Death has prompted surge in coded social media comments on the subject, in a country where it is illegal to openly discuss royal succession
By Andrew Marshall
Air Chief Marshal Foo Foo, the pet poodle of Thailand’s crown prince, has been cremated after four days of Buddhist funeral rites, prompting a surge of coded social media comments in the troubled kingdom, where it is illegal to openly discuss the looming royal succession.
Thailand has been engulfed by chronic political turmoil since 2005, due partly to an unacknowledged conflict among the elite over who will become monarch when the ailing 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies.
Although Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the official heir, he is unpopular and has been embroiled in several scandals. Many Thais would prefer his younger sister, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, to inherit the throne, but palace law does not allow a female monarch.
Unable to openly discuss their doubts about the crown prince and anxiety over the future of the monarchy, Thais express their views about the royal family more subtly. Photographs of Foo Foo’s funeral rites were widely shared on social media as news spread that the 17-year-old poodle had died, and hundreds of Thais responded to the death by making ironic online comments and oblique hints about the succession.
A secret succession struggle that had simmered for decades exploded into the open in 2007 when opponents of the crown prince leaked a video showing the 30th birthday party of his third wife Princess Srirasm in 2001. The footage, which caused a sensation in Thailand, showed the princess virtually naked in the presence of several courtiers, and lying on the floor to eat cake beside Foo Foo.
Air Chief Marshall Foo Foo
A few months after the video was leaked, US ambassador Ralph “Skip” Boyce hosted a gala dinner at which the crown prince was the guest of honour. Seated beside Srirasm, Boyce began discussing the subject of royal pets, inadvertently exposing the rivalry surrounding the succession.
“I mentioned having heard Princess Sirindhorn had a large dog, and I asked Srirasm if she knew the breed. Srirasm appeared immediately to freeze up; her body language changed, and she said curtly that she knew nothing of Sirindhorn’s affairs,” Boyce wrote in a confidential cable obtained by WikiLeaks.
He added: “Her reaction was interesting, given a widespread, longstanding perception that Sirindhorn may somehow edge out the crown prince as successor to the King.”
Funeral for Foo Foo
Boyce also reported that Foo Foo had been awarded a senior rank in the Royal Thai Air Force: “Srirasm… confirmed that the crown prince’s miniature poodle, Foo Foo, currently holds the rank of Air Chief Marshal. Foo Foo was present at the event, dressed in formal evening attire complete with paw mitts, and at one point during the band’s second number, he jumped up onto the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own. The Air Chief Marshal’s antics drew the full attention of the 600-plus audience members, and remains the talk of the town to this day.”
Frank discussion of the royal succession and palace scandals is illegal in Thailand, where a draconian lèse majesté law punishes any perceived criticism of the monarchy with three to 15 years in jail. The law has been increasingly harshly enforced in recent years as the succession draws closer, and scores of people have been arrested since the military seized power in a coup last May.
In the latest scandal involving the crown prince, Srirasm was stripped of her royal titles and banished from Vajiralongkorn’s palace in December, and several of her relatives were arrested and accused of racketeering and corruption. The prince is expected to marry for a fourth time, taking a former Thai Airways flight attendant as his next wife.
THE DEGENERATION OF THE THAI ROYALS
Giles Ji Ungpakorn
The obscene and depraved 4 day cremation ceremony for the Crown Prince’s pet dog, “Air Chief Marshall Foo Foo”, clearly shows the degeneration of the Thai monarchy.
Given that millions of Thai citizens struggle to find the funds to pay for the funerals of their loved ones, it is a slap in the face of the poor by a dysfunctional institution. In Thai culture, calling someone a “dog” is an insult. But royal dogs apparently have a higher status than ordinary citizens.
The future king was well known for allowing his pet to run up and down the high table, spreading germs at official dinners, where it licked the plates of foreign guests and lapped water from their glasses. Given the dog’s ridiculous military rank, one might be forgiven for thinking that the death of his dog was a “blow” to the Thai air force. This is no joke. Prince Wachiralongkorn is a vicious, sexist, thug and his expensive funeral for his dog shows his callous disregard for appropriate behaviour.
His father preaches the “Sufficiency Economics” ideology, pretending to be frugal, when in fact he is the richest monarch in the world. King Pumipon has never lifted a finger to defend democracy or criticise the military for killing pro-democracy citizens. This weak and cowardly king also loves his dogs more than his fellow Thais. The Queen and her daughters have supported the middle-class mobsters who helped bring about two recent military coups.
These royal parasites are treading on thin ice. As the monarchy goes into a downward spiral, those in power become more manic and oppressive in their royalism. Lèse-majesté charges against opponents of the junta have sky-rocketed. Military courts are the order of the day and an authoritarian sham democracy is being crafted in order to hold “elections” in the future. Seeking to amend any military constitution has now been defined as a “criminal act”.
Ever since the barbaric military crack-downs in the 1970s, right up to the two recent military coups, the military has continuously sought to legitimise itself by using the monarchy. In attacking democracy during the present crisis, the royalists have continually insulted the “ignorant poor”, claiming that government policies to raise people out of poverty are somehow “corrupt”.
Yet, Taksin and his fellow business elites are no different. They all promote the monarchy to serve their own interests. For all these members of the Thai ruling class, the monarchy is a symbol of the “natural order of things”, where some are born to rule and the rest are born to be exploited under capitalism.
The tension and division between those who are deeply fed up with the royals and their military allies and those who claim to adore the monarchy above their own lives, is rapidly deepening. The Thai monarchy is well past its sell-by date. Yet change is never automatic or inevitable. All of us who wish to see a free and equal society in this country must work hard to push forward to a democratic republic. This will take serious political organisation.
The offending video: Crown Prince Maha and his topless wife entertaining Foo Foo
Tags: Air Chief Marshal Foo Foo, Boyce, Foo Foo’s funeral, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Maha Vajiralongkorn, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Princess Sirindhorn, Ralph “Skip” Boyce, royal familiy, Srirasm, Thailand, Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Thais