More secret palace deals

9 12 2017

In a secret consideration, the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has approved “adjustments to the law that manages the safety and security of … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily.”

After the event, it is reported that the NLA “voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the 2014 Law of Royal Safety in line with the 2017 Constitution, as well as a new law concerning the Royal household.”

The amendment to the 2014 law reportedly “authorises the Principal Private Secretary to … the [k]ing to provide security services to the monarchy rather than a committee chaired by Chief of Aide de Camp General to … the [k]ing, as stipulated in the old law…”.

The previous committee “included military commanders and other relevant officials…”. Whether there will be a new committee is apparently up to the Principal Private Secretary. That person:

… will also be in charge of security and safety services for … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily whenever they travel abroad…. The old law commissioned the Aide de Camp Department [of the military] and the Foreign Ministry to take care of their safety. Under the new law, the Principal Private Secretary … will plan and command safety measures for … the [k]ing….

The 2014 Law on Royal Safety also “authorised the prime minister to be involved in the approval of safety plans for … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily.” That role is now gone.

It is reported that the “amendment will be promulgated in the Royal Gazette later,” and that the “content of the new amendment was not available to the public during the NLA debate.”

This is another move consolidating palace affairs in the king’s hands and a process of removing all vestiges of civilian control of the monarchy and palace that were put in place in 1932 and after.

Earlier, the NLA had approved the transfer of the Royal Household Bureau, Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, Royal Aide-De-Camp Department, Office of Royal Court Security Police and Royal Security Command, formerly under control of the Ministry of Defense, the Prime Minister’s Office and the police, to the king.

He’s continuing the process of making the monarchy independent of any notion of civilian and parliamentary control. The previous justification for the move was that issues related to the king and his family could not be served by the state bureaucracy.

Not that long ago, the arrangements for control of the fabulously wealthy Crown Property Bureau were passed to the king in another secret set of dealings.





Funeral, significant others and the world’s gaze

28 10 2017

The Bangkok Post has one of those “maintain the royal myths” stories headed “World grieves in sympathy with sorrowful Thais.” The implication being that the “world” grieved for the dead king. Reading the story, it becomes clear that it is about Thai officials and Thais overseas remembering him, with the latter getting lots of prodding from the former.

It is true that some of the world’s media had some interesting spreads on the funeral. One striking set of pictures appears at The Daily Mail, one of the world’s most read news websites. While the salacious and strange are its standard fare, it doesn’t ignore a good story. And it found one in the funeral.

In an earlier post, PPT mentioned that some of the king’s concubines, in full military kit, were front and center at the ceremony. The Daily Mail noticed as well and had this long headline:

Thailand’s colourful new King brought ‘his mistress AND his former air stewardess wife’ to his father’s lavish cremation ceremony with both marching in bearskin hats

This is followed by several photos. This is snipped from one of these:

The caption states: “King Maha [Vajiralongkorn]’s alleged lover Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi screams an order as she takes part, marching in a military uniform…”.

Other significant points:
  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s wife Suthida Tidjai and his alleged lover Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi seen at service
  • Both women wearing military dress, with Tidjai in uniform of general and Wongvajirapakdi in that of colonel
  • Tidjai was never confirmed as wife of King Maha but was given honorific titles that imply they were married
  • She was spotted with the King boarding a plane while the monarch wore a crop top and carried a small dog…

Of course, the German fake tattoo-crop top photos get another run.

On the king, the paper observed:

The 65-year-old father-of-seven is known for his eyebrow-raising antics, whether its wearing a skimpy yellow crop top while shopping with a mystery woman, racing around in sports cars or reports of dubious business dealings.

And as his wife Suthida Tidjai marched alongside him in the procession, followed by his alleged lover Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, it appeared his ascension to the throne would not be curbing his old habits.

The story goes on to assess the king and his troubled past, with a picture from the famous video of a near naked Princess SrirasmiShe’s the wife ditched in 2014 and held under house arrest and her family jailed since then.

Not all the details are quite right, but the article’s drift is clear when writing of the king:

… a father-of-seven with three failed marriages, a love of fast jets and a reputation for having an explosive temper….

The King was described by one royal biographer as ‘a man prone to violence, fast cars and dubious business deals’.

Even Fu Fu gets a mention in this example of the rest of the world’s jaundiced view of the king and his court.





