Reporting official political vandalism

The Nation has a particularly useful report the details surrounding the removal of the 1932 plaque, which most pundits now agree was at the behest of the palace, probably based on faulty astrological advice.

Reporters have now tracked down witnesses to the event and constructed a kind of timeline. The report states:

Some photos shared and scrolled down on social media pages, along with accounts of “regulars” and concerned authorities as checked by the Nation have shown that between late last month and April 6, at least two distinctive activities took place at the Royal Plaza before the public was alerted last Friday [14 April] that the plaque was missing.

A regular visitor to the area stated that “late last month the statue of the former [k]ing [the equestrian statue] was renovated, with some framework set up and covered with translucent green sheets.” That renovation was confirmed by the Fine Arts Department.

This witness then states that “from April 4 to 6, there were a few tents set up next to it – around the spot where the plaque was located.” He adds that these “tents were closed and draped with cloth, so the regulars could not see anything inside.” When the tents were gone, so was the plaque, replaced by royalist graffiti.

His account was generally confirmed by others and by photographic evidence. “Other regular visitors …[stated] that they saw a couple of tents near the statue of King Chulalongkorn a few days before Chakri Day on April 6.” These “tents were located some metres away, on the right side of the equestrian statue, where the plaque was.”

These witnesses add that on “April 5, the Plaza also closed early – at 9pm, due to arrangements needed for Chakri Day…”.

Photos from “March 28 [show] the framework was set up around the statue. Other photos, … taken at least on April 1, also show individuals working inside the sheeting. However, no tents were seen set up nearby…. The tents appeared in some photos taken on April 4 to 5. But on April 6, there were no tents seen on the spot.” The Fine Arts Department confirmed that the tents did not belong to them.

Confirming this timeline,

Sarttarin Tansoon, a political science lecturer at Kasetsart University, told The Sunday Nation that a group of his students saw the original plaque during a field trip to the Royal Plaza from April 1 and 3.

On April 8, another group of his students went to the Plaza to see the plaque, but found it had been replaced.

Several agencies have official tasks in the area. The “Dusit district administration takes care of overall tidiness, the police are in charge of security. The Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning is in charge of the road surface, while the King’s statue is overseen by the Fine Arts Department.” In addition, the “Bureau of the Royal Household (BRH), meanwhile, is authorised to permit activities or events to be held on the Plaza…”.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority’s Traffic and Transportation Department is responsible for the CCTV cameras in the area, which they ever so conveniently claim were all turned off before one of the main royal events of the year in that area.

Now the military junta has arranged for the protection of the new royalist graffiti:

Dozens of metropolitan police, plus plainclothes officers were deployed and on guard 24/7 around the compound, and especially the spot where a new plaque was embedded to replace the 81-year-old Constitution plaque metres away from the [k]ing’s statue.

Reporters are told not to take photos. Visitors are told to leave the site.

It is clear that the removal was an official act. Something this symbolic and this significant was ordered from on high.

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