Updated: Royalism undermines popular sovereignty

14 08 2017

Everyone knows that the prince, now king, began his purges of the palace from late 2014, when he “divorced” Srirasmi. Dozens of her family and associates were jailed. Then there were the clearances that saw “unreliables” ditched, deaths in custody, lese majeste jailings and the use of a personal jail. Some fearful palace associates, now out of favor, fled the country.

This was followed by an aggregation of control to the palace. The constitution was secretly changed to accord with the king’s desires and then secret meetings of the puppet assembly gave him control over formerly state bureaucratic departments and the vast wealth of the Crown Property Bureau to the king.

Has he finished? Probably not. Fear and favor mean that an erratic king will lose interest in some people and some things and will need to be rid of them. Then he’ll desire control over other people and things.

But one of the other things that is noticeable is the “normalization” of the reign, as if nothing has changed or that the changes made are in line with the normal activities of the king and palace. Yet even this “normalization” has been a process of promoting a heightened royalism.

The media has been used recently to promote royalism. The excuse has been the queen’s 85th birthday, with a series of “stories” about “people nationwide” celebrating her birthday. Many of the photos showed military men and bureaucrats doing the celebrating.

The Dictator was especially prominent, leading the junta in an alms-giving exercise for 851 monks at the Royal Plaza, claiming it was also a tribute to the dead monarch.

More specific propaganda pieces have dwelt on “merit” and filial piety. For example, the Bangkok Post has run pictures of the king, his mother and Princess Sirindhorn making merit together.

Other royal stories include a donation to of 100 million baht to Siriraj Hospital, with the king thanking the hospital for taking care of his father. The money is said to have “come from revenue from selling his diaries featuring his drawings…”.

While we might doubt that so much money can be made from the sale of a collection of childish drawings, the junta’s support for the king has been strong and maybe it bought many diaries and distributed them.

But back to deepening royalism. The Nation reports on a “revival” of Kukrit Pramoj’s restorationist story “Four Reigns.” Kukrit was an incessant promoter of royalism, ideologue for the dictatorial General Sarit Thanarat, booster for King Bhumibol and diplomat for royalism translated for foreigners.

The Four Reigns is now Six Reigns. According to The Nation, the “restaging of Thailand’s most commercially successful musical play is more pro-absolute monarchy than ever.”

The play opens with the scene in which the spirit of Mae Phloi starts to recount her life story and confirm her unwavering love for “kings”, and the background is the familiar image of people gathering outside the wall of the Grand Palace paying respect to the late King Bhumibol.

And with the last scene showing Thai people paying respect to King Vajiralongkorn, the play now covers six, not four, reigns.

Clearly, the play … tries, more clearly than the original novel, to prove … that Thailand was much better before 1932 than after. This outdated attitude doesn’t sit too well in 2017 Thailand, as we try to build our political system from “military junta under a constitutional monarchy” to “unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy”, a kind of democracy that is already difficult to explain to our friends from many countries.

This royalism can only deepen as the cremation of the dead king approaches and as Vajiralongkorn and the junta further embed his reign and undermine notions of popular sovereignty.

Update: The new king is the old king propaganda continues, with two stories at The Nation of the king’s donations to 300 flood victims and 39 students in the south. We should add that there is no evidence provided of where the funds come from. Like royal projects, it may be that “donations” are all taxpayer funded.





Updated: Monarchy vs. 1932

4 07 2017

For the royalist junta, 1932 is very scary. Perhaps because they are royalist or because the king is poking them. Perhaps both.

Khaosod reports twice on Akechai Hongkangwarn. The last we heard of him was on 24 June, when he’d been apprehended by the royalist patrol dogs as he tried to install a mock-up of the missing historical plaque at the so-called Royal Plaza. Then, police apparently did not charge him.

Khaosod’s earliest report states that officials from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Bang Kapi District Office “visited a [Akechai’s]… Lat Phrao district office to discourage him from petitioning the prime minister to reinstate June 24 as Thai National Day.”

June 24 is the day of the 1932 revolution. The report states that “June 24 was National Day from 1940 to 1960 before then-dictator Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat pushed a cabinet resolution changing it to Dec. 5, the birthday of King Rama IX.”

