Tag Archives: royalists

What do the royalist really want?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

In recent times we have seen anti-democracy mobsters roaming the streets of Bangkok demanding “True Democracy under the power of the King”. The military is constantly harping on about need to protect the institution and prerogatives of the monarchy. If we were to take the hysterical shouts from the Thai royalists at face value, we would be led to believe that they want to see a return to an Absolute Monarchy or at least an increase in royal political power.


Yet this could not be further from the truth. These demands are a coded way of saying that they want less democracy and more authoritarianism under the power of the military and the conservative elites with the monarchy simply being used as a rubber stamp for everything they do.

Ever since the 1932 revolution led by the People’s Party that overthrew the Absolute Monarchy, amid mass support from the general population, there has been only one single royalist revolt and that was 1 year later in 1933. The Boworadet Rebellion was led by royalist Prince Boworadet in October that year. It lasted 12 days and was decisively defeated by government troops backed up by volunteers including trade unionists.

Decisive action by government troops and citizen volunteers defeated the Boworadet Rebellion .
Decisive action by government troops and citizen volunteers defeated the Boworadet Rebellion .

This was really the end of the dreams of the royalists that they could restore the absolute power of the monarchy. From this period onwards, according to historian Thongchai Winichakul, the royalists merely sought alliances to increase the importance of the monarchy in political society.


Until the military coup carried out by Sarit Tanarat in 1957, the most powerful factions of the armed forces and police under the triumvirate dictatorship of Pubun, Pin and Pao were strongly anti-monarchy, seeking to severely restrict the public duties and role of the king. The civilian faction of the People’s Party under Pridi, even though it compromised about moving forward to a republic, was never the less totally against restoring the power of the king.

Pumipon visits his patron, Sarit, who was on his death bed
Pumipon visits his patron, Sarit, who was on his death bed

It was the rise of Sarit, a military man with no connection to the 1932 revolution, that the royalists saw their opportunity to increase the status of the monarchy. This was made much easier by the heightened tensions in South-East Asia under the Cold War. The monarchy became a conservative anti-communist symbol and the U.S. very much supported this and the dictator Sarit.

But at no point did the royalists even dream of re-establishing the absolute power of the king. The military dictators who were in power in the 1960s, including Sarit, had no intention of giving up their power to the monarchy either. Their promotion of the king was so that he could be used more effectively as a tool to justify their actions and to justify elite class rule.

When we consider the situation in modern day Thailand, neither the present military junta nor politicians like Sutep Taugsuban had any intention of handing over their power and influence to the ailing king Pumipon and they certainly do not want king Wachiralongkorn to rule over them.


The military justified their 2006 and 2014 coups by claiming that they were protecting the monarchy when the monarchy was never under threat from Taksin and his allies. It was merely their standard justification for toppling democratically elected governments. The military are very confident about using the monarchy for their own ends. They have had years of practice and high-ranking and retired military generals surround the throne via the Privy Council, allowing them to run the monarchy.

Politicians like Sutep and the middle-class Yellow Shirts also need a justification for calling for the overthrow of elected governments or for wrecking elections. When they call on the monarchy to intervene, as they did in 2006, it was a call for a military coup under the guise of a “neutral and unifying” king. When in 2014 they called for “True Democracy under the power of the King”, they wanted authoritarianism under the power of the military and themselves. At that point king Pumipon was clearly on his deathbed and incapable of intervening in anything. Their excuse for the destruction of democracy was that the poor were too stupid to deserve the right to vote and were therefore manipulated by Taksin.

The middle-classes, the military and the conservative elites have appropriated both “the Nation” and “the Monarchy” to mean themselves.


Why do so many Thais mourn the death of Pumipon?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Embarrassing pictures of thousands of Thais crying and wearing black after the death of king Pumipon might lead a sane person to conclude that most Thais were political half-wits with a slave-like mentality. That would be a wrong conclusion.


Firstly we have to factor in the royalist military repression where anyone criticising the king is sent to jail under the draconian lèse-majesté law. Added to this is the green light given by the junta for mobs of fanatical royalists to “deal” with dissidents.

This is also one of the explanations given for the “cult of the dead king” in a recent article by Narisara Viwatchara in New Mandala [see http://bit.ly/2etCiva ]. She also mentions mysticism surrounding the monarchy and state funded king promotion. But these two other reasons are not enough of an explanation.

It is also not very useful for anyone to talk about “brain washing” and any explanation which says that “Thais have always held their kings in high regard” is historically incorrect and not a scientific explanation at all.


What we must explain is how millions of Thais came to voluntarily love Pumipon, despite the fact that he never did anything useful for Thai society, as I have previously outlined in my obituary on this blog site. This phenomenon is also despite the fact that royalism goes against the class interests of the majority of Thais because royalist ideology is used to enforce inequality and lack of freedom and democracy.

