The Power of Comparing the King to “Father” of the People
“Today, every child would like to tell father that ‘children love and would like to follow father’s footsteps for ever’. Long Live Your Majesty.”
Praew Magazine, issue 775, November 25, 2011, page 202
“If you hate father and no longer love father, then you must leave this place, because this is father’s home.”
Pongpat Vachirabanjong, well-known actor, May 16, 2010, statement during Nataraja Acting Award acceptance at Navy Conference Room.
“The great monarchy is like our big father and mother, our great brahma, so we love and care.”
Luang Ta Maha Bua Yansampanno Bhikku, from The Tiger Temple Magazine, issue 32, December 2009, page 9.
“It gradually became apparent that this was a religion. To North Koreans, Kim Il-sung was more than just a leader. He showered his people with fatherly love.”
‘Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader’, written by Bradley K. Martin, 2006 page 1.
If Article 112 of the Penal Code (the lese majeste law) makes it a crime to criticize the monarchy institution, the comparison of the King as father to the people enables not a few people to feel that criticizing the monarchy is an act of evil and against the traditional paternal bond.
People who believe that King is the great father of theirs, view the relationship between the monarchy and the people through the lenses of father-children relations. It engenders a bond of emotional as well as mental dependency and fosters a feeling amongst the people (children) that to think critically, to criticize or to not love the monarch (the father) is something abnormal and a base and ungrateful acts. Thus, the lese majeste law has almost automatically become the law which protects the “father-and-mother”.
In reality, the use of this cultural mechanism may be even more powerful than the use of undemocratic and barbaric laws like the lese majeste law because the reinforcement of such comparison touches on the levels of emotion and hearts and leads to anger when criticism or questions are raised about the father. It also reinforces the legitimacy of the lese majeste law and makes these people unable to comprehend why there exist some “children” who want to criticize their father (the King).
The law can be amended but the father-children emotion is deep-rooted to the depth of hearts and when people believe it to be true it’s almost impossible to alter, and is almost like the real blood bond between biological father and children.
Most mainstream and alternative media, corporations and companies, educational institutions and government agencies as well as NGOs play an instrumental role in reinforcing the father identity of the King to the point that it becomes “normal”, “real” and without any need to doubt. If you believe that the King is your father, you would not feel inclined to ask [critical] questions. What’s more, the duty of good children is to obey father (the King) and mother (the Queen) and if some children are disobedient, it would appear unnatural [and] they deserve to be condemned, punished, imprisoned or permanently severed from the relations. They may be accused of being non-Thai, or wanting to destroy and get rid of their parents (see the October 6, 1976 and April-May 2010 incidents for examples) and these people are branded as ungrateful to their parents because no matter whether father is good or not, children should love, respect and obey. On the contrary, doing something for the King (royal or great father) is something that can be carried out more easily and naturally, like worshipping the good deeds of one’s real father.
What’s more, comparing the King as father of the people also obscures the structural relations between the ruler and the ruled, which contains class tension and inequality, and makes it even more difficult to notice and transforms it into one of a fictitious family relationship which is full of love, warmth and care between father and children. There no longer exists the need to question about class [relationships] or inequality and there is no need to be critical or demand transparency or scrutiny because the father-children lenses do not encourage citizens to think or feel differently. For example, although there are many impoverished people but the father (royal or great King) has no worries about money, or people tend not to be curious as to why in this kind of relations, would the Crown Property Bureau continue to seek rents from people.
This is not to mention the intellectual dependency of the people (children) to the King (father) that can be observed from the father’s words (His Majesty sayings) that are being repeated over and over again and the adherence to it amongst many people in society. The views of the King thus automatically become the teachings of the father and [children] need not think much by themselves because it is sufficient to adhere to the teachings of the father whom they praised as being genius at many things.
If considered carefully, we can observe that the transplant of the father-children relations over the relations between the ruler and the ruled is especially reinforced on every fifth of December, which is the King’s Birthday and also has become the “Father’s Day” [in Thailand] in order to reinforce the fatherly status of the King. Not a small number of Thais consider December 5th the day they should spend time with their biological father. This may include gift giving to father or partaking in a special meal in order to repay the debt of gratitude and to celebrate “Father’s Day”. The efficacy is such that even some who believe they are critical of the monarchy still effectively and unconsciously consider December 5th as their “Father’s Day” despite the fact that they insist that their “father” are that of their biological fathers only. They go and pay respect [to their blood father] on “Father’s Day”, December 5th, nonetheless.
(The article was translated from Thai, which first appeared on December 1, 2011 under the title พลานุภาพการเปรียบกษัตริย์เป็น “พ่อ” ของประชาชน on the Thai-language website of prachatai. It is one of the seven articles that are now subjected to police investigations after lese majeste complaints were lodged to police by Wiput Sukprasert. Police also told prachatai that they wanted all the seven articles deleted.)