration.

He has quite a list of op-eds in the media and seems a reasonably regular columnist for The Manager.

His previous claim to fame was as “director of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida)’s polling agency” when he “vowed to resign after [NIDA’s] top administration bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.” He was only director for three weeks.

More significantly, as Prachatai points out, in “2014, Arnond … was on stage of the PDRC mob which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government and gave rise to …[the] military regime.”

In the piece discussed at Prachatai, Arnond is driven to declare the absentee king a low-profile hard worker.  That hard work is defined as using “modern technologies” to “give orders to his royal servants and follow up on them.” A kind of couch potato hard work.

Arnond makes a claim for the king having an idiosyncratic work style: “With regard to the issue that people make accusations and gossip that King Rama X rarely works, I know that it is not true. In fact, His Majesty works very hard and uses many methods specific to His Majesty…”. He claims “he knows His Majesty’s working style from his observation of …[his] role in the Tham Luang cave rescue in June and July 2018.”

Our memory of the king’s involvement that event is of “phu yai” culture and political grandstanding, marked by royalist propaganda that even featured the king’s son and one of the first mobilizations for the king’s uniformed jit arsa “volunteers.” We also recall his interfering nature.

Arnond’s account is of the king having minions – “officials” – at the cave. Apparently he had them “record videos and take pictures to be sent to him, and write reports to him all the time via Line.” We can only wonder if these “officials” were getting in the way (after all, reporters were restricted in where they could gather). He also claims the king “sought equipment, contacted divers and experts from around the world by himself, and gave advice and assistance closely and followed up every step…”.

This is kind of a standard royalist narrative for Vajiralongkorn. We recall when they were claiming the king was secretly joining teams to clean Bangkok’s streets at night when the virus first appeared. Of course, he was carousing in Germany with his harem.

But that doesn’t stop royalists constructing an image; something that was especially powerful during Bhumibol’s reign. Aged readers will recall images of the now deceased king listening in on all kinds of radios on all kinds of issues and events nationwide, ready, like some kind of superhero, to swoop in and solve problems.

Channeling the Bhumibol image, the assistant professor says that, on the cave story, the king:

went without sleep following all aspects of the situation himself. He followed in his own way, that is, His Majesty did not want anyone to know what he was working on. The King likes to be silent, and likes it to be a secret. He does not make announcements, attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha statue in the most silent way.

Exactly how Arnond knows of the king’s alleged work at the cave or anywhere else is left opaque.

But some of what he says is just trite and trifling:

King Rama X uses modern communication devices, the internet and smartphones to give orders and follow up work (while many of us Thais are sending flowers of seven colours, saying hi for seven days, and sharing fake news and messages around without checking and using it for entertainment more than work.)”

Arnond repeatedly emphasizes that the king works secretly and silently. It is a claim that is, by its nature, impossible to refute or verify. It is also an attempt to “explain” why the king is so seldom seen doing anything much at all.

At work, using taxpayer monies

Arnond also defends the king’s absenteeism. He reckons privy councilors say that, “regardless of which country he stays in, the King works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

Asleep on his bike: The king “works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

And, even if he is lolling about in Germany, he’s got his men at work:

he clearly assigns different work for each Privy Councillor. “Some are responsible for the three border provinces in the South, some for public health, some for agriculture, some for security, and some for education. He assigns work in a military way….

If readers watch the royal news, they can see this as privy councilors are sent off to appear at events, making up for the king’s absence.

In contextualizing the propaganda piece, Prachatai goes on to note that the “monarchy is facing a growing challenge.” That’s a factual claim, but in Thailand, it is a bold statement.

It cites Royal World Thailand, a Facebook account that claims the king is “facing decreasing popularity with a growing number of negative views among the people, from normal critics to great malice displayed publicly which has never ever happened in Thai history.” It refers to “waves of haters and great malice” towards the king.

The reason for this is because “the King assigns various officers to represent him in some duties, rather than doing them mostly by himself.” Arnond is seeking to turn this fact on its head.

Will this decline of the monarchy lead to conflict? Probably.








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