A World of Republicans
Where Monarchists Honour Dogs and Imprison Citizens
The Thai monarchy is one of the worst. It certainly disproves the magical belief of British monarchists that the feudal institution somehow protects us from the tyranny that might otherwise take away our rights.
According to Forbes magazine Thailand's former king had accumulated almost £19bn before he died in 2016. But great wealth was not enough for this monarch. He and Thailand's monarchists wanted subservience.
Fifteen Years For Insulting King
In 2019 it seemed as if even opposition to monarchy had become illegal.
That country's electoral commission petitioned the constitutional court asking that it shut down the Thai Save the Nation party on the grounds that it is "hostile to the constitutional monarchy".
This followed the party's nomination for prime minister of the sister of the king. That nomination was blocked by the king.
In the Thai monarchy lèse-majesté, that is insulting the king, was already against the law. A citizen can be locked in goal for fifteen years on one charge of that offence. Even the parents of the estranged wife of the former king's son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, were imprisoned for this "crime"
In 2012 Ampon Tangnoppakul died while serving a twenty-year sentence for insulting the Thai "royal" family. Mr. Ampon was sentenced for sending four SMS messages that were alleged to have violated this law. He was given five years for each message.
In 2013 a ten-year prison sentence was imposed on a Thai journalist accused of insulting his country's "royal" family. Somyot Prucksakasemsuk's "crime" was to have published magazine articles "defaming" Thailand's hereditary head of state.
Thanakorn Siripaiboon, a factory worker, was charged in 2015 with lèse-majesté. His offence was to make remarks about a stray dog that had been rescued by the monarch.
A Well-Behaved Dog
This monarch had written a best-selling book about the well-behaved dog. According to the Financial Times the book "was widely seen as a symbol of the obedience and manners expected in Thailand's hierarchical society".
It seems that Mr. Thanakorn did not learn the right lessons from the monarch's book. He did not act like an obedient subject.
He was also charged with "liking" a social media comment that insulted the monarch.
Even a taxi driver making remarks to a passenger is not safe in Thailand. One was imprisoned for just that.
According to the Financial Times "At least two organisers of bicycle races to honour King Bhumibol and his wife Queen Sirikit died in custody in unexplained circumstances . . . after being accused of using the monarchy's name for personal gain".
In this monarchy the state has a higher regard for dogs than for its citizens. The dog of the old king's son was reported to have the rank of Air Chief Marshal.
The Washington Post reported in 2012 that censors in Thailand had banned a movie adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth because it "has content that causes divisiveness among the people of the nation". According to the film's director the censors did not like anti-monarchy overtones or what they saw as political content. The newspaper said that the Thai state had become more hostile to republican opinion as its hereditary head of state aged and the need to find a successor came closer.
Monarchists Use Violence
On 6 October 1976 royalist mobs, Thai soldiers and right wing paramilitary forces massacred students in attack on Thammasat University.
According to Wikipedia "A day before the massacre, the Thai press reported on a play staged by student protesters the previous day, which allegedly featured the mock hanging of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. In response to this rumored outrage, military and police as well as paramilitary forces surrounded the university. Just before dawn on 6 October, the attack on the student protesters began and continued until noon. To this day, the number of casualties remains in dispute between the Thai government and survivors of the massacre. According to the government, 46 died in the killings, with 167 wounded and 3,000 arrested. Many survivors claim that the death toll was well over 100".
In 2013 there was again violent disorder in the streets of Thailand as the opposition tried to overthrow the democratically elected government. The opposition included what the Financial Times termed "the old royalist establishment".
Opposition protesters fired home-made rockets at the offices of the prime minister after two days of street battles in which government buildings were occupied and lives lost. The European Union described the response of the government as "restrained and proportionate". However, opposition leader and former prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he would "continue to fight" even if elections were called. His government was the very clear loser in the 2011 election.
The opposition denied that it was provoking chaos in order to persuade the military to intervene. The then king made no public statement on the actions of his supporters.
The King Dies and the Arrests IncreaseAfter the 2016 death of the king the military junta was reported by the Financial Times to be "redoubling their crackdown on alleged insults to the monarchy". In the three weeks following the death of the king at least twenty five people were charged with insulting the monarchy.
The newspaper reported that as well as arresting critics of the monarchy the junta was putting pressure on social media sites to censor comments on the monarchy, and was even seeking the extradition of opponents living abroad in seven countries.
When Thailand's Nation newspaper said that the monarchist crackdown by the junta would expose the country to "mockery" it seemed like a huge understatement.
But in the year-long period of mourning the royalist junta had some public support. There were reports of monarchist mobs humiliating people they believed to have insulted the feudal institution.
New King, Worse Than the Old King
Nothing has improved since Maha Vajiralongkorn replaced his father as king.
The prime minister is required to prostrate himself in front of the king.
According to the Economist the king's "personal life is messy: he has churned through a series of consorts, disowning children, and even imprisoning relatives of one jilted partner". The king spends most of his time in Germany.
That same publication reported that the king's poodle, which has the rank of Air Chief Marshall, "used to jump up onto tables to drink from the glasses of visiting dignitaries".
The lèse-majesté law is used to suppress anything that might damage the monarchy, no matter how true, including academic research.
A public memorial to the defeat in 1933 of an attempt to turn Thailand into a royal dictatorship has been removed by the military junta that rules Thailand. A plaque marking the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932 was replaced one night by one praising loyalty to the monarchy.
The king has been consolidating his power and preparing for any challenge to it.
The army commander-in-chief is one of his people. But it is the Royal Guard Command, under the direct command of the king, that will be responsible for security in capital city Bangkok.
The privy council that once included opponents is now full of military officers loyal to the king.
Even in the spiritual there is little room for opposition. He now has the power to appoint the members of the Buddhist governing council. He used it to make his own appointment of chief monk.
Since 2017 he has had control of the agency that manages royal land and investments though to amount to $40bn. In 2018 the agency announced that its assets are the personal property of the king. That makes him the biggest shareholder in both a major bank and an industrial conglomerate.
In an area next to the king's main palace he has cleared out a horse-race track and zoo. Two universities fear that they also may be forced out. The reason for this is not clear but some suspect that the king wants to build an even bigger palace.
Thais for a Republic
Thais for Republic is "a group of Thais who fight to abolish the monarchy-military regime in Thailand".
The group's Web site is at thaipeople4republic.wordpress.com. Follow them on Twitter with #thais4republic.