The BMA officials visited Akechai’s workplace “and asked that he submit a petition intended for Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to them instead.” He refused, saying he intended “to submit a petition with 200 online signatures Tuesday at Government House…. He said it would be registered, so he could follow up on it.”

Akechai said “the man who spoke to him was polite, but the activist didn’t let the five – including a man with a short military-style haircut – inside his office, fearing they would arrest him.” He added: “I locked the door…”. The group then went off and found Akechai’s mother as a means to pressure him.

Akechai made a prediction: “Since they came to visit me today, I think they will apprehend me tomorrow…”.

The second report is on that prediction being proven correct. Thug-soldiers took him away earlier today, taking him “a local district office in a bid to prevent him from submitting a petition letter to the prime minister urging he reinstate June 24 as the country’s national day…”.

A district official stated that he was “just invited since this morning. I don’t know further details…”. The official was petrified:

“Please don’t name me or I will be damned. What they did was to borrow our equipments and all those were soldiers,” he said, adding however that a district official accompanied the soldiers. “The NCPO has the power and I must follow their orders.”

The official added that some 30 soldiers “use the district office as their workplace” but do “not report to the district chief.” This seems to be the situation at every district office as part of the junta’s militarization of the country by the fascist, authoritarian, royalist and erratic regime.

Update: Khaosod reports that Akechai was permitted to go home after “being taken away by four policemen and pressured by a soldier for nine hours.” He said he was “arrested by four police officers at about 5am on Tuesday and dragged away as he was leaving his residence in Lad Phrao for the Government House.” After that, Army Captain Cholapat Pheungphai, “a junta officer in charge of anti-junta activities in the district” who “pleaded to me [Akechai] to concede otherwise he would have had nothing to show his commander.”

In the end, the captain “succeeded in convincing him not to proceed to the Government House to submit a petition letter asking for the reinstatement of June 24 as national day.” Akechai “agreed” to submit the letter at the District Office.

Any guesses why The Dictator is so fearful of a letter about 1932? Akechai says he “tried to explain [to the soldier] that [the junta] should not be foolish…”. May as well talk to a large rock; it would be as bright and as responsive as The Dictator.





The end of 1932

14 04 2017

In a highly symbolic act of vandalism, Prachatai reports that the plaque marking the 1932 revolution has been removed, stolen  and replaced with a royalist plaque. The report is confirmed at Khaosod.

According to the report, the replacement graffiti states:

May Siam prosper forever [with] happy fresh-faced citizens [who are] the force of the nation. The respect and loyalty to the Buddhist Triple Gems, to one’s family clan, and being honest towards one’s King are tools for making the state prosper.

This is an obviously royalist paean and a junta-friendly message.

The original plaque, a source of angst for royalists who viewed it as a threatening reminder of a different Thailand, looked like this:

Memorial of the Revolution on the Royal Plaza: “…ณ ที่นี้ 24 มิถุนายน 2475 เวลาย่ำรุ่ง คณะราษฎร ได้ก่อกำเนิดรัฐธรรมนูญ เพื่อความเจริญของชาติ”; “…here, in the dawn of 24 June 1932, the Khana Ratsadon has brought forth a constitution for the glory of the nation” (From Wikipedia)

It is not clear who removed the original plaque. The report of its removal implies that the vandals may have been either ultra-royalists or officials acting on orders. Khaosod’s informants suggest the former.

We suspect that the vandals are acting on orders or are seeking to be seen as loyalists. If these vandals acted on orders, then those commands must have come from on high. A new reign and a new king have no links to 1932, except those that come from within a conservative palace. In fact, we are sure that the new king is likely to view 1932 as an impediment to the further re-feudalization of monarchism.

Make no mistake, this is an act of political vandalism by a faction that feels it is putting right the “natural” order of things in Thailand, sweeping aside the remnants of 1932.

The junta has demonstrated that it is a part of this reactionary royalism based in a desire to expunge 1932.

