The literary magazine ‘Granta’ published a series of essays, probably in 1998, by noted media commentators expressing their immediate reactions upon hearing the news of Princess Diana’s death in a car crash. As I recall, many of the articles were suspicious of the British Queen’s possible involvement in the accident. The writers expressed that their initial reactions ranged from “a fortuitous event for the monarch” to; to my own personal favourite; “did the Queen fix her brakes?”
In the UK and many other countries, we have the freedom to criticise our leaders. For the most part, those occupying privileged positions are not protected from public censure, freedom of thought and the ability to voice those thoughts is considered to be an essential human right.
Not so in Thailand. Sixty three years after the murder of his brother, Rama VIII behind closed doors in the palace where the only other occupant of the room was the present incumbent, any free discussion, albeit in private, as to the mystery may well result in 15 years imprisonment under the country’s draconian lese majeste laws. A law I hasten to add, which is frequently enacted to suppress political dissent as well as to shroud matters the monarchy do not wish broadcast.
The scope of Thailand’s lese majeste decree is pervasive and directly encroaches upon many aspects of a just enforcement of the local system. Thailand’s king is the recognised supremo of the police, the judiciary and the prison system and despite it being common knowledge that these institutions are absolutely corrupt, speaking out against them very often results in further convictions for breaches of lese majeste edicts.
Thai academics such as Prof. Uwanno Boewonsak, a member of the king’s Privy Council, preached in the Bangkok Post early this year that having a Lese Majeste law which protected the incumbent from public reproach was not at the expressed wish of the king, but rather at the universal acclaim of the people. Only Thais, as a function of their dismally low IQ’s (75-85) could be gulled by this rejection of logic. Boewonsak declared that, unlike Thais, we Farangs were flawed (shades of 1984), because we didn’t sufficiently revere the monarchy, which mental defect enabled us to think subversive thoughts in respect to Rama IX.
I consider that the Thai people embrace the lese majeste law not because of love for Rama IX but rather from fear of the king. Much in the same way that Dr. Goebbels promoted the common Germans’ love of the Fuhrer in Nazi Germany, and comrade Beiria gave the Russian proletariat a cozy warm feeling towards Stalin with his brand of propogrands, so Prof. Dr. Uwanno Boewonsak is doing his damnedest to present a fratricide as a loving father of his nation.
Is it true though that Bhumbibol is universally loved by the populace? Given the low IQ this shouldn’t prove to be an impossible task for any self-respecting public relations commissar to maintain. Such though is the resilience (and the internet goes a long way to help ) of the inquisitiveness of humankind, that global facts can’t remain repressed forever. Despite a predilection for rejecting contrary data inherent in the Thai people, even ‘Local’ data passes into the ‘global’ domain.
In fact, it’s very much because of Thai ‘doublethink’ that the true negative value of a ‘local fact is not seen as a dangerous truth. Thanks to the Internet, local truths can be both readily promulgated and verified.
A significant number of Thais don’t unreservedly love Bhumbibol, Several Thai publications decry the number of Thai language websites that are notably anti-monarchy. One such article stated that 2,700 sites were, by order of the ministry of information and communications technology, closed down each week because of content that portrayed the king and his family in a seditious manner. This number sounds high to me, but even at one tenth the value it is strongly indicative that a significant number of Thais are insisting upon their human right to document the abuses imposed upon the nation by a hypocritical (alleged) fratricide.
A fundamental failing of the Thai intellect is their inability to reason long term effects from prior causes. A Thai will confidently broadcast an easily dis-provable statement to achieve a short-term advantage.
One such claim is that Bhumbibol, and selected members of the Chakri dynasty, have been revered throughout the whole of their reign. The ‘immediate’ facts do indeed seem to support this assertion. Enter any Thai dwelling school or business and you’ll see innumerable posters of Rama V or Rama IX festooning the available wall space.
Has this adulation for the monarch extended all the way back to the start of his reign and beyond? Yes, most assuredly according to Thai historians, certainly not according to more research minded non-Thai historians. However, in fairness, one must remember that anyone who even remotely hints that the incumbent is anything other than universally adored – and note well, this equally applies to non-Thais commenting from outside of Thailand! – is liable to join me in the Bangkok Hilton for up to 15 years hard time.
Notwithstanding Thailand’s attempt to enforce a global ban on reporting the true history of its monarchy, publications such as the UK’s Economist (www.economist.com) have some very fine articles exposing the ‘myth behind the monarch’. A good summation was included in the December 04 2008 article entitled: “A right royal mess”, banned in Thailand (http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12724800 - fourteen day free subscription required).
Regarding the fable that Bhumbibol has been universally adored since his ascension (1946), The Economist reports that the main reason Thailand didn’t become a republic by 1970 was the Vietnam War. At the start of American involvement in the war the Thais universally despised the King, not loved him. Needing a staunch ally against communist incursion into the last region not controlled by Bolshevikism, the United States of America pumped millions of dollars into an ongoing campaign to brainwash the Thais into loving their king. One manifestation of this was to simultaneously strictly enforce the then lese majeste laws as well as insisting that each home was given posters of the Royal family. For more info on the USA and their Cold War antics in Thailand have a look at ‘The Revolutionary King: The True-life Sequel to "The King and I"’; ISBN-13: 978-1841194516, a book banned in Thailand as it tells a bit more than they want people to know
For myself though, I prefer to use intellectual jujitsu against my enemies. In this case official Thai statistics. As said, the Thais are definitely not the sharpest knives in the cutlery draw, in fact you’d be hard pressed to find any blunter! Without foreseeing the consequences, senior members of the Thai ministry of Information and Communication Technology permitted the state executioner, Chuvaret Juraboon, to publish ‘petchakart concuthai’ (the last executioner) :ISBN 974-924-446-x.
An English language version of the book was sanitised for overseas readers, but not included in that English version was a table of the numbers of those machine gunned to death by Juraboon and his ilk and the crimes they were alleged to have committed.
The table presented on page 174 of the book relates that between 1935 and 2003, 319 people were executed; 3 of those females. The table categorises the executions of follows:
For murder - 270
For security against the kingdom offences - 5
For offences against the Royal family - 19
For drug cases - 25
Now hang on there for a minute. Nineteen people executed for, presumably, attempting to assassinate the world’s best loved monarch, surely not? What one has to bear in mind is that there are also an unspecified number of would be assassins who were unfortunately gunned down by the fratricides bodyguards and were dead before they could stand trial. I’ll leave it to you to guesstimate now many.
Perhaps I should rethink my position of being a republican and study Comrade Marx instead? Seems like Bhumbibol rarely has a year that isn’t ‘annus horriblis’. Fingers crossed though nudge, nuge, wink, wink.
Bang Kwang Bridget.