- By Ranger, Thai Intel’s humanity journalist
I am often asked, how does Thai royalism remain a potent force in Thailand, and my answer has always been the same-that it is a hierarchy of those that are politically savvy in Thailand using Thai royalism for political gains, in combination with Thai that have blind faith in Thai royalism, and the just plainly ignorant Thais supporting Thai royalism-in a hierarchy fashion that supports each other in steps, from the bottom up and top down.
- The Ignorant Segment:
This is the “Tradition is everything” segment.
No doubt, here in Thailand, there are just plainly ignorant Thais-and here is the bottom of the Thai royalism hierarchy. These are mostly un-educated people. For example, the use of lese majeste related laws in Thailand, is supported, because just simply that Thai royalty is seen as good and high people, and so for the rest to criticize Thai royalism, is beyond comprehension. Here, it is mostly about Thai tradition of respect to elders and a hierarchy system.
Personally, I have run into this type of thinking often in Thailand. For example, I am about 50 years old and have made deals with Thais in their 80s and when I fulfilled my end of the bargain, very often, the deal turns sour and I will criticize that elderly person. Thai Intel readers will not believe the type of social sanction, I have gotten, for criticizing many of these elders as being dis-respectful. And here, it can come from anyone, not just those that are not educated. The tradition of respecting elders, is almost written in stones in Thailand, and when one is younger or have less of a social status, criticism of the above is a “taboo” in Thailand.
- The Blind Love Segment:
This is the “We are in love with Thai royalism” segment.
Then above that hierarchy, of ignorance, in the middle, are those with “Blind Love and Faith” in the Thai Royalism system. Here, it is not so much about ignorance, but it mainly about propaganda. Here in Thailand, all media, subscribe to the concept of “Divine Royalism” and on any media, every day, practically, 24 hours a day, somewhere someone is talking of the Thai royalism, with nothing but positive words. This propaganda has been going on for decades in Thailand, and it has left many Thais, with the feeling and thinking that Thai royalism are some type of “God” who are beyond making any mistakes.
So fundamentally, that lowest foundation of ignorance Thais addicted to the social system of blindly following the higher-ups, combined with “Blind Love” through being spoon feed propaganda about how great Thai royalism is, together sets up the situation for the tip of the hierarchy.
- The Political Savvy Segment:
This is the “We benefit from Thai royalism” segment.
That tip of the hierarchy, is use of Thai royalism by the political savvy Thais, to remain in control of Thailand. And here, it is namely the Bangkok establishment control of Thailand. There have been many arguments, if (xxxcensoredxxx) are aware of how Thai royalism, is being used by the top echelons in Thailand to remain in control of Thailand. But all the serious research and conducts by key people of Thai royalism, indicated that Thai (xxxcensoredxxx) are aware and in some circumstances, promotes, the usage of Thai royalism for politics to keep the Thai establishment in control.
- In Summary:
In sum here, the hierarchy, again, is the political savvy at the top, those with blind faith in the middle of the pyramid, and those who are ignorance at the bottom-that is keeping the Thai royalism system, in its current repressive form, with lese majeste laws that will put anyone away for long-term jail sentence, for transgression on the Thai (xxxcensoredxxx).
Here, even knowledge of how lese majeste was used by other monarchy system, in past history, in ways very much the same as in Thailand today, can not even bring light for a “Breakdown” of the Thai royalism hold to its in-humane nature.
- Can the system hold up?
Well, from the ignorance point of view, arguably, millions have seen nude pictures and videos of (xxxcensoredxxx) and more or less, here, the foundation of ignorance, is turning into a deeper understanding. And the Thai society, even without those nude pictures and videos, is rapidly modernizing, where the old culture of respecting the elders and higher-ups in society, is very much breaking down.
Then with the “Blind Love and Faith” where it is mostly about a blind belief in propaganda, again, the concept of a “Blind Love and Faith” to anything, is rapidly giving way to critical thinking, as Thailand modernizes and becomes a complex society. Critical thinking is becoming the norm in Thailand, and “Compartmentalization” of royalism out for exception, perhaps, will not work much longer.
And from a political savvy point of view, arguably, every Thai who knows about Thai politics, can see that Thai royalism, has been dragged into politics, and used in the struggle for political power in Thailand. Here, there is no doubt, especially with the politicians, that Thai royalism is about propping up the Thai establishment-or the control of Thailand by the Bangkok elite. So here, Thai royalism, is nothing much but a convenience tool.
- The “We Do Not Give a Shit Segment”
The majority of Thais, perhaps, are in this, “Whatever” segment.
Lastly, Thai royalism, in its current form, is kept there, by a vast majority of Thais, who just do not care one way or another. These are not political savvy, blind faith or ignorance Thais-but they just simply do not care-and are conducting their life, as if there is no such a thing as Thai royalism.
