Thai monarchy in danger?-PPT

June 12, 2009

Royalist fears

Political Prisoners in Thailand: June 3, 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.

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