WikiLeaks, Clinton and Yingluck

24 03 2016

WikiLeaks now has a Hillary Clinton Email Archive. Its pages states:

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016.

A simple search for “Thailand” produces 73 results, several of which seem barely relevant, with Thailand simply mentioned. PPT hasn’t been through all of these cables as yet.

One that has gained some social media attention, not least via a Facebook post by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, is about Yingluck Shinawatra, the 2011 floods and a visit by Clinton. It is originally from Karen Brooks and forwarded by Kurt Campbell, and dated 16 November 2011. Some interesting bits of this cable are clipped and included below.

Yingluck Clinton

On the politics of the floods:

To keep momentum, Yingluck will need to make changes in her team. Given the poor performance of the past two months, a cabinet reshuffle is a must do. Top of the list is Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut, who hails from the Chart Thai Pattana party – a coalition partner but at best a fair-weather friend. Not only has Theera been inept in his handling of the crisis since Yingluck took office (water management being part of his portfolio), but he also served as Agriculture Minister in the previous Abhisit-led government. He is thus seen (correctly) as guilty of either malice or incompetence (or both) for his failure to appropriately manage water levels at the country’s two biggest dams in the months preceding the inauguration of the Yingluck government – which greatly exacerbated the current crisis.

On Yingluck and her work:

She is tired…. Very tired. I saw her last night at her house at 11pm and she told me that she is up around the clock with very little support and a cabinet team that has proven weak (her words were less diplomatic) and unable to rise to the occasion. She said she always expected the job would be hard, but that learning everything about government, while managing. the complexities of the relationship with the palace and the military, while being slammed with a major national crisis – AND doing it all with a weak team – has taken its toll. Even so, she is determined and has fire in the belly. She emphasized that she had won an absolute majority for only the second time in thai history, and that she would not let the millions of thais who supported her down. If it means not resting until her term is over, so be it. She can handle it, she said, because she believes in what she is doing. She will make some changes in her cabinet in the coming weeks once the water has been drained, and then look forward to getting the A Team back in May of next year, when the ban expires on the 111 Thai Rak Thai politicians removed from politics by the courts in 2007 after the coup.

Yingluck on reconciliation:

She made a point of saying that she is ENORMOUSLY grateful that Sec Clinton is coming today. “It’s been six long years of turmoil in this country,” she said. “I’m determined to use my mandate to bring people together and foster reconciliation, like I said in the campaign. I’m working hard to win over the military and help them see they have a real place here without interfering in politics. I’m working hard to do the same with the palace. But let’s face it: democracy here is still fragile. We need the US engaged.”

On General Prayuth Chan-ocha and not bringing down the government (just then):

Yingluck tell me she has gone out of her way to work cooperatively with Prayuth, and Prayuth seems to have come to appreciate her sincerity and hard work.

On the relationship with the palace:

The Palace, similarly, has not shown any inclination to use the crisis to bring down the government. The King has given three audiences (made public) to PM Yingluck since she took office. (In the opaque world of the Thai monarchy, this is one key tea leaf to read.) Moreover, other members of the royal family have given the PM private audiences in recent weeks (not publicly known) – including the Crown Prince and two of the princesses. Perhaps most telling, however, is the recent appointment by the government of two palace favorites, Dr. Sumet [Tantivejkul] and Dr. Veerapong [Virabongsa Ramangkura], to the new reconstruction and water management committees. Sumet, who is a long time advisor to His Majesty and runs one of his foundations, would never have accepted the appointment if the King had not explicitly blessed the move. Two others on the water committee are similarly associated with His Majesty.

To be honest, PPT had not previously seen Virabongsa mentioned as a “palace favorite.”

On Thaksin Shinawatra and amnesty or pardon:

Yingluck told me big brother remains in a dialogue with the palace described as “constructive” and expressed hope that this would yield an amicable end to the five+ year drama of his exile – either through a royal pardon or through a parliament sponsored amnesty law, with support from the palace. This is, at best, a delicate dance, and any mishandling or miscalculation on Thaksin’s part could yet trigger another cycle of political drama here.





Royalist fundamentalism

27 02 2012

Sumet Tantivejkul spent a good part of his working life at the National Economic and Social Development Board, the body responsible for setting the direction of the Thai economy since the early 1960s. Following that, he became a sidekick for the king, as  secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation.

In recent years, Sumet has been a staunch defender of his boss, sometimes speaking of the king as if he considered him saintly or god-like. He has been highly defensive of the king and his great wealth, lambasting “foreigners” for writing of the Crown Property Bureau and claiming that Thais should ignore this news as it just messed up their brains. In other words, critical knowledge of the monarchy wasn’t necessary, and Thais just had to believe the king and love him. More recently, Sumet has been outspoken against the reform of the lese majeste law. In fact, his opposition is a pretty good indication of palace thinking on the law: they want it.

Sumet was one of the first to speak publicly of a great fear amongst royalists that red shirts were about bringing down the monarchy. In fact that speech in 2009, is essentially recycled in a report at the Bangkok Post.

In this most recent report, he is reported as saying that “Thai people have to study His Majesty the King’s teachings and ideas and not just express their love for him…”.  He goes on:

We see the King but we don’t often look at him. We want to see him because he brings us happiness but we have never asked ourselves about all the things he has done.

This is another royalist claim that the people don’t appreciate the “gift” they have and do not heed him as they should heed a real saint. Nor do they understand his work and thinking well enough. It is royalist fundamentalism.

Like a fundamentalist religious believer, Sumet admonishes the silly children: “We would not be suffering today if we followed his ideas, trust me…”.

Sumet claimed the king “fully understood the social landscape of the country,” and like a tent preacher, claimed “[p]eople will find peace and be free from suffering if they follow the King’s virtues. Nothing is too difficult to do if our intention is strong…”. Hallelujah.

Like other yellow-hued speakers of recent days, Sumet, once a planner of Thailand’s rapid industrialization, now criticizes the “liberal system” for its rampant consumptionism. He thinks “excessive consumption” is a cause of global crises. Like the king, he talks of “greed.” Remember that this is a man who is taken about in light yellow luxury cars and serves a monarchy that has $37 billion and more in its coffers and takes hundreds of millions a year from the public purse. He’s talking about “greed.”

The king has all answers, because like a Buddha incarnate, he “teaches dharma, which is to be moderate. Each individual, organisation and country has to know one’s own ability or strength and find the middle path for oneself.” In other words, sufficiency economy under the sufficiency monarchy that has used its fabulous wealth “moderately.”

