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Opinion: Time for Thai Royals to Face Reality
I have often asked myself why Thai royalists are so blindsided, so irrational and so acrimonious whenever anyone with a free-spirit questions the high-flying status of the royals or the vast sums of taxpayer money that goes to support them each year.
Thai authorities and royalists simply refuse to listen to reason and logic. It is virtually impossible to discuss anything regarding the subject in a peaceful way. I do not know how the country became this way but it seems to me everyone is living in fear, especially in the light of the royalist-supported coup d' etat by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha who has appointed himself the new prime minister.
Thai royalists even put a stigma on those who disagree with them by creating a social taboo with the Thai words "Lom Chow (ล้มเจ้า)," as if people with inquisitive minds are bad people. The royalists and those aged elites would want Thailand to roll backward to the Puritan Era so they can impose their own barbaric rules and dictatorship against the Thai people.
Out of touch
Sorry, with all due respect, I cannot buy their out-of-touch concept, even to my own detriment. This is the 21st Century and the Age of the Information Superhighway; free-thinking Thai people must be united and set the country free. We must not let the less than 1 percent of selfish elites to control 85 percent of the wealth and economy of the country.
I could understand the poor and uneducated living in Thailand who have been bombarded with nonstop royal propaganda since birth while, at the same time, truthful and negative information is blocked by the state apparatus such as Ministry of Information and Technology (ICT) and the royalist-controlled print and television media.
Huge posters of the royals are ubiquitous in every major street corner, showing their greatness without any justification. It is unbelievable such expensive posters are all paid for by taxpayers! I am astonished to learn that there is a "Promotional Budget for Thai royals" in the government's annual budget. Such money should have been better used for building schools and hospitals and providing nutrition for poor children!
People are forced to comply with their despicable lese majeste law, which carries a mandatory jail term of 3 to 15 years for each offense if convicted! Scores of prisoners are in Thai jails throughout the country.
The lese majeste law is indeed barbaric and contradictory. How could you find out the truth when you don't even know if the one who praises the royals is being truthful? Praising the royals is the ONLY way for anyone to talk about them openly and without fear of reprisal. If you utter even a slight hint of negativity, it could land you in a Thai jail.
It is a misconception and a myth for the Thai and foreign media to say the Thai king is so beloved and revered by the Thai people. Just to remind you, once and for all, saying otherwise regarding the royals would land you in a mosquito-infested jail for years! So please stop printing that they are so revered and so loved!
The lese majeste law also hinders creativity. A case in point is the recent lese majeste case against two student actors in a drama on stage at their university. Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong, 25, were arrested on Aug. 14 and 15, 2014, respectively, for their participation in “The Wolf Bride,” a play presented in October 2013 as part of the 40th commemoration at Thammasat University of the October 1973 pro-democracy protest. The play involved social and political issues. If the two students were in the civilized world, an accolade would be given for their talent, creativity and bravery. Not so in Thailand where self-censorship is the norm.
I am sure a growing number of the populace now realize that they have been deceived all these years by the royals but they are too fearful to express themselves. Thais are basically non-violent people. Royalists know this and that may be why they have been able to control the minds of the people for so long.
All of Thailand's neighbors got rid of their parasitic royals a long time ago. Even Laos, which Thai elites often look down upon, abolished its monarchy some 39 years ago!
Why attack me?
A small number of Thai royalists living abroad have attacked me and my ex-husband’s family and touted their illegal actions on YouTube. This is not free speech! You don't attack or damage people's property. You don't throw eggs at them. You don't hang bags of dog's feces on their doorknobs. Such acts will never intimidate me from telling the truth about the Thai monarchy.
These criminal acts are illegal in the UK where I live and punishable with jail terms. One depraved royalist in London erroneously stated that only 5 percent of the Thai populace dislikes the monarchy. May I remind her that in each of the past elections (since 2001), former Prime Minister Thaksin's political party won. More than 16 million voters had confidence in him. The old royalist political party, the misnamed Democrat Party, has never won a single election during the past 20 years. I dare say that more than 70 percent of the population would want the monarchy abolished.
This is what got my attacker in deep trouble with the UK police. It was not the speech she made on her Facebook page; it was not the vulgar language she used against me. It was her and her buddies' illegal actions that got them in trouble with British law.
I have never displayed my opinion about the Thai royals through violent and physical means. I simply tell the truth with facts, evidence and links. Like most people living in Thailand now, I was deceived by the Thai royal's massive propaganda ever since I was born. I went to a royalist school. I watched their royal news. I used to defend them when my foreign friends said anything negative about them.
But I had a chance to do my own research when I came to live in the UK. This is like being born-again to me. I am enlightened in so far as the Thai monarchy goes. I have learned that:
Queen Elizabeth is loved by her people not because of lese majeste laws. The Brits can criticize her and even make fun of her without fearing going to jail like in Thailand.
It is wrong for Thai royals to be fed by Thai taxpayers to the tune of some £300 million sterling a year while the Thai king has been ranked as the richest monarch in the world by Forbes magazine.
The Thai monarchy and its network have been deeply involved in Thai politics in order to maintain their opulent status.
Thai elites never go to jail even if they commit heinous crimes. This culture of impunity must stop if Thailand wants to be recognized as a decent country.
Thailand has a warped political system they call Thai-style democracy when in fact it is still an absolute monarchy run by royal proxies. All the important branches of government are hand-picked by the top royals ‑ Chief of the Armed Forces, judges, ministers, the police and even rectors of universities. An elected PM does not have the ultimate say in any important issues unless it is cleared by the palace.
The gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider. One can see Thai elites driving their latest model Mercedes Benz passing dying beggars on the street and they could not care less.
There is absolutely no welfare system for the poor and disabled. Poor children are forced to sell whatever they can on the streets to help their families while children of the elites ride to school in their luxurious cars.
Pretty women are forced into prostitution to make ends meet while not-so-pretty women work in unsanitary factories and are paid slave wages.
Leaders of labor unions are often killed in order to silence workers from demanding decent wages.
Members of the royal family do not pay income taxes.
To those Thai royalists living abroad, all I can say is this: "Shame on you!"
And another thing
Last but not least, I am often asked, "Aren't you afraid of the lese majeste law?" "Don't you want to go back to visit Thailand?"
My answers to the above would be, "No, I am not afraid of their barbaric and uncivilized lese majeste law, which is rejected by the civilized nations of the world." As to the second question, "No, I don't want to visit Thailand the way it is now. I love the Thai people who are all my brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, they are being governed by evil and selfish and rather dumb military and royalist leaders." It is not a Land of Smiles anymore. It's a Land of Deceit and Lies.
I know in my heart that our day will come when we can all celebrate true freedom, liberty and democracy! I wish to quote the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous speech that one day we can all join hands and declare: "Free at last, free at last! Thank God, Almighty, we're free at last!"
Chatwadee Amornpat is a Thailand-born UK citizen who has issued a series of blistering condemnations of Thailand’s royal family. She has been charged with lese majeste in Thailand and harassed, threatened and excoriated. She remains defiant. She wrote this for Asia Sentinel.