Thailand has thousands of civil servants, police and teachers being sent to a military camp for intensive community service training, as well as loyalty to the Thai monarchy, according to Reuters citing Royal Palace officials, trainees and organisers. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, the permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, coordinates the programme.
These courses were initiated last year by King Maha Vajiralongkorn (or Rama X), and some who have participated in the “Volunteer Spirit 904” spoke to Reuters about the boot camp. They explained they had to wake up at 5.00 am for light exercise before military-style salute practise. Next, they took courses on the history of Thai monarchs and community service. The training programme can last anywhere from 15 days to six weeks. The conclusion of their training sees them named “Karatchakan Suan Pra-ong” which means “Officials in His Majesty’s Service” in English where they are to promote the Thai monarchy. Their promotion of the royals is tracked through messaging apps.
About the courses, Prayurasiddhi, said, “The King has the royal policy to create unity among the people. Then everything will lead to the people’s happiness and a secure nation.”
Close to 3,000 people have gone through the “strictly voluntary” programme since March 2018.
In the past several weeks, King Rama X has fired several officials for “extremely evil misconduct” and “adultery,” as well as being “lax” in their duties. Officials were also relieved of their duties for severe disciplinary misconduct that was claimed to have harmed royal service.
This came after the King stripped his Royal Noble Consort of all her royal and military titles for being “disloyal.”
According to the Royal Place, Sineenat “did not understand Royal Palace’s custom and traditions, showed disobedience to the King and Queen, and exploited her title by giving commands and claiming the King had told her to do so on his behalf.”
Experts argue that the King’s actions with this programme, mixed with the firing of officers, his consort and other actions, are ways that Rama X is asserting his will in ways not seen since Thailand was under an absolute monarchy prior to 1932.
Rama X took over the throne after the death of his beloved father, King Rama IX in 2016. His father’s death caused widespread mourning throughout Thailand, and he was cremated in an elaborate ceremony a year later.
Thailand has strict lèse majesté laws that criminalise defaming, insulting or threatening the King and members of the Royal Family. People can be punished up to 15 years in prison if convicted.