New queen, new positions

16 06 2019

The royal couple may never be in Thailand all that much, preferring Munich, Tutzing and Zurich, but that doesn’t stop the royal tank grinding on.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has “commanded” – oh, so feudal! – that six royal agencies be placed under new queen Suthida:

Suthida in the uniform, earrings and makeup of a General

The six agencies are Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s Private Secretary Division; Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s Royal Household Division; Supplementary Occupation Programme Division; Sirikit Institute; The Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Technique of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand; and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s ladies-in-waiting.

With Sirikit incapacitated for several years, this is generational change but it also represents the rise and rise of Vajiralongkorn.

Suthida also carries an multi-syllable name, Bajrasudhabimalalakshana. Quite a change from the family name Tidjai or even from the previous Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya.

Showered with “honors” and having moved up from second lieutenant to full general in just six years of military “service,” she holds military command positions with the Royal Thai Aide-de-camp Department and the large force that “protect” the king and royal family.





On coronation IV

6 05 2019

Some of the reporting, including comments by various academic observers, has been pretty bland, suggesting considerable fear and self-censorship at work. There are times when it might be better not to comment at all.

Even so, there’s been some stories worth reading. Here’s a selection:

RTE, 2 May: “Thai king marries consort in unexpected ceremony

Reuters, 2 May: “Thailand’s New Queen: Flight Attendant to Bodyguard to Royalty

Daily Times, 3 May: “Powerful, rich and shrouded in secrecy: Thailand’s King Rama X

The Economist, 4 May: “King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand is crowned

Los Angeles Times, 4 May: “Thailand crowns its king in a gilded spectacle rarely seen in the modern era

ABC, 4 May: “Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn crowned

DW, 4 May: “Thailand crowns King Maha Vajiralongkorn

France 24, 4 May: “Vajiralongkorn: From jet-set playboy to king of Thailand

Al Jazeera, 4 May: “Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn crowned as divine monarch

AFP, 5 May: “Thailand’s monarchy has survived major upheavals and a turbulent domestic political scene

AFP, 5 May: “Cabin crew, bodyguard, Thai queen: Suthida’s meteoric rise

AMM, 5 May: “EXCLUSIVE—Leaked documents show that the Thai military is bringing more than 110,000 people to Bangkok on Sunday to boost the size of the crowd at King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation procession.”

Brinkwire, 5 May: “Queen Suthida Of Thailand Facts: New Monarch Was Once A Flight Attendant





Updated: On coronation I

3 05 2019

There are quite a few articles in the international media on the king, coronation and his new queen. If readers haven’t already seen them, we felt the following were of some interest:

Royalist volunteers toil overtime for Thai King’s coronation

Thailand: New Queen Named Ahead Of King’s Coronation

Thailand’s King Rama X – from pilot prince to powerful monarch

Thai King’s Formal Coronation Caps Eventful Two Years on Throne

Update: For the Thai media’s required propaganda on the king, which follows a script that was established by his father, see the Bangkok Post’s microsite. It won;t be long before adulatory books are being produced using the same sanitized material.





Vajiralongkorn takes another wife

2 05 2019

Barely mentioned in the mainstream media before today, King Vajiralongkorn has taken Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya as his fourth official wife and new queen.

Reports now mention her as General Suthida, a rank given to her by Vajiralongkorn about the time he became king. He has given military rank to several wives and consorts in the past.

The Post states:

Since the marriage took place in line with the law and royal traditions, Queen Suthida is henceforth entitled to all the benefits of royal rank and status of the royal family, according to an announcement dated Wednesday and published in the Royal Gazette.

The fourth official wife Vajiralongkorn has had, the ceremony saw the officials register the marriage, witnessed by Princess Sirindhorn and Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda.

The king has several consorts and has been seen with them in Germany. He was also seen in the infamous crop-top/fake tattoo photos with her.

Previous reporting on the 40 year-old Suthida has tended to coincide with her official promotions.

One event, in 2017, saw her awarded one of the highest royal decorations as commander in King Vajiralongkorn’s guard. Essentially, this made Suthida the “de facto head of security for … the King. Although she formally holds the title of deputy commander of the royal guard corps, the top rank had been left vacant since December 2016.” It was said Suthida had been serving in the royal guards since 2013.