Sumet explains that: “No matter how wealthy we are, we cannot carry on if we don’t have ethics. It’s not important whether you’re rich or not but what is important is to ensure that every baht spent will bring about benefits and happiness…”. See, the sufficiency monarchy exists! And, of course, the sufficiency monarchy cannot be corrupt like all the plebeians.

The monarchy will save all. Believing in the king is presented as the Thai version of salvation. The saving of Thailand is in truly understanding the monarchy. This is royalist fundamentalism.





Another couple of old royalists on the lese majeste warpath

23 12 2011

It would be good if all the old warhorse royalists weren’t so lamentably predictable.

Meechai

At the Bangkok Post, Meechai Ruchupan, former President of the Senate, veteran government legal adviser, former President of the Council of the State, and ardent royalist has “lashed out at the United States over its remarks on Thai lese majeste cases.” Sounds like he is following his fellow royalist Vasit Dejkunjorn, albeit without the blatant racism.

In a standard ploy, Meechai “responds” to a “question” that is “posted on his personal website www.meechaithailand.com asking for his opinions on calls to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.” Suitably primed, Meechai states, quite incorrectly, that: “In the US, no one can defame or hold malice against the president … civilised people should respect cultures of the other nations, too…”. For correctives to Meechai’s deliberately false claim on the U.S., try this website for one example of falsehoods, mistruths, and lies and defamation to boot. Alternatively, try this site making completely crazy claims about Obama. And just for kicks, try this loopy and libelous site. Meechai is no fool, so we believe he is a liar.

For some reason he then suggests a relationship between security screening of air passengers’ luggage and lese majeste. Afraid the old guy has lost us on this one….

Sumet

In the same story, the other old royalist kitted out for battle is none other than Sumet Tantivejkul, secretary-general of the king’s Chaipattana Foundation, and one with a long history of fighting the anti-Thaksin Shinwatra battle (see hereheretherethis and  that). Sumet says “he wondered why calls had arisen for amendments to Section 112.” Maybe because royalist courts keep handing out ludicrous sentences to victims often forced to plead guilty. But Sumet is no idiot either, although we wonder when he says stupid things like: “the law would not cause trouble to anyone who did not violate it.”

As we mentioned yesterday, any notion that there is a liberal royalism is ditched and the fight soon becomes vicious whenever the royalists feel challenged. Now every royalist faction is mobilized behind lese majeste as if amending a dangerous and draconian law was an attach on the whole edifice of the monarchy. Humpty Dumpty is showing cracks and the horsemen are trying to repair them by declaring loyalty as the glue that keeps the monarchy and the country together and destroying those they see as fostering dissent and difference. They are sad, old political conservatives bent on maintaining a declining system.





Floods, non-agreements and politics

19 11 2011

Shawn Crispin at Asia Time Online can usually be counted on for a conspiratorial take on politics. PPT has to admit that Thailand’s politics does lend itself to conspiracy theories and recent events seem especially opaque, probably because so many actors are in play that many of them don’t know what their allies (let alone enemies) are doing and why.

Crispin’s account on this occasion warrant full reading. What caught our collective eye were two elements of the story.

The first relates to Crispin’s account of an alleged deal or “pre-election accommodation” that he revealed in an earlier story and that was supposedly “reached in Brunei between Thaksin [Shinawatra] interlocutors, the military and a section of the royal palace that underpinned this year’s smooth democratic transition and raised hopeful new prospects for national reconciliation after six years of on-off crises.”

Oddly, this story gives considerable reason for believing that no such accommodation existed or, if it did, lasted only a matter of days. Crispin points out that: “Before the deluge, Yingluck [Shinawatra]’s government was steadily moving to undermine several royal establishment power bases in the name of political reform, putting the military, bureaucracy, judiciary and anti-Thaksin media outlets on the political back foot.” Even before this, Crispin says that “trial balloons floated by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung” attacked these groups. The so-called deal was dead on delivery.

The second aspect of the story that grabbed our attention is the resurrection of the royalists via the military. Crispin begins with the bizarre notion that “the military has forwarded the democratic notion, including over its mouthpiece television news station, that it serves as a ‘people’s army’ through its lead role in evacuations, emergency transport and aid delivery.”

As PPT observed a week ago, General Prayuth Chan-ocha “has emerged as a de facto spokesman for hospitalized King Bhumibol Adulyadej by conveying in public statements the revered monarch’s perspective on how best to deal with the flooding. Royal army units have conspicuously worn tee-shirts with ‘King’s Guard’ emblazoned across their backs while conducting emergency operations, underscoring the notion that the palace and military are working hand-in-hand to provide flood relief.”

Crispin notes that the “palace, too, has waded into the battle for public perceptions.” He notes the oddity of Princess Chulabhorn’s unconfirmed claims that the king had “lost consciousness” and “suffered from intestinal bleeding” that Crispin says “some royalists and independent analysts interpreted as veiled criticism of Yingluck’s crisis management.”

He is right to note that “Yingluck has bowed to royal authority, including through direct consultations with King Bhumibol…. The obeisance was also seen in her appointment of Thongtong Chandrangsu, a top royal adviser to Princess Sirindhorn, to take over as spokesman of her Flood Relief Operations Command (FROC), and Sumet Tantivejkul, one of King Bhumibol’s closest advisers, to steer a committee overseeing the government’s flood rehabilitation efforts.” He adds that “some analysts believe royalist bureaucrats involved in water management have intentionally skewed and backtracked on their assessments and predictions to make Yingluck appear conflicted in her media appearances.”

Crispin concludes with this: “Renewed anti-Thaksin street protests threaten new bouts of instability, particularly if the establishment forces that shunned the PAD’s anti-Cambodia, anti-Democrat Party protests last year rededicate their resources to the more unifying anti-Thaksin cause. As Thailand’s flood waters slowly recede, a new crisis is already emerging on the political horizon.” As PPT explained in an earlier post, the reunification has been rapid.





Opportunism

10 11 2011

If it wasn’t already clear, it is repeatedly being reinforced in the mainstream media that the natural and human crisis caused by massive flooding is a political opportunity. Indeed, for the royalists and their so-called Democrat Party it is a heaven sent opportunity to turn back the red tide that swamped them back in the July elections. It seems nature has handed them a political opportunity to take apart that result.

