With the new king in place, not only is there a laundering of his past by the mainstream media in Thailand, but there is also a huge effort by the junta to show that nothing has changed with the accession of the new king. For the military dictatorship, the message is that it is business as usual. More than this, though, as with the previous king, the media and bureaucracy is used to create an image.
So it is that the Bangkok Post reports that “[t]ens of thousands of people in Krabi and neighbouring provinces are waiting in eager anticipation for a royal visit by … the King.” This is a beat up for purposes of palace propaganda.
The new king’s first provincial visit is portrayed as a “popular” monarch visiting his people, recalling the legend of the previous king.
The now dead king last visited Krabi in 1973, suggesting the palace propaganda about him continuously visiting the provinces is horse manure.
It is Krabi’s great and good who are wheeled out to make such ludicrous claims. Governor Phinit Boonlert said is there for a ceremony to open a new provincial hall. Royals do this as a kind of bonding ritual with senior bureaucrats.
Phinit then babbles on about how “[l]ocal people are delighted that the southern province of Krabi will be the first province to be visited by … the King.”
To ensure the king gets his crowd, as is always done, the bureaucracy is mobilized to round up people for the “adoring” crowd. When Phinit says “residents from Krabi’s eight districts and nearby provinces are expected to turn up and welcome … the King along the roads from the Krabi airport to the provincial hall,” he knows this to be true for he has issued the orders for this to happen. His underlings then rush about and ensure the people are there.
This is why Phinit can come up with a pretty precise estimate of the turnout: at least 36,000 people. He’s ordered that many people.
He also demanded that “local residents … and state agencies adorn their houses and buildings with national flags and portraits of [the new king] during the royal visit.”
He is supported by Krabi mayor Kiratisak Phukaoluan. He blathered about “Krabi residents are grateful that [the king]’s first official visit as king will be to their province,” adding that “[p]eople in Krabi and surrounding provinces are waiting eagerly for … the King to arrive…”.
While the new king is only nine days into the job, Kiratisak goes into palace propagandist-speak, declaring the king to be “the unifying force of all Thais. Thailand has the three major institutions — nation, religion, and the monarch — and the country cannot be without any of the three institutions, particularly the monarchy which has existed for a long time.”
Speaking for every person in Krabi, he says: “We, the people of Krabi, would like to make a pledge of allegiance to … Rama X…. Under the guidance of the King, the province will develop and prosper…”.
This is all nonsense, but it is exactly this kind of propaganda that built the dead king’s image. The junta reckons it still works and that the new king can be made “revered.” (We hope the international media recalls this the next time they are tempted to thoughtlessly use that descriptor.)
Update: Surprise, surprise, surprise! No sooner had we posted than the Bangkok Post has a story headlined “Big crowds in Krabi welcome His Majesty.” The propaganda piece does not say how many “flocked” to see Vajiralongkorn, but we’d guess … er … 36,000? Probably.
The treacle is sticky indeed: there is “the delight of people who spilled onto the streets to greet him” as local residents of “Krabi and nearby provinces including Phuket, Phangnga and Surat Thani flocked to catch a glimpse of the King.” As usual, there were “[w]elcome signs reading ‘Long Live the King’ were put up [by the provincial government or on its orders] … as houses and buildings were adorned with national flags, as well as flags bearing the royal insignia of … the King.” There’s the usual claim that “[s]ome people had camped out near the provincial hall on Thursday night for a better chance of seeing the King…”. And, as is always in these reports for the dead king, it is said that “well-wishers lined the streets holding photos of His Majesty along the route of the royal motorcade.” They had to be if the governor didn’t want his butt kicked by the junta.
While there is nothing in the report about the king, it is stated that “hundreds of police, soldiers and officers from the provincial explosive ordnance disposal unit were deployed to maintain security around the area.”