The recent East-West Center event to honour the Thai king (previously reported on New Mandala here) has motivated an article titled “An unnecessary honor” by Tom Plate. Available originally at UCLA’s AsiaMedia, it has now been published at The Seattle Times (under the headline “Event fit for a king serves up pad thai and pointlessness”) and The Japan Times (“Redundant royal honors provoke wonder”). The article pulls no punches in its analysis of the palace role in Thailand’s September 2006 coup. It also has some pretty harsh words for the East-West Center along the way. Thank to Mike for drawing it to my attention.

In one part of the article, Tom Plate writes:

[Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s] flowery speech, read to a bored audience word for word, praising her father’s many countless deeds, was preceded by an amazingly boring video on the good king’s many good deeds. It was a weird scene. When the princess entered the ballroom, the guests (many paying a pretty price for the honor of attending the gala dinner) had to rise, after having been admonished by the authorities of the East-West Center as to what would be viewed was acceptable behavior in the presence of the princess.

And he finishes with:

The East-West Center is, one supposes, entitled to honor almost anyone it wants. But as one left the hall, one had to wonder why King Bhumibol’s handlers felt compelled to organize such an unnecessary and questionable event as this. Why go out of your way to honor a king who allegedly is so wonderful he doesn’t need any more honors? One had to wonder.

New Mandala readers may also be interested to know that Plate’s article has already sparked a discussion on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree. I expect that is just the beginning.