Related, the military has grasped an opportunity to reinvigorate its appalling public image born of its capacity to kill while protecting the still extant royalist regime. While troops are out working very hard, for much of the mainstream media it is as if only the military is doing the heavy lifting. There is little attention to, say, the bus drivers and garbage collectors who struggle on.

The media shows military trucks taking people about in flooded areas when it is actually the everyday buses that are still doggedly pushing through the waters. There are also many private sector vehicles helping out. It seems they even concoct some of this.

Volunteers, officials and tens of thousands of others are working night and day in very difficult circumstances and get little credit as media and other opportunists highlight themselves.

For many in the mainstream media, it is as if the military are the only ones out there. Even the Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha seems a bit taken aback by this, stating: “The Army isn’t the sole hero. It is just well equipped with manpower and tools, which can be commanded…”. But for the media, political purpose is at work.

In the English-language media, the Bangkok Post that has provided some classic examples of political opportunism. After recently arguing in an editorial that the floods were not the time for political point-scoring, the Post seems unable to resist the opportunity and to listen to its own editorial advice.

For example, the Bangkok Post’s perennial anti-Puea Thai journalist Aekarach Sattaburuth proclaims that the “Yingluck Shinawatra government is falling out of public favour because of its handling of the country’s flood crisis.”

Why? It seems that “declining popularity is reflected in a recent Suan Dusit poll in which 46.9% of respondents said it had failed its first test and was ill-prepared.” We could ask what the majority 53.1% said, but that isn’t the issue as Aekarach wants to score political points.

Schizophrenically recounting that the “government was sworn into office in early August,” that the “worst disaster in 50 years” was “already creeping up on it,” and that “cabinet seats were barely warm when a vast ocean of water” descended from the north, you’d think Aekarach was about to be fair in his presentation of the mammoth challenges. But you’d be wrong: “In hindsight, she [Yingluck] had ample time in early August to brainstorm ideas from experts to mitigate the impact of floods in the North and the Central Plains and deal with the threat to the capital.” Aekarach might have added that the parliamentary requirements meant that the government didn’t actually become fully operational until late August, but that would be too reasonable.

But wait, the other side of the brain kicks in again: “In reality, little could be done for many of the provinces north of Bangkok, such was the extent of the deluge.” But then back to the other side: “Yet she and her cabinet cannot avoid responsibility for the catastrophe.” It is all Yingluck’s fault! The implication is that she and her government should go!

In such circumstances, the only thing for a schizophrenic journalist to do is to call on a declared government opponent for a confirmatory comment. In this case it is Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, rector of the National Institute of Development Administration. He reckons that “since the flood disaster began, the government has been defeated on every front.” Sombat stressed “it is important to put the right man in the right job and not deal with problems as they crop up.” That man is clearly not Yingluck Shinawatra!

In a post some time ago, PPT said this of Sombat: “A more staunch opponent of Thaksin Shinawatra, all of his related parties and the red shirts than Sombat Thamrongthanyawong would be hard … to find. Yet he is … regularly cited in the media as if he is independent. He was one of the academics appointed by the military junta to the National Legislative Assembly in 2006.”

In another Post piece, Pichai Chuensuksawadi, who is the is Editor-in-Chief of Post Publishing, gets into the act: “For months now floodwaters have wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of so many Thais…”. The lesson for Pichai in the inundating waters is vintage People’s Alliance for Democracy and royalist mantra: all politicians are hopeless bastards. He says: “What … remains in doubt, … is whether the Thai people can rely on the necessary collective leadership to implement the right measures, indeed make tough decisions, to ensure that a similar disaster will not occur again.”

While he is talking about all civilian political leaders, Pichai adds in a curious mix of 1970s throwback male chauvinism and PAD anti-Thaksinism: “There is no doubt that Khun Yingluck has all the good intentions; she is determined and is trying her best to deal with this disaster. In fact, I do feel sorry for her as this challenge of premiership was thrust upon her.”

Poor little girl! He continues: “This disaster has shown that inexperience … has resulted in missteps by the prime minister.” She couldn’t “control” ministers, she changed her mind on important things, she “flip-flopped” – women, eh, always changing their minds!

Add in the constructed rumor that the Puea Thai Party want to get rid of Yingluck and replace her with a strong man like Chalerm Yubamrung. PPT recalls all the Post stories of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 that claimed the Puea Thai Party was split and falling apart, Chalerm would be party leader, and that factional manoeuvring would be the end of the party and its electoral prospects.

Most of those stories were simply political support for the royalist party…. In an earlier post mentioning Pichai at the time of the election in July, PPT observed that he headed “a media outlet that did much to support the Democrat Party. As one of the elite’s media, it [the Bangkok Post] inflated public support, boosted its campaign, gave extra space to Abhisit and wrote op-eds that were blatantly anti-Puea Thai.”

Get the girl out! Pichai explains: “I do believe that a more experienced leader would have done a better job. Love him or hate him, we must admit that Thaksin Shinawatra would have done a better job. Likewise with Abhisit Vejjajiva. Both have had experience…”. Thaksin! Yep, he said it. But this is chauvinism. Don’t let the elected girl do her job. Pichai wants authoritarian men who are not afraid to use forceful means to get what they want. Men to the rescue! We are surprised he didn’t mention General Sarit Thanarat as the prime example of men getting things done.

Of course, there is the one man who really matters: “In 1995 His Majesty the King advised and warned…”. As if in the palace was dictating the political line, Pichai says: “Sadly, and clearly, our political leadership then, and now, have not heeded the king’s advice.”

If readers examine the map in this report, it is seen how the dyke – “HM King’s dyke” – that was constructed following his advice encloses the city. That construction means that areas outside the dyke are regularly sacrificed to floods.

This brings us to the palace’s opportunism.

Of course, the king has to be the super-hero. Because he is aged and remains hospitalized, this is done via his loyal men. So we see pressure on Yingluck to buckle under to all palace directions and orders. Hence, loyalist royal defender and retainer Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, Secretary-General of the king’s Chaipattana Foundation, is appointed as an adviser of a Yingluck-established committee to “work out water resources management strategies” post-flood. Sumet is the palace’s proxy for the “ultimate guru.” This term is from Sumet a while back when he stated: “We have the ultimate guru and sage in our land, but we never listen [to him]. Instead, we listen to whom we shouldn’t.” That the same line spun by Pichai. PPT has previously noted Sumet’s political involvement in machinations associated with the judiciary and the Democrat Party.

As we previously noted, the palace has gone into campaign mode, explaining its version of flood history. It is supported by several significant loyalists.

