Tag Archives: Pumipon

The desperation of Thailand’s Rabid Royalist Generals

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

In 2017 I wrote that the Thai military junta was in the process of changing their relationship with the monarchy after the death of Pumipon [see https://bit.ly/2U73qEP and https://bit.ly/2Rwh8iO ].

I argued that the new king Wachiralongkorn was not fit for purpose and the military would be relying much more on its “National Strategy” for Guided Democracy, which was being elevated into a “sacred” ideology to enforce a conservative agenda upon all areas of society. I also argued that the new monarchy in the form of Wachiralongkorn would be less important for the junta and its conservative allies in the future.

Three years later, events have shown that things are more complicated.

Firstly, the “National Strategy”, which was basically a weapon to control any future elected civilian governments, turned out to be not so important because Prayut and his junta friends managed to fix the electoral rules and ensure that they stayed in power after the sham elections. The National Strategy has probably been put on the back-burner but could be used in the future.


Secondly, Wachiralongkorn is still clearly not fit for purpose and is very unpopular due to his appalling behaviour [see https://bit.ly/37Ci62S ]. There have been some feeble attempts to “soften” the image of the present king by much less use of the lèse-majesté law and announced measures to reduce traffic jams due to traffic being stopped when various royals travel by car. But instead of the lèse-majesté law, the government have been using the computer crimes law.

It is impossible for the military to come out with believable “wise” quotes or policies to solve national problems in the way they did with his father. Yet, the military have not abandoned or reduced the importance of the institution of the monarchy as a tool to prop-up the military intervention in politics and the rule of the elites. Despite the fact that Wachiralongkorn, as a person, is not exactly the same as the institution of the monarchy, they are closely linked and any attempt to uncouple the two will result in huge contradictions. Never the less, the more rabid royalist military generals are hoping that they can promote the importance of the monarchy while trying to ignore Wachiralongkorn.

picture from khaosodenglish

One symptom of this policy by the rabid royalist generals is the continuing attempt to erase all monuments which remind us of the 1932 revolution against the absolute monarchy. See https://bit.ly/2Rzm7Q0  and https://bit.ly/2GB4B7n . Various democracy monuments have been removed and the latest acts involve removing statues from military camps of some generals who helped lead the revolution. Field Marshall Pibun is one of the victims. But we do not have to be too concerned about him as he had fascist leanings! [See https://bit.ly/36Ax8Vt ].

Another symptom is the fact that people are being accused of not being loyal to the “Democratic System with the King as Head of State”. This kind of charge was unsuccessfully made against the Future Forward Party.

Fear of the consequences of a charge of not being loyal to the “Democratic System with the King as Head of State” is being used to beat people into being subservient to the present military government.


It would be a mistake to think that Wachiralongkorn is pulling the strings behind these policies, as some misguided commentators believe. It is the military who are in the driving seat and Wachiralongkorn is manipulated by them [see https://bit.ly/2EOjsNL ].

Make no mistake, this military government, which is based on its parliamentary dictatorship, is a vicious, backward and incompetent regime without any democratic legitimacy. It cannot solve the problem of terrible air pollution and spends its time harassing people organising peaceful demonstrations. In addition to this it allows state officials who have committed murder to enjoy impunity. The latest case involves those who are responsible for the murder of the Karen environmental activist “Billy” [see https://bit.ly/2uBbsLF ].

Pro-democracy activists in Thailand will need to build a mass movement that challenges military rule and attempts to use the monarchy as a tool of terror. Hopefully, Wachiralongkorn’s behaviour and unpopularity will cause the project of the Rabid Royalist Generals to unravel. But there also needs to be a strong push from below.


The reactionary legacy of Prem Tinsulanon

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

General Prem Tinsulanon, who died last week, was a true representative of the reactionary Thai ruling class. He held the office of Prime Minister in a “Guided Democracy” system between 1980 and 1988. In this system he was not an elected Member of Parliament, but held office with the support of various right-wing political parties in an elected parliament. This is the kind of scenario that Generalissimo Prayut dreams about for his own political career.

Along with most military officers since Pibun, he was a royalist. This meant that he understood the importance to the military of using, promoting and defending the monarchy.


After the bloodbath at Thammasart University on 6th October 1976, hundreds of students went to join the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) in jungle strongholds. At the time, the Communist Party had a great deal of support among sections of the population and started to pose a threat to the ruling class. However, as the students became disillusioned with the lack of internal democracy inside the party and the loss of support from the China for the CPT struggle, which was a result of the changing geo-political situation, they started to drift back to the cities. The Chinese government placed more importance on building ties with the Thai government than supporting the CPT. [See https://bit.ly/2d1iZbj ]

Prem took advantage of this situation and reversed the hard-line policies of the post 6th October governments towards the communists. When he became Prime Minister in 1980, he announced the “Prime Ministerial Order 66/23”, which in effect, gave an amnesty to CPT fighters who wished to return to normal life. This helped to destroy the CPT and helped to end the armed conflict. Prem showed his political insight when he told the media that “the students joined the Communists because they were brutally suppressed. The way to undermine the Communists was to establish justice in society”.

Prem also seemed to understand the need for a political solution to the armed struggle in Patani. His government co-opted local religious leaders into mainstream politics in order to control the situation, while at the same time never giving in to separatist demands or any progressive policies which might go against the interests of the ruling class. This resulted in a temporary peace, but it did not last, since the real grievances were never addressed.

In April 1981, when Young Turk military officers tried to stage a coup against his government, Prem publically took the king with him to a military base in Korat, thus signalling to the Young Turks that their attempts had failed.

