Taxpayers soaked for zoo

14 01 2022

Back in 2017, it became clear that King Vajiralongkorn wanted the land occupied by the Dusit Zoo as he created a vast royal precinct that has now seen mammoth construction activity.

In an “exchange,” the zoo was kicked out to a 300-rai plot in Pathum Thani’s Thanya Buri district. That land was reported as being “granted” by the king. It was an unequal swap, but no one dared say so.

Vajiralongkorn and animal. Clipped from SCMP

As the king gobbled up the land, some 1,000 or so animals in the Dusit Zoo were made homeless and transferred to other zoos around the country. At the time the land was grabbed, not even the plans for the new zoo had been drawn up.

The zoo is back in the news, with The Nation reporting that Cabinet has “approved a budget of Bt1.1 billion for the construction of a new zoo on a royally granted plot of land in Pathum Thani…”, with construction expected to finish in 2027.

So, to accommodate the king’s desire for a grander palace precinct, the ever-suffering taxpayer must again subsidize the wealthy monarch, this time to the tune of a cool 1.1 billion baht.

Rubbing manure into the taxpayer’s weeping wounds, the regime declared that the zoo would “honour of His Majesty the King…”. He wins twice!

The taxpayer is soaked again, all for the aggrandizement of the monarch.





Repression for the royals

6 01 2022

Widespread anti-monarchism means the regime is deeply concerned.

So worried are the authorities that their twentieth century operational procedures for “protecting the royals are changing.

Prachatai reports that, after several protests against royals and a recent security breach, local cops are being forced to micro-manage every royal outing. In the past, King Vajiralongkorn has been vicious in dealing with officials he sees as having failed him.

In a backwater in Buriram, “a 17 year old student activist, was summoned to the Nong Ki police station … on 3 January to sign a paper affirming that he would not interfere with an upcoming royal procession of Princess Sirindhorn on 5 January.”

An AP Photo

The dumpy princess – always officially declared popular – “was planning to visit two Border Patrol Police Schools in the Lahansai and Pakham Districts on 5 January.  En route, the royal procession was scheduled to pass through Nong Ki District.”

Panicked, the local cops sprang into action. The young activist, Kantapat, says he wasn’t planning anything, but “received a phone call from a police officer on 2 January asking him not to stage any activity on 5 January.” He was called to the police station and forced “to sign a daily record and allow police to confirm his whereabouts via telephone at least twice a day during 3-5 January period.”

Plainclothes police reportedly followed and watched him at his home and at school.

The local cops have been harrassing Kantapat for a couple  of years, and they were clearly spooked by the royal visit and the possibility of face-losing protest.

The report notes that “[p]olice monitoring of activists in advance of royal visits has been frequent since the 2014 coup.” In recent days, this form of political repression has increased.





Welcome back III

2 01 2022

Further to our earlier posts, here and here, Prachatai has now reported on the events at Wongwian Yai, where several anti-112 protesters gathered and a woman broke the security cordon around King Vajiralongkorn.

It recounts that “[t]hree activists, one a 17 year old, were arrested on Tuesday night (28 December) for holding up banners with the message ‘abolish Section 112’ at Wongwian Yai, where a crowd of people were waiting to see King Vajiralongkorn and his entourage.” In fact, five were detained by police. Two were released while those charged were “Sainam, Baipor, and Tawan (last names withheld) – [who] were taken to the nearby Bupharam Police Station.” It is stated that “police released the other two activists as they were only taking pictures of the protest, not shouting or holding up banners.”

Explaining the protest,

Tawan, 20, said that they arrived at Wongwian Yai around 16.00 and were planning to raise their banners when the royal motorcade reached the scene to communicate directly with the King. Although concerned that they might be attacked by royalists, she said that they still wanted to exercise their right to express their opinions.

Tawan added that the woman who ran towards the king “was not part of their group and that they never approached the royal entourage.”

Baipor said that they planned to stand on the footpath but while waiting, were approached by a plainclothes officer who appeared to recognise Sainam. According to Baipor, they told the officer that they were only holding banners and did not intend to cause harm. Unidentified men in yellow shirts then surrounded them. In footage of the incident, formally clad police officers receiving the royal motorcade took part in the arrest.

Tawan added that the men in yellow shirt[s] surrounded them for around an hour. Once the Queen appeared, they lifted up their banner, but the men immediately pulled it down. She said that they were not planning to make noise, but when the men snatched their banners away, they began shouting “abolish Section 112.”  They had earlier decided to do this if they were assaulted. The men dragged them away, putting their hands over the activists’ mouth and choking them in the process.

