Executed for their king-Andrew MacGregor Marshall
March 17, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: It might be expected that we cannot criticise nor honestly report upon the fatal results of a Thai court decision 57 years ago. I honour these men. They most certainly went to their deaths to protect two Thai kings.]
Andrew MacGregor Marshall
ZenJournalist: January 2012
On February 17, 1955, But Pathamasarin, Chit Singhaseni and Chaleo Pootomros were executed by firing squad. The killings were overseen by Phao Sriyanond. As Time‘s account of the executions makes clear, it was widely known that justice had not been done:
Who killed King Ananda Mahidol? For close to nine years, Siamese have asked the question—privately, over the tinkle of thousands of teacups; publicly, in one of the longest murder hearings in history.
On the morning of June 9. 1946, the young King (elder brother of the present popular, jazz-composing King Phumiphon Adundet) was found in his bed with a bullet hole through his forehead and a .45 near his hand. Soon afterward, the then Premier, Pridi Phanomyong, announced that the King had killed himself accidentally.
A year later there was a small revolution. Marshal Phibun Songgram, Pridi’s ancient rival in the seesaw of Siamese politics, took over as Premier and charged that Pridi himself was responsible for the King’s murder. (Pridi has since turned up in Peking, leading a “Free Thai” movement blessed by the Communists.) In the years that followed, successive courts of inquiry tried to fix the blame for the King’s death on other guilty parties to no positive avail.
Last week, in the midst of Bangkok’s frenetic preconference housecleaning, the Phibun government did its best to remove the skeleton from Ananda’s closet by executing three Siamese vaguely convicted of “complicity” in his murder. The three were the late King’s pages, Busya Patamasirind, 50, and Chit Singhaseni, 44, who discovered the body, and the King’s former secretary, Chaliew Pathumros, who had been fired a month before the King’s death. At 5 o’clock one morning last week, fortified with a final bottle of orange squash apiece, the three were led into the execution pavilion at Bangkwang Prison. Their hands were clasped together in the traditional Buddhist greeting and lashed to an upright pole. In each upraised hand, prison guards placed a ceremonial candle, joss sticks and a garland of small, pink Siamese orchids. Then a dark blue curtain was dropped behind each victim and the executioner fired a burst from his machine gun.
That morning Police Chief General Phao Srihanond had dropped by for a last chat with Private Secretary Chaliew, his comrade-in-arms during an anti-government coup back in 1932. “Good-bye, old comrade,” said the general as machine-gun slugs tore into his friend. After ten rounds, Chaliew was dead. It took ten more rounds before the prison doctor pronounced Chit dead, and 20 full rounds for Busya. But at last the execution was done, the closet was tidy, and only one question remained unanswered: Who killed King Ananda?
In The King Never Smiles, Paul Handley discusses Sangwan’s interesting behaviour at the time of the executions:
Princess Mother Sangwal [began] a private course in soulclearing vipassana meditation two days before the execution. For one month she conﬁned herself to Srapathum Palace, emerging only to meet her meditation teacher Phra Thepsiddhimuni at Wat Mahathat. Sangwal’s sudden desire to meditate was later explained as a result of her suffering from insomnia, but the timing suggests that she sought to clear her conscience.
Nearly nine years after Bhumibol fired the shot that killed his brother, three more people had died because of his actions that morning and the lies and evasions that had followed. He had probably believed, at the time, that the whole episode could be dismissed as an accident, and that the right thing to do was to cover it up and to do his royal duty. Now he had three more deaths on his conscience, after a trial that had already seen two defense counsel murdered. Pridi Banomyong remained in exile, and Thailand was ruled by a venal and unabashedly criminal military regime.