From concerts, musicals, to movies, read ISOC’s cultural mission in their process of promoting the main ideology of the security services.
We invite you to look at the origin and development of the ideological promotion process of “nation-religion-monarchy” by the security agencies of the Thai government, especially after the enforcement of the 2008 Internal Security Act. Security agencies such as ISOC, which has power over civilian agencies, moved forward in ideological indoctrination through cultural tools.
Origin of the ideology “nation-religion-monarchy” that came with ISOC
The “nation-religion-monarchy” ideological indoctrination process is related to the political context; after the 1932 revolution, when the royal institution was in decline, to the era of Field Marshal P. Phibunsongkhram (Phibun) and of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, the nation-religion-monarchy ideology was most securely established. Benedict Anderson, in his book “Withdrawal Symptoms: Social and Cultural Aspects of the October 6 Coup”, said that from 1927 to 1937 Phibun had to work hard to create legitimacy for his rule by fomenting nationalism. During the time of the Khana Ratsadon (People’s Party) military leaders, nation and monarchy were still two ideas that could be separated, with the state (most importantly, the army) as representative of the nation and at the same time something like a protector of the king. But because of the military’s role in taking power in 1932, the royal family felt antagonistic towards them. Therefore when Phibun was Prime Minister for the second time (1948-1957), he still wasn’t able to use the royal institution as a symbol to create legitimacy for himself as he had hoped. Perhaps because of this, toward the end of his term, Phibun turned towards democracy as a symbol to help save the situation when his legitimacy declined in 1956.
However in the 1932 revolution, Sarit had a rank that was too low to have an important role. At the same time he didn’t pretend to be interested in the constitutional system or democracy like other army leaders in Khana Ratsadon. That’s why he was able to revive a good relationship with the monarchy soon after overthrowing Phibun. Sarit started to campaign systemically to “integrate” the royal institution anew by bestowing new honours on the institution and of course, to secure Sarit’s legitimacy as well.
During Phibun’s time, the King and Queen rarely travelled outside the capital city, but during Sarit’s time, the King and Queen travelled to countries all across the globe to visit and greet other monarchs, especially the monarchs of Europe. Various royal ceremonies that lapsed after the end of absolute monarchy were revived and performed, and the monarchy more often had a close relationship with Thai citizens. The royal institution became more and more “sacred”. At the same time, dictatorship also became stronger.
In addition, Sarit also used Buddhism to his benefit. He abolished the Sangha Organisation, which was a decentralised and democratic system, and replaced it with a centralised and authoritarian system under the control of the Supreme Patriarch (Somdet Phra Sangkharaja).
All of this is the origin and formation of the nation-religion-monarchy ideology that helped secure Sarit’s dictatorship and other dictatorships later on.
Importantly, the ideology is used to explain “dangers to security”, which means anything that could become an enemy of the nation, religion or monarchy, in no matter what era after that.
The Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) was established as a mechanism for this ideology. ISOC was established in 1965, during Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn’s term. Its former name was the Communist Suppression Operations Command (CSOC), with the initial objective of opposing communism, with responsibility for the prevention and suppression of communists, who, of course, were considered “dangers to the security” of the nation, religion and monarchy.
Cultural work in ideological indoctrination and communist suppression
The restoration of democracy after the major demonstrations of the people on 14 October 1973 occurred in the midst of an economic situation and problems with the economic structure that the elected government may not have been able to solve, along with the flourishing of socialist ideology. There were various processes actively moving for change. This meant the conservative side was under severe challenge. Eventually, the students and people were overcome by the coup d’?tat on 6 October 1976.
During 1974-1976, the nation-religion-monarchy ideology was annexed to the cultural communication of the security agencies. Mostly, it was done to incite hatred towards communists as a group undermining the nation’s basic institutions. There were smears on radio and television, and in newspapers, leaflets, and anonymous or threatening letters, or even spreading rumours by word of mouth.
In addition, “stirring songs” were written to compete with “songs for life”, and many of them became popular, like “Thahan Phra Naresuan”, “Nak Phaendin” and the royal composition “Fight!”, which began to be disseminated in the early half of 1976.
ISOC in 1974-1976: Focus on communism suppression
Nevertheless, in 1974-1976, ISOC did not yet have any role in cultural work, but had a clear duty to directly suppress communists. They established various mass groups, gave weapons training, gave them weapons to use and looked after them financially with money from the secret budget, whether it was vocational student groups such as the Red Gaurs to wipe out other student groups or groups of the people and government officials such as Nawaphon.