The Marxist theory of alienation helps us to understand how millions of Thais came to voluntarily love Pumipon by explaining that widely held beliefs and appearances are often not based on the truth. We can also understand when socialisation and coercion can work and when it fails to work. Socialisation is not the same as so-called “brain washing” as the latter term implies “stupidity” of those whose brains have been warped. Thai royalists are not royalist out of stupidity, although the content of their beliefs is stupid.

We know that the capitalist ruling class boosts its power by getting us to believe that the market, the family or the monarchy are “natural and good institutions”. This socialisation relies on a feeling of lack of power and a feeling of insecurity among the general population.

Thailand has no welfare state and the labour movement is not yet powerful enough to collectively enable citizens to stand up and fight for equality. The quality of life for most people seems to depend on big powerful people because of the lack of confidence that ordinary people can bring about change.

It is this feeling of fear and lack of status and confidence in Thai society, which is encouraged by the ruling class because it helps to socialise people into believing that the monarchy is a powerful benefactor. Yet it is an instrument to strengthen, not just the monarchy, but the entire modern Thai capitalist class, especially the military. That is why Taksin, the military, the civilian bureaucracy and the corporations all support and promote the monarchy.

The important thing to also consider is that devotion to the king is not an unchanging thing. After the 1932 revolution or during the struggle carried out by the Communist Party in the 1970s millions of Thais hated the monarchy.

The Marxist George Lukács, in his book “History and Class Consciousness”, explained that ruling class socialisation, which leads to an alienated belief in lies, can be overcome by mass struggle because it allows people to see their own strength and ability to determine the future on their own terms.

By struggling against the dictatorship in a collective manner, millions of Red Shirts ceased to revere the monarchy, especially when the royalist military dictatorship shot down unarmed pro-democracy activists. This effect may now have been mitigated to some degree by the time spent in inactivity and the fact that Taksin sowed seeds of hope in peoples’ minds about the so-called “progressive nature” of Wachiralongkorn. Never the less I would be willing to bet that millions of Thais would be happy if Thailand became a republic, especially after the death of Pumipon and the prospect of king Wachiralongkorn.

In order to challenge the collective madness or the “cult of the dead king”, which is gripping the population, we therefore need to build a mass pro-democracy social movement against the military dictatorship which can develop the fight into a struggle for socialism. Such a movement will inspire people with the confidence that they have the potential power to determine their own futures.

Finally, we need to oppose the statement from many people that “we must respect” the grieving of millions of Thais after Pumipon’s death. This grieving is not about personal loss of a friend or relative. It is totally political. Would people have said that we must “respect” the political views of millions of Germans who loved Hitler? Do we have to “respect” the views of racists? No, we do not have to respect political views and feelings which lead to tyranny or enslavement.


Ugly and dangerous royalist hysteria turning into witch-hunts

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The death of the Thai king and the atmosphere of repression under the military junta has unleashed an ugly and dangerous royalist hysteria which is rapidly becoming a witch hunt against those who believe in democracy and equality. Anyone not wearing black in the streets or anyone rumoured to have supposedly “insulted” the king is being persecuted and threatened with violence while the authorities look on approvingly. The general in charge of the ministry of “justice” has even approved of mobs bullying dissidents.

The military and police have been taking advantage of the situation and arresting any dissidents who have been accused of insulting the king by the fantatics. No hard evidence is necessary. One such person was arrested after police “found” a single methamphetamine pill.

There were three cases of angry mobs attacking people in various southern provinces only days after the death of the king. These are areas where Sutep and his Democrat Party mobs drew support for their anti-election rampage through Bangkok in 2014. Many of these thugs may now be engaging in the royalist witch-hunts.

Mob of fanatical royalists
Mob of fanatical royalists



On the tourist island of Koh Samui, a howling crowd of 500 fanatical royalists forced a young woman to grovel in front of a picture of the king and ask for forgiveness at a local police station for apparently “insulting” the king. The police clearly sided with the crowd.

An elderly woman was slapped in the face in front of police for apparently “insulting the monarchy”…

There have been numerous threats to people on social media for not changing their profiles to black and white.

Riantong Nanan
Riantong Nanan
Riantong as part of a fascist-type mob organised to disrupt elections
Riantong as part of a fascist-type mob organised to disrupt elections

Self-appointed “Witch-Hunter General”, Major General Riantong Nanan, director of Monkutwatana Hospital, has incited people to “deal” with Aum Neko, exiled trans-gender prodemocracy activist, who has been given asylum in France. He also threatened to do her harm himself.

Aum Neko
Aum Neko

A fanatical royalist also posted on her face book that someone should “deal” with me in England as a result of my call for a republic.

Fanatical royalist threatening me
Fanatical royalist threatening me

It reminds many of us of the kind of atmosphere created around the 6th October 1976 massacre at Thammasart University.

Why aren't you wearing black?
Why aren’t you wearing black?

But what it exposes more than anything is that love and respect for the Thai monarchy is hardly voluntary or natural in the case of millions of people. It exposes that the royalists are really frightened of a possible republican mood in the country after the death of Pumipon.

Let us hope that their fears are justified!!