Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Following the expensive and wasteful coronation of the despicable Wachiralongkorn, the popularity of the Thai monarchy has sunk to a new low. This is hardly surprising given his behaviour and general character. [See https://bit.ly/2VRw0v9 ].
Among young people, lack of respect for the monarchy can be seen in messages on social media, especially on twitter, which are both explicit and ambiguous. One of the trending hashtags that has gone viral is #กูให้พวกมึงรู้จักพอเพียง which is what was written on a sign near former princess Srirasmi’s tin shack toilet. In English it means “I have provided this for you so you lot can know sufficiency”. It is written in crude language and makes a reference to Pumipon’s Sufficiency Economics ideology. Of course neither Pumipon, Wachiralongkorn, nor any other members of the royal parasite family ever practiced sufficiency or restraint of their greed.
The social media posts seem to indicate that anger and disgust at Wachiralongkorn have become stronger than fear of the draconian lèse-majesté law. It supports the reports from many sources that respect for the monarchy is almost non-existent among young people. Of course, to be absolutely sure about this, a proper statistical poll would have to be conducted. But this is not possible in Thailand at the moment.
Behaviour by the royals, which includes insisting on stopping all traffic, and even temporarily pausing nearby rock concerts, as they travel along the normally congested roads of Bangkok, can hardly help the popularity of the royals.
Also the practice by various members of the royal family in insisting that they do not have to pay for luxury goods in Bangkok shops, can be added to the list of disgust for the royals. None of them are immune from such behaviour, including the royals who claim to be “commoners”. [See https://bit.ly/2SHQrZW ].
The crisis of legitimacy for the monarchy will be something which will deeply worry the military junta and its friends. Even the yellow-shirted middle-class royalist reactionaries cannot hide their lack of support for Wachiralongkorn. The numbers of ordinary people attending the coronation ceremony, who were not forced to come because of their government jobs, was far less than the people who attended Pumipon’s funeral.
In the past I have speculated about this problem and suggested that one of the junta’s options would be to rely less on the monarchy to legitimise military intervention in politics and to promote the 20 year National Strategy. [See https://bit.ly/2l63Z1I ]. Another option is to concentrate on promoting nationalism. Recent changes to the National Anthem video on all TV channels indicates this to some extent. The junta has also organised electoral fraud in an attempt to give itself “democratic” legitimacy.
The junta and its allies who have been spouting about defending the monarchy with their lives are in a weak position because they are now trying to defend a rotten indefensible king.
But a Thai republic will not just emerge automatically from the sinking popularity of the monarchy. For this to happen, a pro-democracy social movement opposed to both the monarchy and the military will have to be built. This is because the monarchy is still being used by the military to defend its actions and they may try to emphasise the institution rather than the individual who is on the throne. What is more, politicians and monarchies can find ways of reviving their popularity.
The present Thai king is both vile, unpopular and weak. He is hardly the powerful “absolute monarch” claimed by some. [See https://bit.ly/2EOjsNL ]
This is a good moment to campaign for a democratic republic.