Avid defenders of Thai royal privacy now have another outrage to get them hot under the collar. One of Australia’s senior journalist, Hamish McDonald, opens an opinion piece in todays Sydney Morning Herald as follows:

There’s decadence and there’s decadence. A poolside birthday party for Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand, captured on a rogue video widely viewed by his future subjects on the internet, showed his bare-breasted consort and a pet poodle being coaxed to blow out the candles.

Routine playboy stuff. More worrying was His Highness sitting back, indifferent to the attentive lady, stuffing tobacco into a large briar pipe and puffing contentedly. ”A woman is only a woman, but a good pipe is a smoke,” he might have been thinking, paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling’s paean to the cigar.

Actually, the Thai government has a good record in Asia for discouraging smoking, despite this poor example. It bans smoking in air-conditioned restaurants and bars and many public places and requires health warnings on cigarette packets, resulting in falling rates of smoking. But it is ambivalent: it backs the World Health Organisation on tobacco control; it also runs a tobacco monopoly with 75 per cent of Thailand’s cigarette market.