Doing his bit is Army boss General Prayuth. He has been speaking on the king’s views and positions. He is reported in The Nation doing this again. Prayuth explains that the king “is concerned about flood victims and wants to see the deluge drained away soon…”. No surprise or philosophy in that, as there are literally tens of millions thinking exactly this….

But as Prayuth tells it, the king is doing more: “His Majesty has proffered advice and granted audiences to the government to consult with him, the general said. All Thais, out of gratitude, should express their best wishes for the beloved monarch’s quick recovery, he said.”

That recovery might refer to his still unexplained two-year hospitalization or it might refer to another bit of palace PR. The Bangkok Post, has cited Princess Chulabhorn who has been doing a bit of royal charity related to the floods, requiring the commitment of resources to her travel and “standing.” She also says the king is concerned but goes further: “She said that about a week ago, His Majesty the King had been watching flood news stories on television for five hours. She said the monarch, who has been concerned for people suffering from the deluge, was probably stressed and fell ill as a result…. But His Majesty said very little and it turned out he developed symptoms of illnesses such as internal bleeding.”

This is part of the palace PR that has the king as the father of the country who has a magical and paternalistic connection to his people that no politician could possibly attain: “His Majesty loves his people like his children…. When he is aware that the people are suffering, so does he.” She added: “His heart always goes out to his people…”. When they suffer, he suffers.

If it wasn’t the continual need for royalist PR, such revelations focused on an individual in a time of national crisis might seem difficult to explain. The princess added that “doctors are determined to establish which part of his body had suffered and that the King was under observation.” But magically defying mortal doctors, she says: “now his condition is returning to normal.”

Even in times of a huge national disaster, don’t let the propaganda gaze fall from the one who is always better than the nasty, grasping, and insolent politicians. The latter are always doomed to failure because they don’t listen enough to the ultimate guru.

 





Updated: Stupid foreigners, the monarchy’s wealth and messed up brains

25 02 2011

A report in the Vancouver Sun which placed Thailand’s king on top of its list of the 10 richest world leaders.

The story states: “Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak resigned power as Egypt’s president today, and leaves with a reported fortune of anywhere between $40-70 billion. Here are some other world leaders who have a healthy nest egg socked away for their retirement.” Here’s the list, with Mubarak’s alleged personal wealth listed:

PAD_King1. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand ($30 billion)

2. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei ($20 billion)

3. Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of UAE ($18 billion)

4. King Abdullah bin Abul Aziz of Saudi Arabia ($21 billion)

5. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai ($12 billion)

6. Hosni Mubarak ($10 billion)

7. Silvio Berlusconi ($9 billion)

8. Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein ($3.5 billion)

9. Emir of Qatar ($2 billion)

10. Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan ($1.9 billion)

Perhaps the newspaper should have made it clear that the wealth of Thailand’s king is not entirely personal and is held for the monarchy. It does state: “The Thai government has disputed his position as the wealthiest head of state, saying that much of this is not part of his personal wealth.”

Sumet

It should also be added that the $30 billion figure only refers to the Crown Property Bureau, and that each member of the royal family is thought to be personally very wealthy as well. Of course, the figure takes no account of the billions handed over to the royals for “charity” or spent on keeping up appearances through large injections of taxpayer funds to the royals.

Long-time royal aide Sumet Tantivejkul, who is secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation and has overseen the vast portfolio of royal projects, has commented on this report (also see our 2009 post on Sumet extolling monarchy). His comments are posted at Prachatai. The report says that Sumet questioned the motives of “those who spread the news,” and implied a warning that those spreading stories could be in trouble.

Asked “about the increasingly open talk and criticism of the monarchy at social networking websites, Sumet said, “that lot don’t have identities, do they? They like cursing anybody they choose.  So [they] can say anything in the online world.  If we take them seriously, it messes up our brain.

PPT cites this point first as the Sun story is all over these sites and we liked the idea of messed up brains. Presumably this means that thinking is impaired. We wonder, though, if thinking is impaired by having to dissemble for one’s sponsors and heroes? As an example, see how Sumet describes and explains royal wealth:

What is the Crown Property Bureau?  If you want to know whether HM is really rich or not, you have to look at his private property. That really belongs to him.  […]  But this has all been mixed up,’ he said.

‘Crown property means that it belongs to the state.  But when farangs see the emblem [of the CPB], oh! this must belong to the King.  In fact, the Ministry of Finance is in charge. The chair of the CPB is the Minister of Finance.  It’s not part of HM’s property.  It belongs to the institution.  It has a board,’ he said.

This is messed up thinking. Here’s what the CPB says at its website:

The Crown Property Bureau was established under the Royal Assets Structuring Act of 1936 and became a juristic person in 1948. According to the Act, a Crown Property Board was set up, to be chaired ex officio by the Finance Minister, and served by at least four royally-appointed directors. His Majesty the King would also name one of the board members the director-general of the Crown Property Bureau. The Board of Crown Property is responsible for the overall supervision of the activities of the Crown Property Bureau. Duties and responsibilities of the director-general are prescribed by the Board of Crown Property.

In effect, the king controls the CPB through his appointed board. More from that website:

… On 21 April 1935, the 1934 act to exempt royal assets from taxation took effect. The act categorized the royal assets into two types:

* Assets eligible for tax exemption

* Assets eligible for tax payment

On 19 July 1937, the Royal Assets Structuring Act of 1936 became effective. It separated the royal assets into “His Majesty’s personal assets”, “crown property” and “public property”. “His Majesty’s personal assets” would be managed by the Finance Ministry. The Crown Property Bureau was set up with the status equivalent to a division under the Treasury Department of the Finance Ministry.

We guess that when Sumet talks of “private property” that he means anything outside the above. The above shows control is with the king. Each of those appointed is a royalist, close to the palace (note that a slightly different list appears in the Thai version).

What the above doesn’t tell us is how the assets are used. The CPB has almost no transparency – look at the very limited list of  investments. It is opaque because the CPB is “special.” That list implies that the assets of the crown are not state assets.

That the Finance Minister is chair of the board does not mean that the assets are owned by the state and managed for the state. That position is one that was created under the law set by anti-royalist politicians and the intent of that law has long passed, most especially in deals done with the palace under a 1948 Act and then under General Sarit Thanarat. Of the 1948 Act, Porphant Ouyyanont in”The Crown Property Bureau in Thailand and the Crisis of 1997,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 38,1, 2008, says:

The Crown Property Act of 1948 [not mentioned above] reconstituted the CPB as a juristic person with considerable independence within the overall framework of the government. It also gave control back to the palace.