“Communist suppression by ISOC was a secret method. They probably suppressed some real communists, but they also supressed many who weren’t. From before 1973, the red drum killings in Phatthalung and the constant bullying of villagers everywhere and accusing them of being communists, caused trouble to citizens in general, and many who couldn’t stand the cruelty any more fled into the forest and became communists.” These were the words of Puey Ungphakorn, recorded in “Violence and the Coup d’?tat, 6 October 1976.”
After the 2008 Act: Advances in cultural work
After the Communist Party of Thailand broke apart and the Cold War ended, ISOC, whose main mission was to suppress communists, was not abolished, but changed its concept of dealing with dangers to national security according to the times. In 2008, the Internal Security Act was passed, which we might call the ISOC Act, since its content was exclusively about ISOC. It resulted in ISOC becoming a permanent security agency with power over all civilian agencies, especially during national emergencies.
The concept of protecting the nation, religion and monarchy is still strongly in existence even today. The definition of “danger to security” is no longer aimed towards communists, but specifies broadly “individuals with roles in society that aim at political benefit, by using distortion and causing misunderstandings about the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.”
If we take a look at ISOC’s 2017-2022 Strategy, the security situation section, under 10 “dangers to security”, gives principles they have to be prepared for: 1. violations against the royal institution; 2. different opinions and conflicts of ideas of people in the nation; 3. the situation in the southern border provinces; 4. cybercrime; 5. natural disasters; 6. alien workers and refugees; 7. terrorism and transnational crime; 8. drugs; 9. natural resources and environmental problems; and 10. effects of international agreements and commitments on internal security.
And so that everything goes according to the strategy, some of the stratagems are stated as strengthening the security of national institutions, such as promoting the people to have awareness, pride and understanding of the role, importance and value of the institutions of the nation, religion and monarchy; promoting the learning of the importance of the royal institution and Thai national history; promoting activities that build an awareness and understanding of the importance of national sovereignty through the power of Pracharat
; and promoting the learning of the importance of Thai national history so people love and cherish national sovereignty.
So ISOC this year has changed from using the hard power of suppression from the communist era, to the greater use of cultural power.
Of course they have not discarded their old jobs like their work with the masses. ISOC in every province still gathers “ISOC masses” such as the Thai Volunteer Defence Corps, the National Security Businessmen’s Association, the Muslim Community Leaders Club, the Thai-Sikh Club, the Thai-India Club, the Catholic Club, Petchnaitom etc., to access people in all sectors.
ISOC also has a role in education. They train teachers in schools, set up campaigns or inspirational speakers like Orapim ‘Best’ Raksapon, who has before upset Northeastern people at an event held for 3,000 students recruited from 5 provinces. There are also the “Yaowachon Khon Di Khon Keng” (“Good, Outstanding Youth”) and “Tham Di Phuea Pho” (“Do Good for Dad”) projects, which give out scholarships to children from the southern border provinces, the “Petchnaitom” (“Diamond in the Rough”) project that accepts students to the Faculty of Education, SWU, selected from the children of ISOC officials in 32 provinces, the “Thiw Khon… Khon Fan” (“Tutor Intensely…Find a Dream”) project that tutors students for their exams, etc.
In art and cultural work, it was found that in 2009, the ISOC started the MOSO project, an abbreviation for Moderation Society. The MOSO project operates under the concept “think sustainably to instil Thai people’s consciousness to live rationally, understand the meaning of moderation and learn to build immunity according to the sufficiency economy philosophy”. There are various presenters, such as Khamron Wangwangsri, an MC; Maj Wanchana Sawatdee, a military officer; Aed Carabao, a singer of songs for life; Thanachai Utchin or Pod Moderndog; and Siraphun ‘Noon’ Wattanajinda, an actress. The September 2009 issue of Sudsupda magazine featured MOSO as its lead content under the heading “Fight the economy with the sufficiency economy philosophy, the Living in Moderation Society”. There were both images and interviews with the project’s presenters, including with the Prime Minister at that time, Abhisit Vejjajiva.
In September 2009, the MOSO project of ISOC held a short film contest “Following Somdet Ya’s Footsteps” to promote Thai youth to study the important royal works and biography of the Princess Mother, Somdet Phra Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, as well as to encourage society to recall her royal benevolence.
In November 2009, with the MOSO project of ISOC as a main sponsor, held the 9th Fat Festival concert Ini Fat Fest na ja 9 ja (“This is Fat Fest 9, okay”), a big concert held every year. That year, various Thai teenage bands were gathered from several affiliations. It was held on 7-8 November 2009 at Challenger Hall 2 and 3, Impact Muang Thong Thani.