… A video clip of the incident shows the activists being surrounded by men wearing royal volunteer service yellow shirts and scarves.

These “volunteers” include many police and military officers. They are sent to bolster crowds at royal events.

According to Tawan, when the men sought to physically silence her by placing their hands over her mouth, they knocked her contact lenses out of position, pushing them deep inside her eyelids.  She was later able to remove them but Sainam and Baipor both suffered injuries. Baipor was cut on the lips.

She said “the activists demanded to know what crime they were being charged with. Instead of answering, the officers ordered them to sit down and pushed them to the ground.” Only after the royals had left were they taken to the police station.

The activists were “charged with causing a public commotion and failing to comply with police orders. Each received a 1000-baht fine. Following their release, they said that they were going to a hospital to make a record of their injuries and would by pressing charges against their assailants.”





Welcome back II

1 01 2022

Thai Newsroom has this report on the recent royal security breach:

IN WHAT WAS SEEN AS A RARE occurrence, a Laotion woman unexpectedly approached His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn at Wongwian Yai on Tuesday, police said.

The Laotian woman, namely Saichai Thayalap, 44, was quickly brought out of the scene after she ran from a crowd on the street to a few metres from the monarch who just stepped out of an automobile at King Taksin the Great monument where he attended a homage-paying ceremony marking the Day of King Taksin the Great.

At one instance as the Laotian was unexpectedly approaching, the monarch took a few steps back while his entourage members scrambled to take her away. The royal rituals at the monument proceeded as scheduled.

The woman who was accompanied by a son of hers to the venue and mingled with the well-wishing crowd who repeatedly shouted ”Long Live the King” was known to have emigrated from Savannakhet province of Laos in 2016.

She was treated as a mentally deranged person at a nearby Somdej Chao Phraya hospital on the Thonburi side of the capital, the police said.

She told the police she had telephoned the monarch and used Line to contact him. The police also found her cellphone containing many pictures of the monarch.

Andrew McGregor Marshall’s Facebook page has several videos of the event.





Updated: Welcome back I

29 12 2021

From Prachtai’s Facebook page:

On 19.00, three activists, one of whom is 17 year old, raised banners stating ‘abolish Section 112’ among the crowd that were welcoming the royal procession of King Vajiralongkorn and entourages at Wongwian Yai.

They were subdued by people with yellow shirt and scarf of the royal volunteer service, being injured during the process.
Originally, 5 people were arrested but only 3 activists nicknamed Sainam, Baipor and Tawan were brought to the nearby Bupharam Police Station. The other two had been released.

According to a video footage of the event, there was a woman ran into the King as he got out of the car before being immediately held by guards. It is still unclear whether the released two were the same people or not. Their hair colors are black, unlike a woman activist that has a blond hair.

As of 22.00, the three are still at the police station with lawyers from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

It is reported that the police is conducting a meeting over what charge should be pressed upon them despite originally charging them with causing a commotion in the public which carries a light penalty of paying fines.

A brief interview with Pol Lt Col Seksan Pa-taesang from Buppharam station reported that a woman who ran to the King was sent to Somdej Chao Phraya mental hospital. He hung up while we tried to ask on about the charge of the arrested.

On 23.00, it is reported that the two are also activists. The woman who was sent to the hospital are not in this group. There are 6 characters in the incident as of now: 2 released,3 being held, 1 at hospital.

On 00.30 of 29 December, the three had been released. They were charged with two light penalties of causing commotion in public and not complying with the authorities. The were fined 1,000 baht for each person.

The three said to the media that they would make physical checks to keep records of the injuries and would proceed to filing lawsuit against those that injured them.

Thai Enquirer reports these events. It notes that one video “that circulated on Tuesday night appears to show a woman sprinting towards the royal procession to reach the king himself.”

Of the broader protest, it observes:

Five political activists, including a 17-year-old boy, were arrested and allegedly beaten on Tuesday night for allegedly conducting protests near a crowd of royalists celebrating the royal procession of King Vajiralongkorn and other palace members at Wongwian Yai.

The group of activists raised the three-finger salute not far from the royal motorcade before violence broke out.

A mass of royalists approached the group of young activists and began beating them, grabbing their faces, ripping their banners from their hands.