The relationship between Vajiralongkorn and Suthida goes back several years.

In 2017, BBC Thai had a useful account of Suthida’s rise, beginning from 2012 and listing the many promotions and awards that have been showered on her by the prince-now-king, with each event is linked to the Royal Gazette.

Given her long relationship with Vajiralongkorn, we guess she knows what she’s getting into. His three previous marriages all ended in bitterness and some of them in terror.

As crown prince, Vajiralongkorn’s first official marriage was in early 1977 to his first cousin on Queen Sirikit’s side, Soamsawali.

It was an unhappy marriage.

The relationship had ended long after the prince abandoned Soamsawali, when she was pregnant, for the woman who would become his second official wife, Yuvadhida Polpraserth.

Soamsawali was protected by her family position after the divorce in 1991. She remained a member of the royal family as the mother of a royal grandchild.

Prince, and kids in earlier times

Yuvadhida was an actress from low-budget films that some saw as soft porn. Her official marriage to Vajiralongkorn in 1994 was only announced to the public a while after it took place. This was because the prince’s philandering was viewed dimly by the public.

Yuvadhida produced sons and a daughter. Within a couple of years, however, the family was thrown out of Thailand in a fit of princely rage over what might have involved allegations of her infidelity.

Only the daughter, now Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, returned to live with Vajiralongkorn, with the sons and their mother living in the U.S.A.

Meanwhile, the prince had already taken up with Srirasmi, made infamous by the leaked nude birthday party video.

She produced a son who is considered heir apparent, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.

Srirasmi’s ousting from the palace when the prince tired of her was nasty and vicious.

It seems she remains in Thailand but is in imposed seclusion and several members of her family have served jail terms.

Given the turmoil of the past, the new marriage will be watched with considerable interest, although reporting on it will not be possible in Thailand.





A consulate for the king

19 12 2017

In a rather coy report, Khaosod tells its readers that “Thailand’s diplomatic mission in Munich is slated for expansion, with a new Consulate-General to replace its honorary representative…”.

The “reason” provided by the equally coy Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai is that “We [Thailand] and Germany have been maintaining our friendship for a long time…”.

The truth is that the king, when crown prince, spent most of his time in and around Munich. Using official planes and Thai Airways first class, he an his large entourage jetted back and forth from Bangkok. His son with the ditched Princess Srirasmi was put in school there, the then prince bought a villa [we assume he paid for it, but who knows] just outside the village of Tutzing on Lake Starnberg where he kept his favorite mistress, now a sort of consort. He was also seen there with other concubines. Most of this used bags of taxpayer’s money.

Since he’s become king, he’s spent more time in Bangkok, but still jets off to Munich as often as possible.

That’s why the honorary consulate is being replaced by an official consulate-general.

The military junta’s cabinet approved the new Consulate-General’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “is tasked with furnishing personnel and funds to make it happen…”. That’s the taxpayer again.

Germany “was extended a reciprocal offer to expand its diplomatic presence in Thailand” but has no plans to do so.

The cost of the monarchy for the Thai taxpayer keeps increasing and under the junta the budget seems to be hidden away in a range of ministries.





Assessing the king after the funeral

11 11 2017

In an article we should have commented on earlier, authors at Foreign Policy look at the monarchy’s future.

Like many of the accounts following the dead king’s funeral, there’s a ridiculous glorification of the deceased king in order to show the new king in a poor light. This devise is unnecessary and devoid of any serious analysis of the past reign.

Yet this report does gently point at some of the “missing” details in the official discourse of the “good” and “great” king:

The king’s good deeds abounded: talking to the poor, directing countryside renewals, instructing students. Not pictured were his political interventions, occasionally on behalf of the military, sometimes keeping a fragile democracy afloat. By the time of the 2014 seizure of power by the current ruling junta, he had been far too frail to act.

While this position on the king’s interventions is common, it is not necessarily true. The two events usually said to reflect “keeping a fragile democracy afloat” are October 1973 and May 1992. Neither fits the bill.