The minister of finance continued to serve as chairman of the CPB Board, but other board members, including the director, were chosen by the king. The role of the director, who had great independence in managing the CPB’s assets, became of paramount importance. While prior to 1948 there had been frequent changes of management, over the next six decades there were only three directors, giving great continuity. The two distinguishing characteristics of these directors were that they were well educated and palace insiders.

Later the author adds this:

The 1948 Act had some other important characteristics. It specified that the use of the PPB’s resources and income ‘‘depends totally on the royal inclination.’’ It laid down that the CPB’s landed assets could not be seized or transferred. It absolved the CPB from tax on its income (a provision that had been introduced in 1936). It constituted the CPB as an absolutely unique entity which was difficult to define in terms of Thai law. In the course of subsequent legal processes, the Council of State had to give rulings on the nature of the CPB on four occasions. Not one of the rulings was unanimous, and the four rulings conflict. The Council agreed that the CPB was not a private company, government department, or state enterprise, and ultimately in 2001 ruled it was a ‘‘unit of the state,’’ whatever that meant (Somsak, 2006: 67-93).

So when Sumet says: “Don’t think that farangs are always smart.  Many farangs are stupid,” he means in their interpreatation of the king’s/palace’s wealth. Leaving aside the racist slight, which is not uncommon from the amart, it seems that Thais too are perplexed by these “arrangements.” This includes those who have studied the CPB most closely. In fact, they are not stupid, and it is Sumet who is dissembling for political purposes, for Chirayu Isarangkun, the head of the CPB has stated the position clearly, as cited in the above academic article:

The fact that CPB is the investment arm for the monarchy, with a long-term and continuous reputation for reliability, induces Thai and foreign investors to seek joint ventures.

So Sumet can babble on for as long as he wants, claiming the king isn’t wealthy:

‘Is this an exaggeration?  The news spread.  Many people get excited, talking and writing all kinds of stuff….  Go and look at HM’s residence.  Don’t talk about foreign billionaires; even billionaires in Thailand are far richer than him.  So how can they say he is the world’s richest?  Insane,’ he said. ‘Look how he lives.  HM lives in a small palace, and is frugal.  He has been the example of sufficiency,’ he said.

Apart from the fact that the king seems to currently reside in a public hospital, his “small palace,” presumably at Hua Hin is just one of several palaces around the country, many of them barely used. And, the fact remains that the CPB and personal wealth of the monarchy in Thailand is stupendous. And, most of it has been developed during this long reign.





Privy council, courts and the Democrat Party

25 10 2010

PPT recently referred to the friendly puppy-like mainstream media supporting the royalist attempts to save the Democrat Party. That behavior by some media is again demonstrated in the Bangkok Post, where the royalist and yellow shirt opinion page pundit Veera Prateepchaikul again writes  about these video clips being a “set up.” Of course, he presents no evidence for the drawing of this conclusion.

The interesting thing about this new defense article is the way it finishes: “As far as the video clip in question is concerned, it is evident that it was a set-up to discredit the Democrat Party and the Constitution Court. But taking into consideration the other video footage which showed Privy Council chairman Prem Tinsulanonda together with Mr Chat, Supreme Administrative Court president Akrathorn Chularat, Kasame Wattanachai, another privy councillor, and Sumeth Tantivechakul, secretary-general of the Chaipattana Foundation, the picture has become clearer. Clearly, the perpetrators who posted all the video clips on the YouTube webboard have wanted to mislead the public that the Privy Council has interfered with the court in favour of the Democrats. Doubtlessly, the intention is to discredit the Privy Council. The big question is, who will benefit if the Privy Council is discredited or undermined?”

The interesting question is why Veera thinks he needs to write about the role of the Privy Council. To date there hasn’t been much open discussion of whether the Privy Councilors were at meetings with judges in order to secure a particular outcome. Veera’s comments allow for the speculation to emerge from the shadows. When were these photos taken and why were the Privy Councilors meeting the Constitutional Court judges?





With 2 updates: Constitutional Court, Democrat Party and shifting blame

23 10 2010

The Democrat Party and the Constitutional Court are to be complimented for their ability – aided by some in the friendly puppy-like mainstream media – to deflect criticism over the leaked video clips that appear to show negotiations to support the Democrat Party in its current cases before the court.

It is revealing to see how they have done this.

A couple of days ago, the Bangkok Post had an editorial that was, surprisingly, quite strong. It said: “The country … has the right to raise doubts over just what was occurring during the four conversations taped and posted for the world to see. Many media, internet chat forums and blogs have raised highly pertinent questions, and it will not do for either the Democrat Party hierarchy or the members of the Constitution Court to try to wave them off. Yet this is what they tried to do in the first couple of days after … a photo set and four videos [were posted] to the popular video service.

But wave them off they have. The first move to deflect blame and cover the evidence trail came when 5 judges held a press conference to say that a Constitution Court secretary – Pasit Sakdanarong – who appeared in one of the videos had been sacked.

But as the Post editorial observes, “the important points do not revolve around who took the video or arranged the meetings. The videos seem to show judges and court officials discussing the Democrat Party case in ways that appear inappropriate. Are the conversations real, and if so, do they fairly portray the deliberations in a case where testimony was not even completed?”

The next move was to avoid these issues by burying them under a series of official investigations, none of them independent, and most seemingly intent on punishing the whistle blower/s rather than any wrong doing by the judges/court or the Democrat Party.

Part of this twist and dissemble strategy also involves dismissing the evidence. For example, MCOT News says that the Constitution Court judges “reaffirmed its impartiality in considering the ruling Democrat Party dissolution case, saying that a panel has been set up to probe the release of video clips of a Democrat MP allegedly lobbying a court official over the case.”

That’s the judges themselves – the ones seen in the videos, apparently negotiating a corrupt deal – “reaffirming” their neutrality. That seems not just unlikely but a lame account.

The court also stated that it had “set up a panel to probe the case, but refused to disclose the names of the panel, citing its confidentiality.” The word “lame” again comes to mind, although “corrupt” and “nonsense” also seem appropriate. When the anonymous “investigation panel” is said to be in search of truth, PPT would have expected reporters to be rolling around laughing. Apparently not.