Several police officers then removed the protesters from the area where the royal procession was taking place.

Thai Enquirer spoke with one of the protesters who complained “that the police were quick to use violence despite the fact that they were protesting peacefully.” She says they were opposing Article 112.

Police “charged the protesters with causing a public nuisance and violating public decency,” which “carry the maximum penalty of up to 1,000 baht in fines…”.

There may be more charges.





Precious courts I

21 12 2021

Prachatai has a report on the judiciary that is worth considering.

Joseph (not his real name) protested the denial of bail for detained activists – some of them held for more than 4 months now. He cut his arm in front of the judge on 11 October 2021 to protest the denial of bail for activists Arnon Nampa and Benja Apan. They are held on lese majeste and other charges.

Now Joseph “has been sentenced to 2 months in prison on a contempt of court charge…”.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) report that Joseph was sentenced by the South Bangkok Criminal Court on 17 December. Because he “confessed and said to the court that his action was symbolic and that he has no intention of hurting anyone, the court reduced his sentence to 1 month in prison and a 250-baht fine. His sentence is also suspended for 6 months.”

Clipped from Prachatai

TLHR calculates “that 26 people have been charged with contempt of court in 16 cases since July 2020. Of these cases, 14 resulted from protests demanding the right to bail for detained activists.”

Joseph is also reportedly:

one of the 13 protesters facing royal defamation and sedition charges under Section 112 [lese majeste] and 116 [sedition] of the Thai Criminal Code, as well as using a sound amplifier without permission under the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act for either reading a statement or giving speeches during the protest in front of the German Embassy in Bangkok on 26 October 2020, in which they submitted a petition calling for the German authorities to investigate King Vajiralongkorn’s use of power during his time in Germany. Joseph is facing charges for reading out a statement in English.





Back to “normal”

5 12 2021

After months and months of calls for monarchy reform, the arrest of hundreds, plenty of political prisoners, the massive use of repression, and hundreds of lese majeste, sedition, and several other charges, what has changed?

If we look at King Vajiralongkorn’s behavior, we guess he’d be content to answer that nothing much has changed. He’s back to his erratic, self-centered “best.”

Readers will recall that when the students first made calls for monarchy reform, the king eventually had to interrupt his long residence in Europe to return to Thailand and engage in a bit of royalist rabble-rousing. That involved a mobilization of his daughters and wives. The king had to spend an extended period in-country, more than he’d done for years.

At the same time, the regime deepened it political repression, emphasizing lawfare.

By early November, it appeared that king and regime figured that they had seen off anti-monarchism, and the king sent a huge number of people, dogs, and royal stuff to Germany. He jetted out in secret in the second week of November. As the the SCMP had it: “He’s back and is feeling at home with his poodles in his favourite kingdom of Bavaria,” Bild wrote, adding he had brought 30 poodles with him from Thailand. The Guardian adds that the king and entourage “booked an entire [4th] floor of the Hilton Munich airport hotel for 11 days.”

The king has quickly re-established his old pattern of quick trips back to Thailand to perform “important” kingly tasks. As far as we can tell, he was back in Thailand, for about 24 hours, when he was required at Wat Phra Kaew, just a few days after arriving in Germany.

And, today, he’s back, again for about 24 hours. This time it is for his dead father’s birthday where he is “scheduled to plant a tree at 4pm on Sunday in a ground-breaking ceremony for a monument to King Rama IX in Bangkok’s Princess Mother Memorial Park.”

We have no idea how much this costs the long-suffering taxpayer. But Metropolitan Police Bureau spokesman Pol Maj-Gen Jirasan Kaewsaengaek revealed that “some 1,300 police officers will be deployed to provide security and control the traffic around the area.” One tree, one king, 1,300 police.

Lots of roads closed and plenty of encouragement for royalists to show up and show support the itinerant monarch.

All pretty “normal.” Obviously, regime and palace feel they can get back to fleecing taxpayers for the royal house.





112 charge for Facebook post

4 12 2021

Via Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Prachatai reports that Warunee (family name withheld), aged 30 and from Phitsanulok was arrested on 2 December 2021 for lese majeste.

Warunee’s charge stems from a Facebook post that included “a picture of King Vajiralongkorn changing the seasonal decoration of the Emerald Buddha, edited so that the Buddha is wearing a dress.” The accused is alleged to have posted an edited photo that had “the Buddha is wearing a purple ball gown with a Yorkshire terrier sitting next to the base of the Buddha, along with the message ‘Emerald Buddha x Sirivannavari Bangkok’.”