The events of the 1932 revolution have influenced Thailand’s politics for 85 years. The overthrow of absolute monarchy on 24 June 1932 set in place a conflict between conservative royalists and anti-royalists that see-sawed until about 1957, when General Sarit Thanarat set about a process of re-monarchizing Thailand.

Since then, the royalists have regained much of the political ground, rolling back much of the change initiated by those who overthrew the absolute monarchy. The reign that began in 1946, in the midst of that political struggle by princes and arch-royalists who mostly came together in the Democrat Party, led to a thoroughgoing monarchization of not just politics but of society.

Images and reminders of 1932 have been erased. So much so, that the Proclamation of the revolutionists is now seen by ultra-royalists as lese majeste:

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon
[People’s Party]
24 June 1932





Constitution to be revealed

4 04 2017

All media have dutifully reported that the king, who we guess is back from Germany or will be soon, will “formally enact the new constitution on Thursday, which also marks the anniversary of his dynasty’s reign over Thailand.”

That seems entirely appropriate in the sense that the regime came to power following a military coup that murdered the previous king.

But the symbolism doesn’t end there. It links the junta’s and king’s constitution to the monarchy. His father only seemed to take an interest in constitutions early on, when the hated Generals Phibun and Phao forced one on him and he had threatened to abdicate. After General Sarit ran his royalist coup, the king knew he wasn’t bound much by them. In 1991, he faxed the draft back and forth and said it was “good enough.”

The fact that citizens have “yet to see it in its entirety” is said to make the charter “unique.” It is that since the draft was “approved” in August 2016, in a “referendum” that was “organized by the military regime,” but after that, the king “instructed the drafters in January to alter some provisions in the charter, changes were approved by the junta’s rubber stamp parliament, but the document itself was never released to the public.”

More than that, the “referendum” itself was a sham event: “critics say many who voted for the draft did so because the junta never made clear what would have happened had they rejected it, and opponents of the charter were routinely punished for campaigning against it.” Punishment included fines and jail, along with numerous threats and a heavy military presence.

Another feature that marks out this charter is that it allows the military to control politics for years to come.

For all of that, “[a]ccording to a palace statement … [the k]ing … will preside over the ceremony at 3pm in the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall.” Presumably, at some time after that, the citizens who are supposed to accept the bogus constitution will finally learn what is in it and, more interestingly, how the king has benefited from the changes he demanded.

To link the monarchy and the military to Buddhism, “[a]ll temples throughout Thailand are instructed to toll their bells at that hour to celebrate the occasion.”

We are sure “celebrate” is the wrong term. In fact, a dirge would be more appropriate as electoral democracy is to be buried by the junta.





New military “hero” organizing “reconciliation”

6 03 2017

It has been recognized that Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong is flying towards the top. When a military regime is seeking to embed authoritarianism, it often happens that the lure of running things, having lots of power and the chance to acquire great wealth causes aspiring green shirts to take a shot of becoming the next military political “hero.”

Most regimes see upstarts pushing the bigger bosses. For example, Field Marshal Phibun had to watch out for not only royalists but also for General Sarit Thanarat and Pol Gen Phao Sriyanon. General Prem Tinsulanonda had the palace on side, but had to see off “Young Turks” uppity generals like Arthit Kamlang-ek.

Now it is General Apirat’s chance.

apirat

The Bangkok Post has been reporting on Lt Gen Apirat rather too consistently than his bosses might like. The latest has him arranging for the “governors of 21 provinces in the Central Plain [to]… team up with officers from the 1st Army to gather views of people in their provinces on national reconciliation as the government expands its push for forging unity upcountry.”

“People” has an odd, junta-friendly, definition, generally meaning “groups” like bureaucrats, academics and business people. The lower rungs of society only rarely get defined as “people” worthy of having “views.”

To kick off the (real) people-free “reconciliation” PR exercise, “governors were invited to have a talk with 1st Army commander Apirat Kongsompong on Friday…”. Somewhat garbled, the report goes on to write of “their joint move” in a “meeting of the chiefs of all units under the 1st Army and representatives from the Internal Security Operations Command.”

It all sounds rather like something arranged in the 1970s about counterinsurgency. Back then, the governors were the key link between the military and civilian bureaucrats. The arrangement meant the military dominated civilian administration.

