Thai security plan admits bond to monarchy weakened

Thai Security Plan admits new generation’s bond to the monarchy has weakened. 

9th Infantry Regiments, the King’s Guard

Source: 9th Infantry's Facebook Page

Thailand’s National Security Plan and Policy Guideline for 2019-2022 was announced in the Royal Gazette on 22 November. Prayut’s cabinet approved the plan in September on the advice of the National Security Council and other agencies. As with the previous plan, it highlights threats to the monarchy as a major domestic security concern.

“The institution of the monarchy remains relevant and will be a basic institution of Thai society. However, there still appears a movement of groups of individuals from inside the country and from other countries which affect the institution. They have the characteristics of referring to monarchy in order to seek political advantage and also quote falsehoods to create distortion and misunderstanding to undermine the institution,” reads the security plan.

Similar to the previous plan, it admits that the bond to monarchy remains weak among the new generation. “This situation is sensitive and leads to conflicts between different groups in society. Also, the bonds of some people, especially the new generation, which they have with the monarchy, have weakened due to a lack of correct understanding and awareness of the importance of the monarchy as the centre of the sentiments and the point of trust of Thai society.”

The approach to entrenching the monarchy includes improving the performance of departments responsible to guarding the monarch and members of the royal family, encouraging every sector of Thai society and Thai communities overseas to understand the importance of the monarchy, applying the sufficiency economy, an idea of the late King Bhumibol, to development projects and publicizing their work both domestically and internationally.

In a change from the previous plan, concern over the lèse majesté law has been removed. The previous plan said the use of the lèse majesté law was important but caused concern over the violation of human rights. So appropriate use of legal measures without affecting the monarchy has been added as an indicator. Only one case has been prosecuted under Section 112 during the reign of King Vajiralongkorn, but laws relating to sedition and computer crime have been increasingly enforced.

The new security plan also highlights other security threats including inequality, internal conflicts, the insurgency in the Deep South, lack of confidence in the administration, drugs, climate change, competition among major powers to influence the country as well as other non-traditional threats including human trafficking, migration, and transnational crime.

Who is the plan referring to?

What does the plan mean by “groups of individuals from inside the country and from other countries”? According to Supalak Ganjanakhundee, Visiting Fellow in the Thailand Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, they are young activists and dissidents.

“In the five years since 2014, these prosecutions have most notably targeted young people,” wrote Supalak. “In recent years, dozens of activists and politicians have been tied up in prosecutions for the expression of political ideas, for actions against the authorities, and for criticism of the monarchy. Many dissidents who sought exile abroad were charged, and are now wanted at home, in connection with such criticism.

These include Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who reported a physical attack against him in Kyoto in August. Also the corpses of 2 exiled associates of Surachai Saedan were found earlier this year in Mekong River between Lao and Thailand and Surachai himself is missing, leading many to speculate that he has already been killed.

“Some parties in Thailand have been obsessed with the decline in faith in the monarchy for years,” wrote Supalak. “This fear was especially evident during the transition period between the reigns of King Bhumibol and King Vajiralongkorn, which came amid deepening political division — between the country’s establishment elite and the lower middle class, and between conservative and progressive political ideologies.

Other mechanisms have also been put in place. For example, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society opened an Anti-Fake News Centre on 1 November. It was the Ministry who also threatened to sue people after Tweets over a royal motorcade spread in October, leading to the arrest of a political activist, Karn Pongpraphapan, over a Facebook post not related to the royal motorcade.