Democracy: Absolute Monarchy, Democracy & The Chakri Dynasty 80 years latter

  • by Tammy, Thai Intel’s humanity journalist

It is only a round plaque, a very small plaque, placed on the ground where cars zooms over it, on the Royal Plaza where a great stature of a Thai Royalism preside, sits the plaque commemorating the “Revolution” that abolished “Absolute Monarchy” in Thailand.

  • The current Thai King, Bhumibol, is considered “Modern” with a Western education, enjoying even a “Ticker Parade” through the streets of New York and having met Elvis Presley.

Yet the Thai Ultra Royalist, acknowledge as a Fascist movement, exists even in the USA, the home of Democracy. And foreign press, like Bloomberg, AFP and Reuters, continues to spill out nothing but mostly, anti-Democracy Thai news for the globe.

  • Today, 80 years ago, it was the end of Thai “Absolute Monarchy” when a group of soldier staged a revolution against the Thai King, and bought “Constitutional Monarchy” to Thailand, under Democracy.

Since then, if you know Thailand, the history has been “Dangerous” with countless coup to the far extreme right-wing, always using the threat to the Monarchy as the excuse, mixed in with bouts of real and genuine Democracy.

  • All in all, about 23 coups occurred during that 80 years time and countless constitution. And about every 10 years, a massacre of the Thai people where all in all, have killed 1,000s of Thai citizens so far.

What is remarkable, is that there never was any accountability of the 1,000s killed citizens and more so, Democracy have never taken roots in Thailand strong enough, to off-set the move towards the far extreme Fascist right-wing.

  • But the latest poll in Thailand says it all, that about 70% to 80% of Thais wants Democracy, leaving about 20% wanting a Fascist, non-Democratic Thailand. More polls says, the Thais wished that Thailand’s oldest political party, the Democrat Party of Abhisit, stood for Democracy.

It is a sad fact, that only 2 weeks ago, two group of Thais merged their movement, in calling for Thailand to turn to “Absolute Monarchy” and said they will start a campaign against Democracy in Thailand, saying, quote: “Democracy is not suitable for Thailand.”

  • Most Thai observer now say, Thailand is moving away from violent coups to a more kinder “Judicial Coup.”

It is also a sad fact, that currently, Abhisit’s Democrat Party, is campaigning against the amending of the “Military Constitution” where, a few years back, during the brief Thai civil war, Aung San Suu Kyi said, quote: “Thailand is the proof that a military constitution does not work.”

Here in Thailand, there is the Ultra Royalist, Yellow Shirts, who are also campaigning to “Re-Form” Thailand along the line of “Absolute Military Dictatorship” and are against amending the military constitution.

And the latest in Thailand, is the well-known now of a “Judicial Coup” to keep the “Military Constitution” going, where under the military constitution, selected judges and units, have power over the elected government.

  • Thailand have emerged to the point, where the voice of the Thai citizen, again, means very little and power again, is in the hands of the selected few, who calls themselves Ultra Royalist. In more common terms, the Thai establishment have taken control of Thailand, yet again, from the people of Thailand, through the courts and the units.

How did Thailand ever got to this point?

After 80 years, of the end to “Absolute Monarchy” that ushered in Democracy, the cry, by the Royalist to “Protecting the King” continues to be a powerful tool in Thailand against Democracy.

“Thailand’s Royalism is unique and the Thai people are too stupid to vote,” is the rationale sold by the Thai establishment everyday.

But life ends one day for everyone, including the head of Thai Royalism currently, 84 now, whose life work is filled with good for the Thai people. Unfortunately, he will never be remembered, as someone who assisted in developing Thailand’s Democracy.

The following is from Wikipedia:

The Monarchy of Thailand (also referred to as the King of Thailand or historically as King of Siam) (Thai: พระมหากษัตริย์ไทย) refers to the constitutional monarchy and monarch of the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly Siam). The King of Thailand is the head of state and head of the ruling Royal House of Chakri. The king’s power is limited to being a symbolic figurehead, but the institution commands the respect and reverence of the Thai people.[1]

The current monarch of Thailand is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The king has reigned since 9 June 1946, making him the world’s longest reigning current monarch and the world’s longest serving head of state. Most of the king’s powers are exercised by his elected government in accordance with the current post-coup constitution. The king still retains many powers such as: being head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, the prerogative of royal assent and the power of pardon. He is also the defender of the Buddhist faith in Thailand.

The Thai monarchy has been in continuous existence since the founding of the Kingdom of Sukhothai in 1238. The institution reached its current constitutional form in 1932 after a coup revolution, which ended the absolute monarchy. The monarchy’s official residence is the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. However the present king spends most of his time at the Chitralada Palace (also in Bangkok) and the Klai Kangwon Villa in Hua Hin.