In 1973, there was no democracy to keep afloat and with the military splitting and with murderous attacks on students, the king moved to restore “stability.” His support for the new democracy drained away quickly when he couldn’t get his way. The October 1976 massacre followed, perpetrated by enraged royalists and the military, a part of a coup.

In 1992, there was no democracy to protect or sustain. That’s why there was an uprising. People rose against the military junta’s efforts to maintain their power following the 1991 coup and appointing the junta leader premier. Is The Dictator listening? The king’s intervention was late, after it was clear the military could not restore “stability” and had murdered scores of protesters.

It is interesting to read this:

Along the urn’s procession route, a row of truncheon-wielding police blocked the way to the 1932 Democracy Monument. Their presence was noticeably heavier than at any point along the route, perhaps cautious of the possibility for protest gestures at a site that had been a locus for political uprisings since the 1970s.

That area was central to both the events of 1973 and 1992 and the military knows that history of anti-military dictatorship and seeks to suppress those memories.

Interesting too is the response of devout royalists to questions:

But when we asked about what, exactly, the king had done for them, there was a moment of puzzlement, and then the same answers every time: “Well, there were the visits to the countryside and the ‘sufficiency economy.’”

The authors are right to note that:

The king’s countryside trips were part of a 1960s and 1970s anti-communist campaign, dating from well before these kids were born, the concept of the “sufficiency economy” another 1970s buzzword dragged back up in 1997 to remind Thais to be happy with their lot, even amid the financial crisis.

The sufficiency stuff was recycled from E.F. Schumacher and stripped of any progressive content.

Yet, as the authors note, these events and notions have been made royal lore and have been so nauseatingly repeated that they become “truisms.”

The report is also commended for noting that there were many Thais who tried to ignore the funeral, its militarization and all of its repetitions of propaganda.

Turning to Vajiralongkorn, the story notes that on the evening of the cremation:

… the mood soured. Following the symbolic cremation at 6 p.m., the real event was supposed to take place at 10 p.m. — broadcast live as everything else had been. Just beforehand, though, the feed was suddenly cut, and journalists were ushered out of the press center. The crowd was disappointed and unhappy; rumors spread that the decision had been made by the current king, the 65-year-old Maha Vajiralongkorn, who had attended the cremation accompanied by both his ex-wife and his mistress. The cremation remained unbroadcast, with the palace putting out the story that it had been decided it was a “private event.”

Privately, however, some saw it as an act of spite by the new king against his father….

The story then runs through the usual bad and odd deed associated with Vajiralongkorn, well known to all readers of PPT, and his protection under the lese majeste law.

In concluding, the article muses on the future:

The role of the new king is still uncertain. His coronation has been delayed until an unspecified future date, although he has already taken on monarchical duties.

The king is indeed still defining his role, scheming, sacking, disgracing and having the junta do his bidding. In fact, though, delaying coronation is not at all unusual, in Thailand or elsewhere. The article continues:

Although he backed the authoritarian new constitution imposed by the generals, his relationship with the military reportedly is not that close. With most of his time in recent decades spent out of the country, he hasn’t built up the close rapport with particular units that older royals did, despite his own air force training. Practical power will remain in the junta — and the symbolic power of the monarchy may have drained away with the old king.

While we agree with the view that “practical power” will remain with the military, we are not convinced by the idea that the king and military are not close, whatever that might mean. The claim that he has not built a “rapport” might be true, but he has built a relationship and he has allies. After all, as prince, he was associated with, first, the Army, and then with the Air Force. That relationship has been consistent over five decades.

The story then wonders about image:

Looking at the image of Vajiralongkorn, with his mouth seemingly always open in a mildly idiotic gawp, it seems hard to imagine a new [public] faith taking hold.

We are not so sure that the image will matter all that much. Coming to the throne when there’s a military dictatorship means the new king has the kind of “stability” his father always promoted. He seems content not to fill his father’s shoes and seems to favor repression and fear as much as he craves power and wealth.





Funeral, significant others and the world’s gaze

28 10 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the king, the paper observed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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