The Democrat Party, as well as claiming set-ups and “political motives” at work, decided to “investigate” as well. In the same MCOT report, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said “his party has set up a panel to investigate the case of Mr Wiruch [Wirat Romyen] who is a member of the party’s legal team and if any inappropriate action is found, further action will be taken against him.”

What of the Party itself? Was Wirat operating as an individual? Almost certainly not, but that is the impression the Democrat Party wants to cultivate.

To further cover tracks, blaming others always helps. The Bangkok Post says that Abhisit’s spokesman, Thepthai Senpong, has “questioned if Puea Thai was involved in making the clips.” That was a fact already known, but his point is to claim wrong doing on the part of the opposition to deflect criticism from his own party.

The Nation says that Thepthai claims “Abhisit has told me to coordinate with Wiruch and allow him to sue anyone for defamation on a personal level.” Legal cases like this just throw up more dust to cover tracks. That the Democrat Party “investigation panel” is a snow job is seen in its stated aims: The Nation says that the panel would see if Wirat “had done anything illegal such as getting knowingly involved in an attempt to influence the court, and if so, whether he had any collaborators. If found guilty, Wiruch would be punished in accordance with the party’s rules…”. That’s sure to mean just a little more than nothing.

At the premier’s and other cabinet ministers’ urging, the Bangkok Post reports that the police have also begun an investigation. Another layer of legal sand is laid on the real story as evidenced by this police statement: “From a preliminary investigation it was believed an offence had been committed,  but exactly what the charges would be  was still uncertain…”. This is charges against who and for what? Maybe they can make up charges as has been their wont.

Then, the grand old man of the Democrat Party and leader of its legal team, Chuan Leekpai was wheeled out to blame the whistle blowers and to take the heat off the allegedly corrupt activities by members of his own team and the judges. Indeed, the Democrat Party has even lodged a complaint against the person who uploaded the videos to YouTube. Indeed, a later report states that the police are investigating the uploading and will seek ti use the Computer Crimes Act to get the poster.

The Nation says that the Democrat Party went even further on this shifting of blame and guilt. It was thus “thinking about taking legal action against other parties that are resorting to unlawful methods against the Democrats. He said the party’s legal team was considering action that could lead to the dissolution of the Pheu Thai Party or any others involved.” He claims the Democrat Party has been “damaged.” Well, it has, but by their own actions.

Conveniently, for those who want to dissemble and whitewash,  The Nation reports that the investigation was “expected to focus on the involvement of [Judge] Chat’s secretary Pasit Sakdanarong who has fled to Hong Kong.”

This situation allows the Democrat Party’s Wirat to insist, according to the Bangkok Post, the recorded “meeting was a set-up. He said Mr Pasit approached his aide, Worawut Nawaphokin, to arrange a meeting with Mr Wirat at a restaurant in the Bang Sue area. Once there, Mr Wirat said Mr Pasit asked him ‘leading questions’.” The implication is that Pasit was on the other side, luring Wirat into appearing like a crooked politician. Slinging dirt at someone else means added confusion for those trying to understand the events.

But the fouling of the story doesn’t finish there. As the Bangkok Post reports, the Constitution Court judges now claim to “have received death threats and called for protection.” That move may be in response to threats but is also neat and convenient if it draws some sympathy to the allegedly corrupt judges and manages to link red shirts and Puea Thai to violence.

The judges are also said to have “demanded the government create conditions that allow them to work freely and safely.”

PPT assumes this means that they want to be able to cut deals without having to worry that they might be outed.

This claim came at the time when Puea Thai parliamentarian Jatuporn Promphan “said he would release new footage next week featuring three panel judges involved in alleged fraud while recruiting court officials.”

The last bit of fouling PPT read of was the claim that the “Democrat Party is gathering evidence to seek the dissolution of the Puea Thai Party for submission to the Election Commission by the end of this month…”.

This is a strategy called “turning the tables,” where a guilty party attempts to say others are really the guilty ones. The Democrat Party claims that “the released footage was falsified and intended to mislead the public.” PPT has no doubt that the Party will be able to find experts, probably amongst their allies in the Department of Special Investigation, to support this allegation.

But all the covering up is not preventing some juicy news getting through. The Nation reports that the “Constitution Court president was rebuked by his colleagues over the video-clip scandal involving his now-removed secretary, a source said yesterday. A fellow Constitution Court judge even implied that the court’s chief, Chut Chonlavorn, should take responsibility for the scandal that has compromised the court’s credibility and step down, according to the source.”

According to reports, Pasit is also seen in a negative light, and is seen to have “caused much suspicion among his colleagues at the Constitution Court. His claim that he was a doctor working for a private hospital was later found to be false. He had never worked for Chut when the latter served as a Supreme Court judge. And Pasit changed his name four times, which was quite unusual, the source said.”

The Bangkok Post adds that “Pasit worked for Mr Chat for over a decade, going back to the time he was deputy permanent secretary for justice. The secretary’s post is not a permanent civil service position, although sources at the Constitution Court said Mr Pasit had been very influential there over the past three years and had played a key role in the transfer of senior officials. Officials at the court are now pushing for an investigation into the past transfer of other officials. They also want an inquiry into a computer procurement project worth 13 million baht, a software installation project worth 66 million baht, and the hiring of certain permanent officials at the court.”

These stories, while significant indicators, are of limited impact as the government, Democrat Party and the Constitution Court judges pile on the allegations and investigations that confuse the real nature of any crimes that might have been committed. PPT thinks the elite will fall in with its government, a process that is already beginning.

By the beginning of next week, the story may well be the hunt for those “criminals” who shot and posted the videos of the judges and Democrat Party organizing a court decision of national significance.

Update 1: The Nation reports that Wirat has now sued Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit and Pasit Sakdanarong, former private secretary to the Constitution Court president, for defamation. That action is clearly meant to further muddy the real issues in this case that involves the corruption of the justice system at the highest level.

Update 2: Oops, PPT was wrong. Above, we posted this: “By the beginning of next week, the story may well be the hunt for those ‘criminals’ who shot and posted the videos of the judges and Democrat Party organizing a court decision of national significance.” Yep, completely wrong, for the Abhisit government has managed this on the weekend, before the time we predicted. The Bangkok Post has the story: “A criminal investigation has been launched into the release of controversial video footage that the Democrat Party claims is part of a plot to discredit it and the Constitution Court.” What can we say? This authoritarian-military-dominated clique does exactly as expected. Abhisit’s choice as police chief has launched the investigation and says it “must be concluded within 30 days.” Apart from the Computer Crimes Act, these bozos have decided that the release of the “footage could also violate the Official Information Act, which prohibits the unauthorised release of the state’s confidential data.” We chose the word “bozo” carefully (for meaning 2 and noun 1).