After stepping down as Prime Minister in 1988 he joined the Privy Council. As Chairman of the Privy Council, his main role was to be the key link between King Pumipon and the military and business class. He advised the weak and cowardly king on many key occasions.


One such occasion was when the ruling class needed to find a way out for the generals to save face after General Suchinda Kaprayoon’s failed attempt to cling on to power one year after his military coup in 1992. A mass popular uprising overthrew Suchinda in 1993 but the ruling class needed to maintain control. Prem organised to get Suchinda and the leader of the anti-military uprising to grovel in front of King Pumipon on national TV.

Soldiers like General Surayut Julanon were under Suchinda’s command and during the attempts to put down the pro-democracy uprising in 1993, Surayut was responsible for violence against medics treating wounded demonstrators in the Royal Hotel. Later Surayut became a military appointed Prime Minister after another coup in 2006. He has now been appointed as temporary Chairman of the Privy Council.


As so-called “Elder Statesman” and Chairman of the Privy Council, Prem always sided with military officers who staged coups and destroyed democracy, including Generalissimo Prayut’s military junta.

On the issue of the conflict in Patani he maintained his support for Thai imperialism by opposing the suggestion, made by the National Reconciliation Commission, that the local Yawee language be used as a working language, alongside Thai, in all government departments in Patani.

On the issue of Taksin Shinawat’s brutal war of drugs, where hundreds of people were killed without trial, Prem was featured of large posters warning people that using and dealing in amphetamines would send them to their graves.

Prem earned the intense hatred of red shirts because of his closeness to King Pumipon. Many red shirts mistakenly believed that Pumipon ordered the killing of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. It was in fact the military who gave the order and carried it out with the support of Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. But Prem became a target for much abuse by people who were afraid to directly criticise the monarchy because of the draconian lèse-majesté law.


General Prem Tinsulanon was a reactionary, anti-democratic, member of the Thai ruling class. His death is being celebrated by those who wish to see a democratic Thailand.


Further reading: Thailand’s Crisis and the Fight for Democracy (2010).  http://bit.ly/1TdKKYs


The official religion in Thailand is not Buddhism but “Monarchy”

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

As far as the Thai ruling class is concerned, the official religion of the country, which they are forever trying to ram down our throats, is not Buddhism but “Monarchy”.

For historical and philosophical reasons Buddhism has not been the main authoritarian tool of the Thai ruling class. Kings and military dictators were always wary of building up rivals if they promoted the power of the monks. Since the late 1950s the military sought to control the monks and make sure that they were mainly apolitical. This is unlike in Burma or Lao where the Buddhist monks were politicised by the nationalist movements.

Thai Buddhism is also a religion based on the actions of private individuals who try to amass merit. Thai monks do not usually give public sermons in order to control the beliefs of the population. Buddhism is also practiced in a manner which is strongly laced with animistic beliefs in spirits and ancient superstitions or it is mixed with Hinduism.

This is why the mass religion used to pacify and control the masses in Thailand is “Monarchy” and the idea that the king is god-like. This has become much more important in modern Thailand after the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in the 1932 revolution and the reinvention of the monarchy in the late 1950s during the Cold War. Manic promotion of the King took on new proportions during the 1980s. It was a buttress against the ideas of equality and democracy; a justification for the non-democratic influence and power of the military and other elites.

In reactionary Christian or Muslim societies, ruling classes have tried to justify their authoritarian positions and dictatorial decrees by quoting “the holy book”.

The “holy book” is an inanimate object, the work of many human hands, and is open to multiple interpretations. They claim the book comes from “God”. It is a tool used by reactionary rulers and powerful priests to justify their dictatorship and the subjugation of those they rule over. Yet the book also has to have parts which seem to ring true and connect with the lives of the oppressed and those who have little hope.

The Spanish Inquisition was all about ruthlessly rooting out opposition political and religious views. Fascism in the twentieth century also sought to ruthlessly root out oppositional views in the name of the fatherland by using religious-like myths about a pure race from ancient times. None of these authoritarian creeds were based on the use of reason.

The moulding and construction of the Thai monarchy in its present form is like making the “holy book”. The present day Thai monarch is an unremarkable human being, a pathetic creature, who has been built up to be a super human of many supposed talents, but also a god to which people must prostrate themselves. We are led to believe that Pumipon loves and protects his people, especially those with little hope. He is supposed to be an accomplished national leader, peace-maker, educator, economist, scientist, agriculturalist and musician. This myth is merely a huge royal cart-load of horse manure.

Pumipon’s statements are guided by others who have real power in society. His words can be easily manipulated because they are open to multiple interpretations. The region of “Monarchy” is a tool used by the military, the bureaucratic elites, the politicians and the business tycoons in order to justify the “natural pecking order of things” and to “prove” that every undemocratic thing that the powerful elites do is “correct” because it is sanctioned by the god-king.

In the past, Pumipon sat in his secluded palace, soaked in paranoia, surrounded by fawning toadies. The only real friends that he has are his dogs. His dysfunctional and parasitic family were also treated like semi-gods. Now Pumipon can barely function as a human being. Yet he is still useful to the ruling class and so will his son be when he becomes king. The real lack of abilities and social graces of these people is not important because no one should question the “holy book” or in this case the “holy god-king”.

The god-king is defended by severe violence. Today the “Thai Inquisition” is alive and kicking. Armed thugs of the murderous generals use the lèse-majesté law to root out blasphemers and throw them in jail for years without any pretence at justice. Great pressure is placed upon people to “confess” their non-existent sins and thus have their sentences halved with a promise of an early pardon. This helps to “prove” that the country is being undermined by wicked non-believers.

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Not only do we need to get rid of the lèse-majesté law, but we also need to abolish the monarchy and carry out a root and branch culling of the military.