Many PPT readers will have already seen the Reuters story on succession planning as it has been widely circulated. The story, which comes with a one minute video, is one of the first that refers to the preparations being made for Rama X.
For those sharing the story in Thailand, it is often just a link, sometimes with the note: “I can’t comment on this.” The meaning of this is that many Thais fear that even talking about succession could land them in jail facing a lese majeste charge.
The story begins with the observation that the ubiquitous, almost compulsory, posting of portraits of the king on streets and buildings, is now seeing the infiltration of portraits of the king and his successor son and, more commonly, portraits of the prince. It adds that the evening television news on the royal family “also has increasingly featured the prince and his family, including coverage of their trips abroad and attendance at seminars, sporting events and fashion shows.” Added to this, the article notes that the prince’s official family of “two daughters from his first and second marriages, and a son from his third … are seen more frequently on state television and in glossy magazines.”
It makes no mention of his other children, the tumultuous and nasty separation from former Princess Srirasmi and jailing of her family on spurious lese majeste charges or of his favorite concubine of the moment.
The Reuters report states that this is because the military regime and royal household are preparing the “groundwork for its first royal succession in nearly 70 years.” A “palace source” is cited: “There are more portraits of the Crown Prince now than a few years ago…. This is not by chance, but it is a way to try to pre-empt any future instability.”
The potential for instability has been generated by the palace itself. This is partly due to its poorly considered meddling in politics and partly because the palace and royal family have been unable to wean themselves from the comfort they feel with military authoritarianism and the deep antagonism they have for parliamentary politics. It is also because the palace is secretive and has been unable to get its house in order, leaving room for doubts about succession to make succession an issue of life and death for the monarchy.
The story says that the current succession planning efforts are conducted by an “opaque and secretive public relations machine is helping to prepare for the succession. It includes the Bureau of the Royal Household, which handles some of the monarchy’s public relations, the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, and both public and private institutions.”
As it is the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary that “must approve all public displays of the royal family, including the portraits of the prince adorning buildings and lamp posts in the capital,” it may be assumed that it takes a leading role in this secretive work. It says it doesn’t do interviews on succession planning and lies: “Even though what we do is no secret, we have no policy that allows this…”.
Part of the preparations have involved the military junta. Reuters states that the “junta has also been cracking down on critics of the monarchy using Thailand’s strict lese-majeste law…. Last year, there was international condemnation when two people received jail sentences of 25 years and 30 years on lese-majeste charges for Facebook posts about the king.” It might have said more about the purges associated with the rise of the prince. It mentions, for example, Bike for Dad event, but not the lese majeste charges, alleged assassination plot and deaths in custody that resulted.
Likewise, it does not mention the fact that the junta has devised a draft charter that is meant to smooth the way for succession and a reign that will likely begin in a situation of continuing political polarization. The junta’s “thinking” – and the word may be misplaced when considering the military dolts running Thailand – may be that no democracy for Thailand will be good for the monarchy (and military), as it has been in the past.
The Reuters story also includes the usual drivel about the king being revered.