 

History

Origin

The current concept of Thai kingship has evolved through 800 years of absolute rule. The first king of a unified Thailand was the founder of the Kingdom of Sukhothai: King Sri Indraditya in 1238. The idea of this early kingship is said to be based on two concepts derived from Hinduism (which the Thais inherited from its previous rulers the Khmers) and Theravada Buddhist beliefs. The first concept is based on the Vedic-Hindu caste of “Kshatriya” (Thai: กษัตริย์), or warrior-ruler, in which the king derives his powers from military might. The second is based on the Theravada Buddhist concept of “Dhammaraja” (Thai: ธรรมราชา), Buddhism having been introduced to Thailand somewhere around the sixth century A.D. The idea of the Dhammaraja (or kingship under Dharma), is that the king should rule his people in accordance with Dharma and the teachings of the Buddha.

These ideas were briefly replaced in 1279, when King Ramkhamhaeng came to the throne. Ramkhamhaeng departed from the Khmer tradition and created instead a concept of “paternal rule” (Thai: พ่อปกครองลูก), in which the King governs his people as a father would govern his children.[2] This idea is reinforced in the title and name of the King, as he is still known today, Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng (Thai: พ่อขุนรามคำแหง) (“Pho” is Thai for Father). However this lasted only briefly, by the end of the kingdom the two old concepts had returned as symbolized by the change in the style of the kings; “Pho” was changed to “Phya” or Lord.

Kings of Ayutthaya

The Kingdom of Sukhothai was eventually supplanted by the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, which was founded in 1351 by King Ramathibodhi I. During the Ayutthayan period the idea of kingship changed. Due to ancient Khmer tradition in the region, Hindu concept of kingship was applied for the status of the leader. Brahmins took charge in the royal coronation. The king was believed to be the reincarnation of Hindu gods. Ayutthaya historical documents show the official titles of the kings in great variation; Indra, Shiva and Vishnu, or Rama. Seemingly, Rama was the most popular, as in ‘Ramathibodhi’. However, Buddhist influence was also evident as many times the king’s title and ‘unofficial’ name related to Bodhisattava, Dhammaraja, or King of Dharma, and the ‘sprout of Buddha‘. The two former concepts were re-established, with a new third concept taking a more serious hold. This new concept was called “Dhevaraja” (Thai: เทวราชา) (or Divine-King), which was an ideal borrowed from Hinduism and especially the Brahmins. This concept centered on the idea that the king was an incarnation (Avatar) of the god Vishnu and that he was a Bodhisattva (enlightened one), therefore basing his power on his religious power, moral power and purity of blood.

The king, portrayed by state interests as a semi-divine figure, then became – through a rigid cultural implementation – an object of worship and veneration to his people. From then on the monarchy was largely removed from the people and continued under a system of absolute rule. Living in palaces designed after Mount Meru (Home of the gods in Hinduism), the kings turned themselves into a “Chakravartin” or literally from Sanskrit “whose wheels are moving”, where the King became an absolute and universal lord of his realm. Kings demanded that the universe be envisioned as resolving around them, and expressed their powers through elaborate rituals and ceremonies. For four centuries these kings ruled Ayutthaya, presiding over some of the greatest period of cultural, economic and military growth in Thai History.

Sakdina and Rachasap

The kings of Ayutthaya; especially King Trailokanat created many institutions to support their rule such as the bureaucracy and a system of Sakna or Sakdina, (ศักดินา: literally, power over fields but usually translated as feudalism; and the creation of “Rachasap” (Thai: ราชาศัพท์ Royal Thai) reserved exclusively for addressing the king or talking about royalty. The king’s power was absolute and sovereign: as the “Lord of the Land” (พระเจ้าแผ่ดิน Phra Chao Phaendin) and Lord of Life (เจ้าชีวิต Chao Chevit). The king was also the chief administrator, chief legislator and chief judge. Therefore all laws, orders, verdict and punishments theoretically originated from his person. All of this came to an end in 1767 when a Burmese army under the Alaungpaya Dynasty invaded, sacked and burned the city of Ayutthaya.

Chakri Kings

After a brief interlude filled first by civil war then the short-lived Thonburi Kingdom under King Taksin. In 1782 a new kingdom was established by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (or Rama I) and moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok. King Rama I also founded the House of Chakri, the current ruling house of Thailand.

During the Rattanakosin Period the Chakri kings tried to continue the concepts of Ayutthayan kingship once again emphasizing the connection between the sovereign and his subjects. On the other hand they continued to not relinquish any authority of the throne. During this period (King Rama II, Rama III and Rama IV) tried to create the first semblance of a modern government, creating ministries and appointing chief ministers to help with the running of the government. Most notable of these was Somdet Chao Phraya Prayurawongse and Si Suriyawongse, who both acted as Chief Ministers for King Mongkut and (as regent until 1873) to King Chulalongkorn, respectively.

