In very many ways, the Privy Council has become one of Thailand’s most important political institutions. It isn’t meant to be this way.
The Privy Council is appointed by the king and has been a relatively unknown group of old men. That changed under the presidentship of General Prem Tinsulanonda. He was always meddlesome and was always bitter that “politicians” had forced him from the premiership.
When he got the chance as a privy councilor, he asserted his and the council’s power, particularly with the military as Prem continued to “manage” promotions. The council’s power that came from their proximity to the king, himself a political meddler, whose status was promoted by successive governments.
The council became most politically noticeable with the 2006 military coup and Prem’s role in planning it. After that, with the king beginning his terminal decline, it was the Privy Council that became the locus of royalist politics.
We don’t recall the “swearing in” of new privy councilors as having been newsworthy in the past. However, it is now. The Bangkok Post reports that the king has “granted the 10 newly appointed members of the Privy Council an audience to make an oath of allegiance at the Ambara Villa at the Dusit Palace.”
Under the constitution, the councilors are required to make “a solemn declaration before the King.”
They are required to state:
I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to His Majesty the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the State and the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.
As we know, in the recent past, the privy councilors have not upheld or observed the constitutions. First and foremost, they are royal servants and as mostly military men, they are disdainful and destructive of constitutions. Indeed, the current council includes several who have been involved in recent coups that have torn up and trampled constitutions.
We are told that the king “extended his thanks to the privy councillors for their intention to help with his work.” He indicated that the “privy councillors will be given assignments, as well as an opportunity to provide him with advice.” That means they will remain interventionist.
The king then stated that the councilors “will also help to maintain the security of the country in line with policies regarding the royal institution.”
That’s scary indeed, suggesting that the king is going to be having his posterior polishers acting as royalist police. More lese majeste repression is going to be managed by the Privy Council. (We guess they have already been doing this.)
The king also said “the privy councillors have his full trust.” Hmm, doesn’t he choose them? In any case, we may expect churn on the council as he seldom trusts anyone for long.