The photos in this post are not the photo referred to but illustrate the point being made in the accusation of lese majeste.

King Vajiralongkorn had briefly returned from Europe for this ceremony.

TLHR said that Warunee was arrested at her Phitsanulok home at about 7AM “on an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court and taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) headquarters in Bangkok.” She had not received a police summons before she was arrested.

As is becoming the norm, the “complaint against her was then filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Centre for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group…”.

From Wikipedia

Nopadol complained “that the edited image insulted and made fun of the King, and that the post was rude and inappropriate and could affect national security, as well as insulting the religion.” He has managed the trifecta of royalist “national identity.”

Warunee was charged under Article 112, Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act, and “insulting an object of religious worship under Section 206 of the Criminal Code.”

Warunee has denied all charges and “asked the inquiry officer to summon Nopadol to explain his accusations and to point out which component of the image was offensive.”

The police confiscated her phone and laptop. She was detained overnight at the Thung Song Hong Police Station before being taken to court on 3 December. Her lawyer “requested bail for Warunee on the grounds that she has bipolar disorder and needs to receive continuous treatment. She was later granted bail using a 100,000-baht security.”





People leading

22 11 2021

A report in The Nation got PPT thinking.

The report “How Lalisa took Thai silk to the world stage” reminded us that, until a few years ago, it was always the now aged and disabled Queen Sirikit who was propagandized as the one responsible for taking Thai silk to the world. This article marks a change where people are leading. Sure, the article mentions current Queen Suthida as wearing Thai silk, but no one outside of Thailand knows who she is or even cares.

We then recalled the recent Bangkok Post report and another in The Nation that Bangkok was to get another King Bhumibol Park.

Nothing wrong with having a new park, but why does the city need another expensive park administration that celebrates a dead king who already has a park named in his honor and countless other monuments around the country. If silk can be promoted by commoners, why not a People’s Park instead of another piece of royal idolatry?

The new park  was presented by the Bureau of the Royal Household, with “a virtual design for a new public park that will be built in commemoration of … King Bhumibol Adulyadej…, which is expected to be completed by 2024.”

The other park Suan Luang Rama IX Royal Botanic Garden established in on his 60th birthday in 1987. The stated objectives of this park seem little different from the new one.

The new one will be a large “279 rai of land, which served as the grounds for the Nang Loeng Racecourse of the Royal Turf Club in Dusit district, was donated by King Rama X for park development.”

Donated? To who? Doesn’t belong to the king? How’s he “donating” for more royal aggrandizement (and a nice view from the expanded palace zone).

Who will pay for the construction? Who will pay for its administration?

It is Vajiralongkorn who gets the propaganda value.

So we thought, why not a People’s Park? If he really is donating the land to some other body – the reports lack transparency – then why not a park that celebrates the people. After all, the royals have snatched the zoo and Sanam Luang, both of which were popular for the people. Why not repay/compensate them with a People’s Park?





A royalist ode

21 11 2021

According to Royal World Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn, his queen and his favorite consort have been briefly back in Thailand before returning to Switzerland and Germany. In Thailand:

… King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida of Thailand, with … Princess Bajrakitiyabha, … Princess Rajsarini Siribajra​ and Princess Sirivannavari, along with the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Bilaskalayani presided over the ceremony of changing the seasonal attire for the Emerald Buddha into winter attire. The tradition of changing the robes seasonally; Rainy, Winter, and Summer, held at the Temple of Emerald Buddha….

There is quite a lot to think about in this event. First, why did he and his huge entourage decamp to Europe just a little more than a week ago, to return for just day? Was he trying to be out of the country when the Constitutional Court was promoting absolutism? Or is he just being his usual erratic and dull self? Second, why is the royal family unmasked, especially when they have been in Germany, where the virus is raging. Third, who pays for these expensive jaunts to and from Europe? Finally, why do royalists continue to turn out and support a king who has made it clear he’d rather not be in Thailand? The latter question sent us to poets, with apologies to Thomas Ford:

There is a king erratic and (un)kind,

Was never a face so pleased my mind;

I did but see him passing by. And yet I’ll love him till I die. His gesture, motion, and his grimaces,

His lack of wit, but his voice my heart beguiles,

Beguiles my heart, I know not why,

Yet, I will love him till I die.








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