What a tourist first see and asked after he sets his foot on Thailand, it must be the thousand portraits of the Thai King (Bhumibol Adulyadej) (and the Queen's) wihch can be seen in stores, people's homes, hospitals, schools, outside on city streets, billboards, bridge crossings...everywhere decorated artfully throughout Thailand and when he gets in a taxi then the first question he is asked is if he needs a girl.
This is what we call Thailand, the typical country in the world. The land that the king is demanded to be loved by all. Constitutionally, he is above all, protected by the lése majesté which none is allowed to criticize him for his bad deed. He is credited as the symbol of the political intervention and unity of the country for his role in Thai political intervention and facilitating Thailand´s transition to democracy and even the symbol of economic development for his various development projects which these are reasonably or unreasonably believed and recognized by the Thais. With all these, he is respected like the semi-divine god king.
Comparatively, the prostitution also comes next to the image of the Thai King when one thinks of Thailand because Thailand is known as the Disneyland of sex tourism in the world which brings about the economic development to its zenith promoted by the government in order to attract more foreign tourists and investors to the country.
Actually, tourists will not come to Thailand if they just come to see the white sand beach, ancient temples and other natural beauty, since such things can be seen almost anywhere in the world and it is even ridiculous to say that tourists come to Thailand because they want to eat Thai food, since most of tourists still prefer the western , Japanese, Korean, and Chinese food during their visits which is available everywhere throughout Thailand.
Historically, Thailand’s prostitution has existed since the Ayuddhya period (1350-1767) and it becomes flourished especially during the Vietnam War in the 20th century and afterward to the present day.
The prostitution has now become the part of Thai society in both culture and economic development and politic which Thailand cannot survive without it. However, sadly the prostitution is not legalized and the prostitutes who most of them are from the poor family are being viewed as an object and have been looking down by the Thai elites as dog, the sub-human and the ignorant and with this it makes their dignity becomes less valuable and respected in Thai society.
In this point of view that the prostitutes or the poor, as the citizen of Thailand, must fight for their role and dignity respected just like other people in the country, the middle class, the elites and the king of Thailand for they have the same role in social development and political stability. Or at least I can say that the prostitutes have even more important role than that of the king of Thailand in the Thai society in both economic development and political stability.
This daring statement proved to be right because if we reasonably look closely into their contributions to the Thai economic development and political stability by the prostitution, we can understand that it is critically more important.
In Thailand the king is admired for his social development project and his role in political intervention. But the thing is not that true as its nature because most of the king´s projects are implemented under the financial and political support of the government.
For instance, in the military governments of Sarith Dhanarajata and his successors (1958–1980), Bhumibol was re-portrayed as the "Development King" and the source of the economic and political goals of the regime. Royally-initiated projects were implemented under the financial and political support of the government, including projects in rural areas and communities under the influence of the Communist Party of Thailand.
During the civilian governments of General Pem Tinsulanond (1981–1987), Prem, later to become President of Bhumibol's Privy Council, officially allocated government budgets and manpower to support royal projects. Most activities in this period involved the development of large scale irrigation projects in rural areas.
During the modern period (post-1988), the structured development of the Royal Projects reached its apex. Bhumibol's Chaipattana Foundation was established, promoting his ”sufficiency economy” theory, which is an alternative adopted by the period's elected governments. Following the 2006 coup, establishment of a "sufficiency economy" was enshrined in the constitution as being a primary goal of the government.
So we can see that all the projects of Bhumibol, the king of Thailand, are initiated maybe mostly by his surrounding and the government. It seems that Bhumibol is able to do nothing if his surrounding and the Thai government have not been extending their initiation, support, and implementation, because the king seems to be just a symbol only rather than the real key actor of development. In fact the government can carry out such projects by itself and even reduce bureaucracy, expense and improve effectiveness.
Only in the the military regime of Plaek Pibul Songrgram (1951–1957) that Bhumibol managed to initiate a few projects using his own personal funds. These projects included the Royal Film and Radio Broadcasting Projects. But we can ask where did he get the money from? Isn´t it from the government? And where does the government get the money from? Isn´t it from the tax collection in the country?
However, Thailand, the most peaceful country in the region for centuries, even with these many so-called developing projects, is still a developing country and millions of its citizens still live under the poverty lines. According to a United Nations report issued in 2000, Thailand has 9.8 million poor people, 5.8 million ultra poor people and 3.4 million almost poor people. The total figure is 19 million, or 29.9% of the population, and is concentrated in provinces along the borders in the West, North, and Northeast regions. However, the poverty reduction was remarkably reduced between 2000 and 2004 under Thaksin Sinawatra´s leadership in Thailand which fell to 11.3 per cent, according to the World Bank and continued to be reduced until he was toppled by the military coup d´eta in 2006. The reduction of poverty is seen slower after that and in 2008 the people who live under the poverty line is 5.4 millions or 8.4 % according to UNESCAP.
However, Bhumibol´s wealth has incredibly increased according to Forbe magazine published in 2008 said that the 80-year-old king had a $35 billion fortune, with his estimated net worth increasing sevenfold during the past year. The wealth is included a stake in a major bank and huge holdings in the Siam Cement company and most importantly it said that the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), which manages most of his family's wealth, "granted unprecedented access this year, revealing vast landholdings, including 3,493 acres in Bangkok which the Journal of Contemporary Asia estimated that the Crown Property Bureau’s assets worth at US$27.4 billion. Forbes said that figure is higher now that Thailand’s currency, the baht, has appreciated. But it is ridiculous that even Bhumibol becomes the richest king in the world, he still shamelessly receives the financial support for his family from the Thai taxpayers contributed to him for 2 billion baht (US$59 million) each year.
