One of the characteristics of the last reign was for the palace propaganda machine to claim a royal interest in events that elicited public sympathy. The idea was to present the king as a monarch who cared for his subjects. As his reign developed and as his public persona was accepted more widely a a good, generous, caring patriarch, that king came to have an opinion on almost everything, from agriculture to art, music to flood control, to governance and much more.
For the new king, creating the image is not so easy because of Vajiralongkorn’s erratic past, aloofness and self-centeredness. Even so, the palace propaganda machine and the military junta has been image-making in ways that seem little changed from the past reign.
With the most recent events associated with the young group of footballers trapped in the Chiang Rai cave, there has been much community and social effort rescue the boys. There’s also been a high-profile royal effort at support.
But, as Thai PBS reports, some of Vajiralongkorn’s “charity” amounts to royal interference, suggesting that the king is not about to allow the affairs of state to proceed as they should in a constitutional monarchy, where a monarch reigns under the government of the day and sovereignty resides with the people.
Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan says “the King wants the 12 young footballers and their coach, stranded in Tham Luang cave since June 23, to be brought out as soon possible…”.
Well, we suppose that most people would agree with that sentiment, but is this “advice” likely to lead to poor decision-making?
More in line with the “caring king” propaganda of the past, Prawit said the king “also wants all parties taking part in the search and rescue operation, including foreigners, to be taken care of.” Yes, but does that need stating and does it need to be the king making the statement?
More indicative of the king’s approach is seen in a Khaosod report: “Upon a royal order, cave search-and-rescue training will be introduced to the curriculum of all branches of the armed forces, the leader of the ruling junta announced Wednesday.”
The reports states that “[w]eighing in on how the nation’s armed forces should be trained, King Vajiralongkorn has decreed that the skills and knowledge used to rescue 12 boys and their football coach be incorporated into their training…”.
The junta seemed to have accepted this “decree.” Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declared: “[We] can adapt the rescue plan into diving and swimming lessons for the special operation forces in the future.”
What business does the king have in “decreeing” how the military should be training? How many similar emergencies are there likely to be in the next decades?
Monarchs need to be kept in their legal and constitutional place even when dealing with toady military dictators.
Update: In another report it is stated: “Instructions were given by the King that everyone [rescuers] must bring out the children as quickly as possible…”. Instructions issued by a layman with little education in anything much at all and not on the scene makes little sense except in a royalist Thailand.