Reporting the king’s birthday

The king’s birthday celebrations were not particularly widely reported in the international media. PPT didn’t give it any attention when it rolled around last week. However, one report by Reuters deserves some comment. In the linked version it comes with a brief video of The Dictator praising the king.

The report begins:

Authorities in Thailand are going all out to mark the birthday of new King Maha Vajiralongkorn this week as part of wider moves to consolidate his power and build his reputation as he emerges from his late father’s shadow.

The king, who turns 65 on Friday, has been putting an assertive stamp on his rule since he took the throne in December following his father’s death in October.

The monarchy is held in high esteem by the vast majority of Thais and, although the king is officially above politics, few would dare challenge his wishes. That gives him huge influence over politics as the country waits for an election the junta has tentatively set for 2018.

The first two paragraphs seem reasonable while the third is dubious. Now that Vajiralongkorn has demonstrated, through his interventions in several areas, that the monarchy is not “above politics,” we can only ponder why Reuters makes the claim at all, not least because the report is quite critical of the king and his behavior. We also wonder about the statement that the “monarchy is held in high esteem.” This used to be a claim trotted out ad nauseum about the previous king, tying the esteem to the person. Why is Reuters now applying the same claim to the crown and not the king?

This slipshod reporting is how we end up with a bunch of trite claims about monarchy and monarch that can never be fact-checked. While it is true as the last line of the report states, “The laws limit what all news organizations, including Reuters, can report from Thailand,” that is no rationale for including stuff that doesn’t need to be said at all.

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