Old aristocrats bemoan the Western press

2 03 2013

For several decades the old princes and aristocrats that circled the palace and promoted the monarchy and present king as the fount of all that was good for Thailand had it pretty much their own way. Supported by massive U.S. funding during the Cold War, the Western media, some of that also funded by the same source, engaged in reporting on Thailand that mirrored the palace’s blarney.

In recent years, however, the old royalist elite has become disgruntled as some media reports have begun to question the old received “wisdom” that amounted to posterior polishing and often was simply propaganda. Part of this questioning has to do with more information being available thanks to a handful of critical academics and journalists. Much of it has to do with Paul Handley’s effort in getting out a book that blew away some of the smoke and and reset some of the mirrors.

Some of the old royalists have become so angry that they have entertained some of the crankier ideas about international conspiracies and even turned on some former friends. Others have sought to wheel out Western flunkies who can still peddle the old palace nonsense with a straight face.

Sumet Jumsai

Sumet

And so it is that we come to a letter to The Nation by one of the royalist elite protecting his and their patch. The letter is by Sumet Jumsai, who is listed as being at  Cambridge University where he has recently provided a seminar, and who usually has “na Ayudhya” attached to his moniker. In his letter he gets hot and frothy about an article in French by Bruno Philip in Le Monde and which PPT posted in English.

Sumet has been a staunch royalist but is one of those who some might see as a “liberal royalist,” once acknowledging that republicans exist in Thailand and adding that he doesn’t mind “so long as we are not taken to the guillotine…”. He added, tellingly, that the “spirit of the age, of the new generation who spurn the 19th century hangover…” and is “tempted to agree, seeing that our monarchist role model England has moved on, while we are marking time.” On another occasion he joined eight “people with royal lineage” to sign a letter sent to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asking the government to change the lese majeste law because it was doing damage to the monarchy.

In his latest bout of letter writing he wants to take on Le Monde: “The biased view of the article, as in much of Western reportage on Thailand, needs correction.” Essentially, Sumet tells the Abhisit Vejjajiva version of events of 2010, and bemoaning the fact that red shirts weren’t put in jail. Of course, they were, and by the eager Abhisit regime, but that fact gets in the way. He avers that the “red-shirt riots in 2010” were worse than the 2006 military coup.  And he rants about all the people killed who were not red shirts, again ignoring the facts of the body count in 2010.

Finally Sumet gets prickly about the article’s attention to the monarchy and king:

The article also tries to involve the King, putting him in the same camp as the military (at present controlled by the ruling government) and the Bangkok elite. In this regard it should be noted that the King has publicly declared that he is not above criticism and that he is against the lese majeste law, which he regards as detrimental to the institution. He even proposed that those arrested or jailed because of this law should be released. The question now must be why the present red-shirt government does nothing about it.

On the latter question, it is pretty clear why the present government doesn’t do anything substantial for those currently charged or in prison. However, Sumet ignores the fact that this government is not throwing this charge at every one of its political opponents and locking them up. That is not doing nothing, even if it isn’t enough.

Regarding the claim about the king and lese majeste, the last time Sumet and his blue-blooded lot made this claim, PPT wrote about this version of the king’s speech, and we challenged readers to make sense of it. Yes, the king talks about being wrong, needing to be criticicized and how he is troubled when people (foreigners?) go to jail for insulting him because he gets representations on it and Thailand is ridiculed. But the speech is essentially a criticism of Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party following the 2005 election landslide.





Updated: A blue blood intervention on lese majeste

12 01 2012

The battle over lese majeste has seen ultra-royalists, the military leadership and pretty much every politician in leadership positions in all parties opposing change on lese majeste. Indeed, it was only a few days ago that former 2006 coup leader and junta boss General Sonthi Boonyaratglin who now heads up the insignificant Matuphum Party got leaders and representatives of nine political parties  to agree that the lese majeste law could not possibly be amended.

What will they do now that a bunch of blue bloods have come out to urge that the Yingluck Shinawatra government amend the lese majeste law?

