Up to and since the announcement of the death of the King of Thailand I have considered writing something. But in short I have little to say that has not already been said, and what I might say would not be constructive.
Suffice to say the secrecy and the laws against commenting on the Thai monarchy always troubled me during the 25 years I worked in Thailand as a journalist.
I have written stories of course and they have tended to be complimentary, even fawning – such as the cute story of the King and his dog for ‘The Times’ – which was incorporated into a book compiled by Denis Gray of AP and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
After giving permission for it to be republished I felt a slight sense of unease particularly when there were other better stories to be told. I also felt I was joining the establishment.
I do remember adding a few paragraphs on a ‘Royal’ story in which I mentioned the Crown Prince in a less than flattering way after which British Express newspapers were banned from Thailand.
The Daily Mail Website Mail Online was of course blocked after it put up the video of the Crown Prince’s birthday party for his pet poodle – Air Vice Marshall or something Foo Foo. *
Being a correspondent and not being able to report on one of the major stories in Thailand with any sort of accuracy was disturbing.
It was even more disturbing over the last decade when the Monarchy was used to justify dictatorships.
The fact is Thais loved their King, who, I am sure, was a good man and to question anything to do with the monarchy was taboo.
So of course I express sympathy my Thai friends on this occasion and sorry for their loss.
Having said that, journalist-authors such as Andrew McGregor Marshall and Paul Handley have done excellent work in lifting the veil and at great personal risk to themselves and their families.
I have joined them back in the other world.
Penetrating the superficial crust of the ‘Land of Smiles’ I too found to be a risky business – but the windmills I tilted at were the systematic corruption and criminality in the system.
Today my ‘Thai’ children fortunately can choose the characters they love or pay homage to and seem quite happy living under the world’s new longest serving constitutional monarch Queen Elizabeth II.
I do not expect any short term changes in Thailand. But in the long term only two things can happen; dictatorship or democracy. Regression or progression. There is no middle path. I hope the progress is not brutal.
*Apologies if I have Foo Foo’s military rank wrong. I really am not going to waste my time looking it up.