Cremation controversy

28 10 2017

In an earlier post, PPT mentioned that the live broadcast of the funeral, which dragged on all day and night, concluded by not showing the cremation at about 10 pm. We wondered why the live stream did not advise viewers that it would not be shown. We added that the telecast repeatedly had a caption that the cremation would be at 10 p.m.

It seems there is now considerable controversy and mystery about the decision to black out the cremation.

Khaosod has a detailed report that begins by recounting the disappointment and shock that the cremation was blacked out. The thousands of mourners “believed the actual cremation would be broadcast live as it had been done in previous funerals for other royal family members. But that broadcast never came, and no announcement would be made until much later.”

The report adds that even officials at the cremation were nonplussed.

Then came the “competing explanations” about “why people were not allowed to witness the cremation…”.

The report states that the “official televised broadcast schedule did not note the 10pm cremation.” We know that is wrong, although we were watching a livestream on YouTube, but it was the official version. As we noted above, the time of the cremation came up in captions several times.

So we can be pretty sure that the broadcasters did not know they were not going to show the cremation until quite late.

The reports states:

Reporters were told the live broadcast would run all night, and that public performances marking the end of the mourning period would be suspended during the actual cremation. At 9pm, a Khaosod English reporter at the official press center was told the ceremony would definitely be televised….

At 10pm, people were still sitting quietly in front of the screen [at Ratchadamnoen] getting ready for … [the cremation]. Many meditated. But the screens kept looping a documentary about King Bhumibol’s works. At one point, it cut to show live orchestra performing in the Sanam Luang.

When the time arrived, audience members watching from home saw the coverage cut and replaced with a message: “Royal Cremation of His Majesty King Bhumibol. Everyone is advised to turn toward the Meru Mas and pay their highest respects.”

Those on Ratchadamnoen Avenue saw nothing except the continuing performances and assumed the ritual was delayed.

At about “11pm, a royal fire was lit at the replica crematorium on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to burn sandalwood flowers.” This seems to have been seen by many as the cremation. Khaosod says:

By that time, the crowd was confused and reluctant to leave. No official announcement was made. Some decided to leave, while others refused and chose to stay.

A Khaosod reporter states that:

… a palace media liaison [official] informed some reporters at about 10pm, when the cremation was scheduled to begin, that it would not be televised because the king’s successor, His Majesty the King Rama X, had deigned it a “private affair.”

The junta announced at “11:16 pm that … the broadcast and ceremony had ended and coverage would resume in the morning,” with no other explanation.

Ten minutes later, smoke emerged from the top of crematorium, and that was when more people were convinced, despite being so close to where it happened, they had already missed the time they had waited a lifetime to experience.

Online, some speculated that it might have been for sake of privacy of the king’s wife, Queen Sirikit, who has been ailing and out of the public eye for several years.

We can be pretty sure that we’ll never know the real reason for the public cremation becoming private. Some things may never be discussed in neo-feudal Thailand.





Updated: Rewarding Suthida

15 10 2017

A couple of days ago a Royal Gazette announcement was circulated quite widely. It was about the award of one of the highest-ranked royal decorations to the commander in King Vajiralongkorn’s guard.

The reason for the interest is that, as Khaosod reports it, that commander is none other than the king’s most senior girlfriend/consort/concubine (we are unsure of the appropriate term), General Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya.

The Knight Grand Cross of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao is reserved for the royal family members, Privy Councilors and members of the royal household). There are normally 30 male and 20 female members of this order.

The report notes that the announcement of this award “coincided with the first anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death, and the formal date of King Vajiralongkorn’s [retrospective] ascension to the throne.”

Suthida is often in the military uniform. The king promoted him to general when he took the throne. Her “qualification” is that she is the king’s favorite consort.

Today, General Suthida is the “de facto head of security for … the King. Although she formally holds the title of deputy commander of the royal guard corps, the top rank had been left vacant since December 2016.”

As the report states, “Suthida had been serving in the royal guards unit since 2013, when King Vajiralongkorn held the title of Crown Prince.”

Update: For those who can read Thai, BBC Thai has a very useful account of Suthida’s rise, beginning from 2012 and listing the many promotions and awards that have been showered on her by the prince-now-king. Each event is linked to the Royal Gazette.





Updated: 6 October and dictatorship

6 10 2017

A few days ago PPT post about the new website has been launched from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, to establish and maintain an archive about the massacre of 6 October 1976.

On this day in 1976, royalists and rightists were mobilized with and by the police and military in a massacre of students and others they had decided were threats to the monarchy. With claims of lese majeste and communists at work, these “protectors” of the monarchy and royal family engaged in an orgy of violence, killing, injuring and arresting thousands.