Lt Gen Apirat has a similar view today, saying “the governors will be the ‘key men’ in this initial stage to gather useful opinions from people from all walks of life.” As it was several decades ago, it is the “military chiefs [who] will serve as supporters and coordinators to invite target groups to air their views at the roundtable meetings…”. And they will have to listen and learn to junta propaganda.

Which groups? They will be “local politicians, scholars, state officials and business persons in the provinces and community leaders and non-governmental organisations.” The real people still can’t be trusted.

The report states that they “will be encouraged to talk on 10 topics, set by the panel appointed to work on a process to restore national unity, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon…”. That is, the selected “trainees” will “discuss” only junta-approved stuff.

In case readers wondered, “national unity” was destroyed by Thaksin Shinawatra being a “divisive” figure. The military is not “divisive” despite its penchant for gunning down protesters.

Lt Gen Apirat declared that he wanted “all participants to adopt impartial attitudes…”. We doubt he understands the meaning of “impartial.”

He also “revealed” that there was an extra topic: “referring to a question raised by [The Dictator] … who wants to know how all parties view the ongoing problems facing the country and how they can help solve them bringing back a peaceful atmosphere.”

Um. Ah. Huh? The other issues in a reconciliation meeting don’t to this? Yes, we get it, Apirat is posterior polishing. When making a run for the top, ensure that current incumbents don’t feel they are in trouble or being destabilized. Butter them up and appear “loyal.”

All this faux “opinion gathering” at the provincial level has “to be completed within this month.” We guess that the military already has the required “opinions” on its lists.

These “opinions” will be processed by – you guessed it – the military: “Once the governors finish their work, the opinions will be sent to a sub-panel led by permanent secretary for defence, [General] Chaicharn Changmongkol.”

This might be good PR for the junta. It is also keeping Apirat in the limelight, where he prefers to be.





The interventionist king

15 02 2017

Some time ago, PPT posted on the trove of documents released online by the CIA that can be searched and downloaded online.

In that post we also mentioned one document about General Sarit Thanarat’s 1957 military coup and the king’s alleged involvement, at least as far as the Americans were concerned.

A reader has now sent us another document, from the same source, saying more about this. Here’s the document in full, as a PDF. And we have a couple of clips below. The first from earlier in the document:

king-and-coupAnd then this, reflecting on the palace’s involvement:

king-and-coup1





Buddhism, the palace and propaganda

13 02 2017

As we have stated previously, PPT doesn’t usually follow the shenanigans within the sangha, except where these impact politics and the palace.

Most assuredly, the long-running fight to have an appropriately conservative monk, acceptable to anti-democrats and royalists, appointed as supreme patriarch has fulfilled the impact on politics and palace criteria. For earlier posts on this very public political battle, see here and here.

In that battle, the junta’s minions went after the most senior monks in line for the top job. They accused them of, among other things, fraud, luxury living and other “crimes,” but all part of a view that the most senior contenders were politically unacceptable to the military regime and its supporters.

Because Buddhism is a political field strewn with booby traps, the junta decided that the way out of what had become an unseemly political battle with senior monks, including the sangha’s governing body, was to change the law on who selected the supreme patriarch.

The puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has hurriedly pushed through an amendment to the 1962 Sangha Act, as amended in 1992, to restore what was falsely described as “an old tradition” which gave the king the right to name the supreme patriarch. He soon did choose, and it was not one of the controversial senior monks the junta had nixed.

While we only have The Dictator’s word for it, he claimed the king then asked everyone involved in the investiture of the supreme patriarch to ensure there were no problems. The investiture went ahead yesterday.

Immediately, a propaganda offensive has been launched to justify the king’s selection, to shore up the supreme patriarch’s position and that of the junta as well. As with the king himself, this involves a sanitized and approved version of “the truth.”

This new version of “truth” can be read here. A different story is available, recounting some of the politics of the unacceptable truth.

The last time that there was a major political and palace intervention in the position of the supreme patriarch was under the earlier dictator, General Sarit Thanarat, in the early 1960s.