This is politics at its most rancid, with the Democrat Party’s backers scared witless that having been outed on what appears to be an “old boys’ club” attempt to corrupt a set of judges, they now want to take the heat off their boys who, for all their prattle about law and order, are showing their true colors.

 





Inequality, welfare and the politics of maintaining political control and not mentioning the obscenely wealthy royals

14 09 2009

PPT knows this is a long post. However, because it is an important issue, we are editing, updating and re-posting. This post deals with the first indication of a royalist strategy for addressing the deep issues confronting Thai society and politics that is not absolutely reactionary. That is, it is not a call for “unity” based on mythical ideas about Thainess and the monarchy and nor is it a call for the use of repression and blunt force.

Our updates are at the end of the post.

Also available as: ความไม่เท่าเทียมกัน สวัสดิการ และการเมือง แต่อย่าพูดเรื่องความร่ำรวยเหลือล้นของราชวงศ์

For all the conflict in recent years, it is notable that Thailand’s public debate on the role of the state and welfare has developed and polarized. It has the potential to become more extreme. Recall that many of the PAD’s middle-class support was drawn by Sondhi Limthongkul’s view that a middle-class revolution against Thaksin and his regime who he identified as milking the middle class to buy support from those he identified as uneducated rural voters. When Thaksin introduced his 30 baht scheme there was a tiny group of doctors that opposed the scheme as “socialism” and medical practitioners have been in the PAD vanguard.

In a report in The Nation (13 September 2009: “Think-tank calls for welfare state”) it is said that the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has proposed “transforming the country into a welfare state.” This is remarkable for TDRI has generally been broadly neo-classical/neo-liberal in its approach to social and economic issues. Its former director was a minister in the military-royalist government led by Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont and its current director has worked closely with the World Bank.

Calls for a welfare state have been made in the recent past – from Jon Ungpakorn and from TDRI-associated Ammar Siamwalla. They didn’t get a great deal of support or attention. So why is TDRI proposing a welfare state now? According to the report, the “think-tank” is proposing a “survival strategy” that offers a way out of “the current economic and political distress by that would help bridge opportunity and income disparity.” TDRI chairman Dr Nipon Poapongsakorn, speaking at a seminar organised by the Thai Journalist Association and the King Prachadhipok Institute (KPI), said the institute “believed this would address the root causes of the current political conflicts that have pushed the country to the brink.”

TDRI researchers had found that disparities in income and wealth were “the main cause of the ongoing political conflicts…”. Hence, a welfare state would be “the way out of the political crisis” by closing the “gap between the rich and the poor…”.

Research has long shown large income disparities and inequality in Thailand. TDRI says that the “current market economic system fails to bridge economic inequality and the state also adds salt to injuries for failing to provide equal opportunity for everyone to access financial credit, knowledge, natural resources because the state represents a large business conglomerate that monopolises businesses.” It says that “only a handful group of politicians and businessmen access to business privileges and benefit from the monopoly. The current tax structure does not help reduce assets and wealth concentration.”

It is said that “wealth concentration has a significant correlation to political power…” in the country. It is suggested that tycoons seek political power to “protect business interests and concessions.” Politicians in power “distort the market economy. This is the case especially in a country that lacks political stability.” Nipon argues that the “more assets they have the more the motivation for the businessmen to come to power…”.

Nipon also cited research attributed to “Somkiat Tangkitvanich, which found that in 2004, companies run by Shinawatra family provide 141 per cent better return than other companies. The research also found that companies having connections with ministers enjoy 18.5 per cent higher profit than other companies.”

In fact, these figures are not universally accepted and recent works suggest lesser figures (e.g. Pasuk and Baker’s new edition of Thaksin), although the trend is still seen.

Nipon argued that “a welfare state was the answer because the system could bring sustainable democracy.” Recognizing the potential for a backlash, he also pointed out that “extreme populist policies may trigger a coup or revolt by the rich because they would be hardest hit.” As would be expected from a KPI event, “populist policies bring about great public debt and a lack of fiscal transparency.”

PPT agrees that economic inequalities are a major problem in Thailand. While moves towards a well-organized welfare state would make a lot os sense, PPT has problems with the way the TDRI call is framed.

For a start, TDRI has been aware of these economic disparities for decades, but has done precious little until now to propose alternative ways of dealing with them. It has stuck with market-based ideas for a long time. TDRI also stresses politicians and business people-cum-politicians as being the problem. We can’t disagree that these people have regularly promoted their own interests. At the same time, it has to be acknowledged that the political system has been constructed in conservative ways that have encouraged corruption of various kinds. Indeed, the 2007 Constitution requires corruption (if there is ever to be an election).

We would be more likely to agree with TDRI if it didn’t ignore the wealthiest institution in the country. The monarchy sucks wealth and power into itself, with the Crown Property Bureau being so hugely wealthy that Forbes ranks it as world’s richest. Then there is the huge drain on public resources that we noted recently, which is continuing to rise. Just the Royal Household Bureau’s draw on public funds has almost doubled from 1,136,536,600 baht in 2002 to 2,086,310,000 baht in 2008.

Of course, institutions like TDRI and KPI are dominated by royalists. It is almost impossible to take KPI seriously – it has a history of King Prajadhipok, portraying his as the “father” of Thai democracy but has nothing on Thai democracy’s checkered path.

TDRI has become a bastion of royalists. A brief look at its board see the following royalists and “Prem-ists” listed: Kosit Panpiemras (served the royalis-military government), Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya (Director-General, Crown Property Bureau), Juree Vichit-Vadakan (sufficiency economy proponent), Mechai Viravaidya (Chairman, Population and Community Development Association and married to a senior palace aide), Snoh Unakul (former Prem government economic guru and chair of the royal-controlled Siam Cement Foundation and on the board of a number of royal companies), Sumet Tantivejkul (Secretary-General, the main royal foundation, the Chaipattana Foundation), and so on. Actually, if one wanted to study wealth and power networks in Thailand, the board of TDRI might be one place to begin.

Finally, what is missing in this proposal is any account of how political power might be changed. In fact, the proposal rings hollow as an elite-based attempt to maintain their own political power. Don’t get us wrong; reforming economic policies and addressing welfare is worthy. However, when it is done to avoid thorough-going political reform it hardly ranks as a liberal proposal for reform.