King Chulalongkorn (or Rama V) ascended the throne as king of Siam in 1868. King Chulalongkorn; himself educated by westerners, was intent on reforming the monarchy along western lines. First he abolished the practice of kneeling and crawling in front of the monarch [a practice reinstated under the 9th Dynasty] and repealed many laws concerning the relationship between the monarch and his people. Instead he created a monarchy based on western lines of an ‘enlightened ruler’; absolute but enlightened. However he continued to preserve many ancient aspects and rituals of the old kingship, including his religious and feudal powers. In 1874 the King created a privy council, copied from the European tradition to help him rule his Kingdom. During his reign Siam was pressured to relinquished control of it old tributaries of Laos and northern Malaya to Western powers, Siam itself narrowly avoided being colonized. His son King Vajiravudh (or Rama VI) (succeeded in 1910) continued his father’s zeal for reform and brought the monarchy into the 20th century. He was succeeded by his brother King Prajadhipok (or Rama VII) in 1925.

Change

In June 1932, a group of foreign educated students and military men called “the Promoters” carried out a bloodless Revolution, seizing power and demanded that King Prajadhipok, grant the people of Siam a constitution. The king agreed and in December 1932 the people were granted a constitution, ending 150 years of absolute Chakri rule. From then on the role of the monarch was relegated to that of a symbolic head of state. His powers from then on was exercised by the Prime Minister and the National Assembly

In 1935 King Pradhipok abdicated the throne, following disagreements with the increasingly authoritarian government. Rama VII lived in exile in the United Kingdom until his death. The king was replaced by his young nephew Ananda Mahidol (or Rama VIII). The new king was 10 years old and was living abroad in Switzerland; a council of regents was appointed in his place. During this period the roles and powers of the King was entirely usurped by the fascist government of Plaek Phibunsongkhram, who aligned Siam on the side of the Axis powers during the Second World War. By the end of the war Phibunsongkhram was removed and the young King returned. During the War many of the King’s relatives were part of the Free Thai movement, which provided resistance to foreign occupation during the war and helped rehabilitate Thailand after the war.

After the Rama VIII’s mysterious death in 1946 his brother, Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej (or Rama IX), aged 19 years old, became the new monarch, Rama IX. To date he is the world’s longest still-serving Head of State and longest reigning monarch (of current monarchs still serving).

Beginning approximately in 2000, the role of the Thai monarchy was increasingly addressed by scholars, media, observers and traditionalists as the current king’s health deteriorated with advancing age, and as more educated pro-democracy interests began to express their rights to speech. In reaction to these academic and political inquiries, the Thai state enacted a series of laws and measures claimed – without demonstrated to relate to protection of national security. Almost without exception international scholars, and those daring to speak within the kingdom, have protested against what they view as inappropriate state censorship. This in turn led to dozens of arrests, hundreds of criminal investigations, multiple imprisonments and explanations to the foreign diplomatic community that national security was under threat. To date, no real legal challenges have been introduced into Thai courts to test the legitimacy of these laws and other emergency measures.

Since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, each constitution has maintained the king as “enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.” His Majesty, however, in his 2005 national birthday broadcast, specifically indicated he was unhappy with the provision and wanted to be violated and criticized. Despite this royal wish, Thai state authorities have steadfastly refused to permit not just criticism but what they deem to be inappropriate discussion. The constitution exempts the king and the royal family from legal actions but confers no other legal rights.

Therefore, the monarchy is protected against any physical or defamatory threats. This provision against defaming the monarchy is known in the West as the lèse majesté law.[3] Violations of this law have led to arrests of travelers to Thailand who have been alleged to have made disparaging comments or been linked to deemed-to-be disparaging information on the internet.[4] To date legal scholars and law firms in Thailand have been totally reluctant to challenge the constitutional nature of the lese majeste law, which is in part linked closely with another often abused criminal code provision – that dealing with criminal defamation.

The king is assisted in his work and duties by the Private Secretary to the King of Thailand and the Privy Council of Thailand, in consultation with the head of the cabinet, the Prime Minister. In accordance with the constitution the king is no longer the originator of all laws in the kingdom; that prerogative is entrusted to the National Assembly of Thailand. All bills passed by the legislature, however, require his royal assent to become law. The monarchy’s household and finances are managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household and the Crown Property Bureau respectively, these agencies are not considered part of the Thai government and all personnel are appointed by the king.[5]

The heir apparent to the Thai monarchy is the Crown Prince of Thailand, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. The succession to the throne is governed by the 1924 Palace Law of Succession, promulgated by King Vajiravudh. The rule of succession is male agnatic primogeniture, where only males are accepted and inheritance is between male lines, from father to son. However, the last two Constitutions of Thailand included provisions to permit for the amendment of the Palace Law to allow females to succeed. This seems unlikely with the birth of Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti in 2005, yet scholars continue to debate the subject.