People in the world just think that if Bhumibol can sacrifice only $5 billion of his total wealth to help his people, the poverty of those 5.4 million of Thais will be effectively alleviated and they would stop selling their flesh for income to support themselves and the family. But there is no such a hope of help from this king.
It is even sad to know that the CPB has increased its assets in the prime locations in Thailand by means of land grabbing. This act of illegal land grabbing of the CPB is always successful for no one dares to criticize since the CPB always threatens the poor or land owners with the king power or that it simply touts the king’s theory of a sufficiency economy, which preaches moderation, reasonableness and immunity. Then the golden robe of king Bhumibol surrounded the land and the lés majésty law will bans everyone in Thailand to criticize and scrutinize this illegal land grabbing as forever. Below is one of the case happened to the poor in Thailand related to the CPB.
A man is called Somchai, lives in a prime location in central Bangkok. Now in his sixties, Somchai designed and built his house himself nearly 30 years ago. He doesn’t own the land, but he only pays about 400 baht ($11) in rent to his landlord.
So why does he now wish he lived somewhere else?
“If I could do it all over, I wouldn’t build on this land,” he told Asia Sentinel. “There is no security. I can get kicked off at any time.”
But he won’t go voluntarily. Somchai’s land, you see, is owned by the King. In fact, most of Bangkok’s best real estate is owned by Thailand’s royal family through the Crown Property Bureau (CBP), which manages the monarchy’s land holdings. Somchai was able to build the house by bribing bureau officials a few decades ago. Now if he sells it, 75 percent of the money will go to the CPB, giving Somchai—who is retired with little savings—no incentive to leave.
“The people around here all worry that they might be forced out, but we are too scared to talk about it,” he said.
Besides this act of illegal land grabbing and the leech-like person, this king is known as the coup maker or the coup supporter. We can say this because all the coup leaders always seek for his endorsement, support and blessings after they took the power in order to become legitimate leaders. This is the reason why he is always able to intervene the political crisis in the country. It even clearly understands that this king is the coup maker for his role behind the coup d´eta in 2006. This coup d´eta was believed to be engineered by the king and his surrounding elites in order to abolish Thaksin being afraid of his increasing popularity among the majority of Thais which they think that such a popularity could clearly conquer the present position of the Thai king today and harm the royal institution in the future.
Furthermore, this king has wasted so much Thai economy not only on the expense to his family´luxurious life in the golden palace, but also the expense of million dollars on millions of his decorated portraits hanging up throughout the country which cannot be seen anywhere in the world.
Comparatively, the prostitutes have more value to say about them due to their sacrifice for the well-being of their families and the economic development in the country compared to Bhumibol, the king of Thailand, because their sacrifice makes tourism in Thailand contributes to about 6% of the national economy.
In the past their business was legalized and taxed. However, it is considered as illegal under the prostitution law 1908, but it has even contributed more to the Thai economy. Especially, during the Vietnam war it injected some $16 million into the Thai economy annually through this sex tourism and it is remarkably increased to, as one estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at, US$ 4.4 billion per year or about three percent of the Thai economy. It is estimated that the number of prostitutes in Thailand has increaed from 400,000 in 1964 to to 2 million today. Among which 20% of Thailand prostitutes are 18 or younger. According to research by Chulalongkorn University on the Thai illegal economy, prostitution in Thailand in the period between 1993 and 1995, made up around 2.7% of the GDP. It is believed that at least 10% of tourist dollars are spent on the sex trade.
Without such an invaluable sacrificial role of the prostitution or the poor, Thailand would never have come the tiger economic country in the third world countries. The investors and tourists would never flux into Thailand. With this, it keeps attracting and improving the Thai economic development and at the same time helps stabilize country´s politic.
On the other hand, without such an invaluable sacrifice to support themselves and family the poor would still be poor and would never see their living standards become improved through the elites´government policy, if Thaksin didn´t come to power whose leadership tried to clean up the country's image as the red-light district of the world and provide the Thai women with a decent jobs which was succeed somewhat, for Bhumibol and his elites politically and economically want to and will always keep the majority poor of Thailand become poor as long as possible so that they can easily control and exploit them in order to maintain their power, political status and enrich themselves on the expense of these majority poor Thais.
With these reasons, I think that it is time now for the poor of Thailand and even the middle class, to wake up and fight for what they deserve to be in the society. They should not live under the disguised semi-divined god king Please all majority of Thais realize that his development projects are initiated by his elite cronies, financed, supported and implemented by the government and other involved institutions. In fact, this king has sacrificed nothing but enriching himself to the top of the world by sucking majority of Thais´ blood daily and embezzling the public property through his CPB and social development projects so that he can uses this wealth to maintain his power grip in the future.
However, we can believe that he is the loved king by all and the kindness king to all Thais only he can prove to the Thais that if he could sacrifice some of his wealth to alleviate the poverty in the country, stop receiving the annual $59 million from the tax payer to support his family, abolish the lés majésty law and allow the independent institute to investigate his wealth. Otherwise, he must be considered as the feudal, corrupt, dictatorial, and authoritative person that the Thai people must get rid of him and bring about the respect for human rights, human dignity , and freedom of expression, and social and economic justice to the Thai society. Or the majority of Thais will live a life like an object and their future will continue to be exploited without ending under this king and his surrounding elites.
About the Author: Mr. Tony, a British, is a regular tourist to Thailand since 1995. His destination is Asean countries which Thailand is his top favorite due to its sex industry and corrupt police officers. He also started his business in Thailand in 1999 and had a residence there which he just gave it up last year.