Thai Intel estimates, that this segment, is the largest in Thailand.
The following is from Newsweek:
Thailand Slides Toward Civil War
Dec 5, 2008 7:00 PM EST
The public siege of its airports may be over, but the country’s political crisis is just heating up.
Last week, after Thailand’s high court disbanded the country’s ruling party and antigovernment demonstrators finally ended their weeklong occupation of Bangkok’s two airports and their three-month siege of Government House, weary stranded travelers could have been forgiven for thinking that the political crisis was over. The estimated 350,000 foreigners who’d been trapped by the blockage have begun their journeys home. Yet for Thailand’s citizens, its politicians, its business community and its foreign investors, nothing concrete has been resolved. Thailand remains a nation divided. Its beloved 81-year-old king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, is in decline and had to unexpectedly cancel his annual birthday speech last Thursday due to illness. King Bhumibol had never previously missed his birthday address, and his absence dashed hopes that he would use the occasion to help resolve the crisis. Instead, political extremism is now mounting, and a frightening new phrase has slipped into the political lexicon: civil war.
Most analysts acknowledge that a civil conflict in the strict military sense—with rival armies fighting over territory and national control—is unlikely. Yet a uniquely Thai version, featuring extreme political violence and dividing the nation into rich vs. poor, urban vs. rural, north vs. south and pro- vs. antiglobalization, has already begun to play out. Its salient aspects include a winner-take-all political culture, a rising authoritarian bent among the country’s traditional elite and the erosion of democratic institutions. “Who will fight? All of the above,” warns Sunai Phasuk, Thailand representative for Human Rights Watch. “It will be both a horizontal and vertical conflict, like a football game that goes very nasty and eventually the crowd jumps in.”
That football match reached fever pitch last week when, for the second time in three months, Thailand’s constitutional court toppled a democratically elected government. A nine-judge panel removed Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from office, dissolved three political parties central to his coalition and banned a handful of top officials for allegedly permitting fraud during the December 2007 election. The ruling came just three months after the same court ousted then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej for briefly hosting a televised cooking show while in office (which violated a no-moonlighting rule he was unaware of). The latest decision was an attempt to strike out at “dishonest political parties [that] undermine Thailand’s democratic system,” said Court President Chat Chalavorn. Critics called the decision a “judicial coup.”
The new verdict was widely anticipated, partly because Thailand’s judiciary is increasingly seen as a tool of an old ruling troika comprised of the military, the monarchy and the Bangkok-based national bureaucracy. Since democracy was restored last year, the judiciary has flagged the government for even the tiniest infractions while refusing to rein in an antigovernment pressure group calling itself the People’s Alliance for Democracy as it sought to impose mob rule. In August, the PAD’s yellow-clad supporters occupied the prime minister’s office, and late last month they shut down both of Bangkok’s civilian airports. Yet the judiciary did nothing. It is also legally proscribed from bringing criminal charges against any participant in the 2006 coup that ousted populist firebrand Thaksin Shinawatra from power. Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, says Thai politics have polarized to such an extreme that even the king—who intervened to stop political violence in 1992—might be unable to broker a lasting truce this time. “That’s not how Thailand works anymore,” he argues. “Each side sees so little reason to compromise that any deal wouldn’t last very long.”
The roots of today’s strife stretch back to 2000, when tycoon turned politico Thaksin engineered a sweeping election triumph by pledging to elevate the country’s rural majority out of poverty. Once in office, he funded village-level development projects, offered nearly free health care and made Thailand’s economy the envy of the region by delivering high growth and reducing the income gap. His economic model played well in the largely rural country and made Thailand an emerging-market star, yet Thaksin’s populism, charisma and superior political skills also made him powerful enemies among Thailand’s traditional power brokers: the military, Bangkok’s political clans, the business elite and the monarchy. Those groups supported Thaksin’s 2006 ouster “because the logical conclusion of his programs would be a transformation of Thailand’s sociopolitical hierarchy [that] would threaten many, many people close to the top,” says Prof. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute for Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
More than two years later, the old elite is still struggling to exorcise Thaksin’s ghost. The man himself now lives in exile in Dubai to avoid jail following his conviction this year on corruption charges. But he speaks frequently to supporters by video link and claims fealty from the coalition elected in a landslide in late 2007 led by remnants of his Thai Rak Thai Party. Now officially banned twice, it has again begun to reconstitute itself, this time as Puea Thai, and likely will maintain its sway over Parliament’s powerful lower house. This resilience has broken a historical pattern whereby democratic movements crushed by Thailand’s military stayed down. “The rural grassroots have been awakened,” says Thitinan, “and they are not going back to sleep.”