In January 2010, ISOC was the main sponsor of the Fat Festival North show, Ton … show nuea sutttttt (“Northernmostttttt Show”) on 30 January 2010 at Lan Muan Jai, CentralPlaza Chiang Mai Airport.
In April 2011, ISOC, together with the army, campaigned to create a trend of patriotism and loyalty by using music as a supporting media. They held music performances in various areas across the country from near the end of April 2011 and used over 700 stations of the ISOC Community Radio Network for Security, streaming the performance 3 times a day through the internet. They focused the event on His Majesty’s royal benevolence towards the people and inserted content on patriotism and loyalty.
In 2014, ISOC held a concert Doen Na Prathet Thai Ruam Chai Patirup (“Move Forward Thailand, Reform Together”) in various provinces to publicise the work of the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO) in phase 2 of the road map to national reform and reconciliation, and returning happiness to the people according to the policies of the NCPO head. The concert was led by famous Luk Thung singers, Dao Mayuri, Chaiyo Thanawat, Sakda Kampimoon, M Kantawat, Arm Chingchasawan, Beer Kimhun, Yo Soraya, Wongklom, Ep Waranyu, etc. It was broadcast live through the Veteethai channel and recorded for broadcast through the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT).
In July 2015, ISOC held a screening of “Latitude 6”, the first film created by ISOC in partnership with the private sector. This was identified as a strategy to create learning and understanding of the way of life and identity, and of the multi-cultural society in the area of the ‘tip of the axe handle’ (the extreme south of Thailand), to create peace from now on.
In April 2016, ISOC, together with the Scenario Company, held a stage performance of “The Last Blanket” (Pha Hom Phuen Sutthai) from 17 March to 3 April 16 at Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre, with a synopsis that it “tells a story of love, sacrifice and loyalty towards the land of soldiers, inspired by a real story from the 3 southern border provinces.” It starred by O Anuchit, Aon Sarawut, Chacha Ramnarong, Froy Natthapong, Aon Korakot, Pawanrat Narksuriya, Ae Smart, Due Arisara, and Junior Kornrawich, was produced by Takonkiet ‘Boy’ Viravan and directed by Santi Towiwat with a script by Kitti ‘Kluea’ Chiawongsakul.
In August 2017, ISOC announced the composition of songs honouring King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the occasion of the Royal Cremation of His Majesty the King. There are a total of 5 songs: Ngan Khong Pho (“Dad’s Work”), Isan Yim (“The Northeast Smiles”), Thi Hen Lae Pen Yu (“What You See and What Is”), Si Nam Sam Rot (“4 waters 3 flavours”), and Chotmai Thueng Luk (“Letter to my Child”). The contents relay His Majesty’s royal duties and royal projects in the 4 regions (north, northeast, central and south), aiming for Thai people to follow in Father’s teachings and do good deeds to offer to the Father of our Land.
In February 2018, ISOC commenced a project honouring the nation’s main institutions for 2018 under the topic “Create good people with history, create the nation with ideology”. It is a lecture with lights, sound, colour and a multimedia system. The resource persons campaigned together to inculcate gratefulness. The participants were a total of 500 teachers and students at the auditorium of Mattayom Than Bin Kamphang Saen School, Kamphaeng Saen District, Nakhon Pathom Province.
To summarise the art and cultural work of ISOC since the 2008 Internal Security Act to the present: the target group of ISOC is the new generation. In the early period before the 2014 coup, ISOC’s concepts mainly focussed on disseminating and instilling an ideology of nationalism and loyalty to the royal institution among children and youth through the concept of sufficiency in the MOSO Project, which permeated into the short film contest to the Fat Festival concert, along with using well-known artists, stars and actors and actresses to further promote their work. ISOC received great cooperation from radio and TV stations in publicise these ideologies, such as the frequencies of ISOC’s 700 community radio stations.
After the 2014 coup, together with the NCPO’s PR for their policy of unity and returning happiness with these famous singers, ISOC presented the situation in the southern border provinces through film and stage performances about the sacrifice, courage and patriotism of the Thai military, and also pushed further forward the ideological campaign directed at children and youth.
We can see that, since the time of Sarit until now, the ideology of nation-religion-monarchy has always been active and is a mainstream value that exists for us in everyday life everywhere, from the educational system to advertisements, from songs to films, from the cinema to the concert stage, as well as various contests, etc. and a part of that has been ISOC as the communication mechanism for these ideologies.
Pracharat is a public-private economic partnership policy. It is thought to have been created in contrast to ‘populist’ (prachaniyom) policies associated with civilian politicians