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that 8 “people with royal lineage” have signed a letter which they sent to the premier “asking the government to change the law. They are MR Sai Svasti Svasti, MR Saisingh Siributr, MR Narisa Chakrabongse, Vara-Poj Snidvongs na Ayudhya [former ambassador to Italy], Gen MR Krit Kritakara, MR Powari Suchiva (Rajani), MR Opas Kanchawichai and Sumet Jumsai na Ayudhya.” PPT added what we hope are correct links.

The letter complained that the number of lese majeste cases had increased substantially in recent years, although for some unknown reason, there data points are 2002 and 2009. In fact, the huge spike in lese majeste cases came after the 2006 coup and under the royalist, Democrat Party-led coalition led by Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The scribes complain that these cases have “been reported around the world and resulted in increasingly intense attacks on the institution of the monarchy…”.

To support their claim for amendment, the group “cited … King Bhumibol’s address on Dec 4, 2005 in which he said putting people who criticised the monarchy in jail only caused trouble to him.” They lament that no government has “improved” the law.They do not specify how it might be “improved.”

PPT can only find this version of the speech at present, and we challenge readers to make sense of it. Yes, the king talks about being wrong, needing to be criticicized and how he is troubled when people (foreigners?) go to jail for insulting him because he gets representations on it and Thailand is ridiculed. But the speech is essentially a criticism of Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party following the 2005 election landslide.

Sumet says: “Most important of all, our group wants to draw attention to the fact that His Majesty himself has criticised the law…”. It is added that it is “the government’s duty to protect the institution and, in this instance, heed the King’s concerns.”

PPT doesn’t know much about any of these minor royals, although we did once comment on Sumet’s somewhat liberal attitude on republicanism and updating the monarchy. We have no idea if they have links to the palace and whether there views are representative of a broader royal view. Even so, that a coterie of the high and mighty see lese majeste as a negative for the monarchy is likely a significant intervention.

Update: Soon after the royals called for reform, The Nation reported yet another yellow-shirt group has been formed to “protect the monarchy.” Unsurprisingly, it comes from the died-in-the-wool royalist National Institute of Development Administration. There, Banjerd Singkaneti, dean of the Law School, “more than 20 academics from five universities have formed a group called ‘Sayam Prachapiwat’ (Siamese People’s Great Development).” The group is to be officially launched today at NIDA.

Kind of like the People’s Alliance for Democracy, “Banjerd said the group’s academic were concerned about the ongoing ‘monopoly of Thai politics’ by a group of capitalists and politicians, as well as ‘the crisis of freedom and ethics’.”

Fancy that, politics being dominated by politicians. That aside, Banjerd seems to say absolutely nothing about the repeated election victories and even landslides of recent years. Like PAD, Banjerd probably dismisses electoral politics as a sham dominated by the ignorant.

This is confirmed when Banjerd says:

Our views are based on the principle that the Thai society’s values must not be copied from the West. Our society respects the monarchy and this value is an important principle in Thai society….

That is how to deny electoral democracy. Of course, Banjerd’s group is also established to oppose Nitirat.





More on anthems, the monarchy and republicans

13 07 2009

PPT reported on a letter to the editor of the Bangkok Post by Shocked Thai Citizen complaining about the US embassy’s choice of anthem. STC has sent another letter to the Post (11 July 2009) and there is another letter from well-known royalist Sumet Jumsai.

Apart from taking another shot at the 1932 Revolution, STC adds little to the earlier letter but does indicate that STC doesn’t really know which anthem should have been played. Does anyone? Is there a rule or is this just another case of expanding the royal space in Thailand?

Sumet’s letter is interesting for the fact that he acknowledges that republicans exist in Thailand and adding that he doesn’t mind “so long as we are not taken to the guillotine…”. He also adds, tellingly, that the “spirit of the age, of the new generation who spurn the 19th century hangover…” and is “tempted to agree, seeing that our monarchist rolemodel England has moved on, while we are marking time.”

Interesting thoughts from a staunch royalist.