Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thailand, the military and the CIA

In 1946 Ananda was found shot in his bedroom in the Grand Palace.

This ensured that teenage Bhumibol became king. And it ensured that pro-American Field Marshal Pibul became the power behind the throne.

Bhumibol had once said of his brother's murder, "It was not an accident...it was political."

King Bhumibol has a difficult job, surrounded as he is by certain 'corrupt fascist' generals who allegedly have links to the CIA.

In 1973, when pro-democracy students were being shot at by the army outside the Chitralada palace, Bhumibol ordered the gates of the palace to be opened, to help save some lives.

In 1980 one third of the rural population lived in absolute poverty (this could mean one meal a day and no money to buy shoes or typhoid medicine). In 1980, a child working 11 hours a day, in a workshop in Bangkok, would earn £36 per year! Yes, per year! Great for the Americans getting their cheap shoes and clothes made by child labour.

When the generals were again getting violent in 1992, and hundreds of people were killed, it was Bhumibol who summoned General Suchinda to the palace and had the meeting televised live. The entire Thai nation could see General Suchinda crawling across the carpet to the feet of the monarch.

In the Oriental Hotel I got talking to a retired Thai gentleman called Yong. I asked him how things were going in Bangkok.

"There is a power struggle going on within the army," said Yong. "On one side we have the reformers who want to end the army's links to drugs and karaoke bars. They want to purge the army of mafia colonels. And on the other side we have the conservatives who want to continue to do deals with the Burmese junta and the drugs barons."

Yong read to me the calypso written by Allen Ginsberg in 1972:

In nineteen hundred forty nine
China was won by Mao Tse-Tung.
Chiang Kai Shek's army ran away.
They were waiting there in Thailand yesterday

Supported by the CIA
Pushing junk down Thailand way.

First they stole from the Meo Tribes
Up in the hills they started taking bribes
Then they sent their soldiers up to Shan
Collecting opium to send to The Man
Pushing junk in Bangkok yesterday
Supported by the CIA...."

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