Hopefully the debate doesn’t deteriorate as in the U.S. and that the issue of economic inequality can remain on the agenda in Thailand but linked firmly with political fairness, human rights and democratic development.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post (13 September 2009: “Welfare state key to future”) has a similar report to that in The Nation, reported above. However, there are a couple of additional points worthy of note.

TDRI research director Somkiat Tangkitvanich said “unfair income distribution among Thais had led to major political disruptions such as the Sept 19, 2006, coup which occurred because the government had tried to improve income distribution via extreme [sic] populist policies.” This is an interesting perspective and worthy of consideration. Somkiat is acknowledging that Thaksin’s approach to politics involved a basic change to policy. What is now being proposed is that the anti-Thaksin groups accept that they need to do something similar in political and policy terms. It acknowledges that royalists, conservatives and “the elite” need to compromise on economic issues if they are to maintain their political power.

KPI secretary-general Borwornsak Uwanno, who earlier broached this topic, but in a context of political illiberalism, said KPI “would help push forward the academics’ idea, by proposing it to the government and the parliament.” He added that he believed that “Thailand will go through a major change. If we’re not prepared, the situation could go the same way as it did in the May 1992 or the October 1973 uprisings…”. Maybe, except that he fears that his elite will lose their political control.

This “welfarist” position will allow for the political continuation of “Thai-style democracy” that royalists promote. When pressured politically, Thailand’s “royal liberals” seem to lose their liberalism in favour of royalism. But here they offer a way out that moves the focus to economic well-being but maintains political control. Singapore and China come to mind, and it is the long-term goal of Burmese generals.

But can the “royal liberals” win out? Recall that the king himself opposes welfare. Sufficiency economy is fundamentally anti-welfare and he has said before that he opposes social welfare because it makes people lazy.

Update 2: The Nation has an editorial (14 September 2009: “Idea of a welfare state is worth exploring”) has a different take on TDRI’s interest in the welfare state idea: “The TDRI is quite concerned about the growing tendency towards economic populism. The Thaksin government began this trend by offering handouts to the poor. Subsequent governments, including the current Abhisit government, have followed suit.”

And, beginning the nonsense that usually goes along with debates about welfare, states: “We support the concept of a welfare state. But further discussion is needed over how we can finance the welfare state. Most developed countries, with strong welfare protection, are facing unsustainable public debt.” Of course, this statement is not supported by the facts. What the editorialist means is that tax revenues need to increase. However, as noted in the editorial, at present, Thailand allocates just “2.8 per cent … of the gross domestic product … to welfare.”





Royalist fears

3 06 2009

The celebrations in 2006 for the 60th anniversary of the king’s reign saw royal power and pride reach a crescendo. The flood of royalist images, reverence and the publicity for the hugely lavish ceremonies seemed never ending and yellow – the king’s birth colour – was everywhere. Even the troops carrying out the coup later that year were decked out in yellow showing where they stood.

For royalists, these celebrations were a triumphal celebration of decades of hard work restoring the monarchy to its “rightful” position. The royalists’ work had begun as soon as the absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932.

Before King Prajadhipok abdicated, they tried rebellions, assassinations and all kinds of political plots to regain, if not absolute power, then at least concessions from the People’s Party governments. After that they concentrated on regaining control of palace affairs while taking political opportunities as they arose.

But the real work began following General Sarit Thanarat’s coups in 1957 and 1958. With the backing of the military, the palace’s prestige was restored and the current king garnered considerable political power over his six decades on the throne.

How quickly things have changed.

Now royalists are warning that the monarchy is threatened.

More than at any time since the communist victories in Indochina, those who surround and advise the palace are frightened.

On 30 May, one of the king’s most loyal servants, Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, who is Secretary-General of the king’s Chaipattana Foundation, made one of the most public statements of the royalist’s great fear.

Prachatai (1 June 2009: “‘Next month, they will do it again…”) has translated a report of Sumet’s speak on “Monarchy and Buddhism” at a workshop of the Project of Reconciliation for National Security and Buddhism that was originally published in Matichon which also includes a video clip of the talk.

Sumet is worried. He said that he recently visited Russia, where the communists overthrew the monarchy. Sumet claims: “Now the Russians are yearning for a king, missing Tsar Nicholas II, but, not knowing what to do, they have brought the ashes of Tsar Nicholas to be placed at the royal chapel, canonizing him a saint, which is too late as they have already destroyed what they now need the most.”

He urges Thais to think about their own king, who Sumet says is “much more than a saint…”. He’s been there for 60 years and his accomplishments are huge, “but we do not cherish what we have.” This failure is worrying for Sumej, who declares: “When the day comes, we will be sorry. I want you to think…”. He added: “It’s a pity. We have the ultimate guru and sage in our land, but we never listen [to him]. Instead, we listen to whom we shouldn’t. Someday we will be sorry. I can say just that. It’s not too late. Don’t be discouraged…”.

Why have Thais gone wrong and what can be done about it? Like the King, Sumet’s diagnosis is that, like good children, Thais need to listen more intently to the king’s sage and fatherly advice. If they do, they will be united and things will be better.

The king, is of course, not just wise and saintly, but practicing the kingly virtues, is never angry when things go wrong and his children mess things up: “His Majesty has never got angry. He sometimes probably was discontented, but never angry, because anger never makes things better.”

And here’s the main point. Sumej says that anger “makes a society as it is now. Next month, they will do it again. They’re not exhausted yet. So annoying!”

The red shirts have annoyed Sumet. The Songkhran Uprising has frightened him and other royalists. He does seem to acknowledge one of the red shirt demands: democracy. But, these foolish children are misguided, for the king has always been promoting democracy!

Taking a leaf out of PAD’s democracy book, Sumet observes: “HM’s goal is democracy, which everybody is now talking about without much understanding. They just understand that democracy means elections, but it is much deeper than that.”

So the palace is concerned that the calls for “real democracy” have considerable power and that it challenges to the palace’s (and PAD’s) ideas about Thai-style democracy as real democracy. More, like Russia, the whole ideological and political edifice may crumble and fall.

The royalists have good reason to be frightened. But, as Sumet says, it’s not too late for the royalists. The military and the bureaucracy are now back under control, and the old-fashioned ideological campaigns are back in full swing. Look at all the blue billboards around the country exhorting people to “protect the monarchy” – the same slogan on the blue shirts in Pattaya in April.