For a radio program on the events, listen to the BBC’s Witness story on the October 1976 events in Thailand, with  archival audio footage of reporting from the time and Ajarn Puey Ungpakorn, and a present-day interview with Ajarn Thongchai Winichakul. Read Puey on the terrible events by following the links here.

The king and the royal family fully supported the massacre at Thammasat University.

In remembering this massacre in the name of the monarchy, we are reminded that the current military dictatorship bears many of the characteristics of the dictatorship that resulted from the murderous events of 6 October in 1976.

Thanin Kraivixien was a dedicated fascist judge who served the king. His government was established to turn back the political clock and established a 12 year plan to do this. Today, three years of military dictatorship is meant to be followed by 20 years of rewinding under military, royalist and rightist tutelage.

Mercifully, Thanin’s extreme authoritarianism only lasted a year but military-backed rule continued until 1988, first with General Kriangsak Chomanan as premier. He was replaced by the more reliable royalist posterior polisher, General Prem Tinsulanonda. After 1988, Prem retained considerable political influence and has repeatedly supported military coups. His support for the current dictatorship has been stated several times.

Update: The military remains exceptionally prickly about this event of 41 years ago. And justifiably so in that military fingerprints are all over one of Thailand’s worst massacres of civilians. So it is that Khaosod reports that a film about the event was prevented from being screened on the anniversary. By the Time It Gets Dark or ดาวคะนอง is a 2016 film directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong. It has has some very good reviews.

But the military censors weren’t interested in art. According to Khaosod, theatre owner Thida Plitpholkarnpim announced two hours before it was to show that the thugs had said no. She added: “Don’t ask for the reason…. They misunderstood the story of the film. They couldn’t even remember the name of [tonight’s] activity.”





The 6 October website

30 09 2017

As reported at Prachatai, a new website has been launched from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, to establish and maintain an archive about the massacre of 6 October 1976.

That horrid massacre, mainly of students gathered at Thammasat University, was led by police, ultra-royalist rightists and the military. The massacre and the military coup that was a part of the plan was enthusiastically supported by the king, queen, then Prince Vajiralongkorn and other members of the royal family.

A photo by Frank Lombard available at the new website.

The students killed and the more than 3,000 arrested were maniacally alleged to be “communists and threats to Thailand’s monarchy.”

For a monarchy that is regularly said to be “revered” and “loved,” it is remarkable how many citizens have been killed and jailed to “protect” it.

The website is superbly designed and is an important resource.It is mostly in Thai, although some resources are in Thai and English (like the documentary “Respectfully Yours.”

Prachatai notes that “Thai society has tried to remove the 6 October massacre from the history timelines…”.

Another Lombard photo from the website.

In fact, it is not “Thai society” that has tried to erase the massacre but the ruling class, including royalists, police and military.

Because Thailand is currently ruled by a repressive military junta that came to power following a massacre, to “protect” the monarchy and to wind back political space, this online archive is an important innovation.





Taxpayers squeezed

13 07 2017

The royals and the military are in cahoots in ripping off the Thai taxpayer.

The military is the biggest spender at present. The most recent bit of kit added to the ever-expanding list of big-ticket item for the military is a flight of Korean jets. That follows submarines, tanks, helicopters and armored personal carriers. In total, the bill under the current military dictatorship is is tens of billions of dollars.

The royals aren’t spending that much, but it is the wealthiest royal family in the world, according to Forbes. It is also dragging in hundreds of millions of baht each year from state coffers. Think of the two jets the king uses, dozens of expensive cars, his many residences, his jail, pets, girlfriends, antiques, security, and far more. It is far more than a gravy train.

Then there’s the other members of the family, each sucking at the taxpayer’s teat. One of the king’s daughters has been bathed in money for all of her foibles and fancies. The latest report on her gives a brief view into the lifestyle of this selfish royal:

If there were a prize for most enthusiastic fashionista on this list, the Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of Thailand would undoubtedly get the title. As it is, she’s been crowned Most Stylish Princess In The World instead. A regular on the front row at couture, a designer in her own right (she showed in Paris a few seasons ago) and with a wardrobe that boasts pieces by Chanel, Balmain and Hermes, shrinking violet and modest style maven she is not. Unafraid to experiment with more out there, non-princessy looks – including exaggerated shoulders, leather and tuxedos – she’s definitely changing the face of modern royal fashion.

Taxpayers screwed again.