April 27, 2014 00:00
By Kornchanok Raksaseri
Maj Gen Rienthong Nanna explains why he has set up an organisation to rid the country of all those who insult the Monarch
In the headlines since setting up an organisation that aims “to eradicate the “rubbish of the nation” and fight the people who “insult the monarchy,” Maj Gen Rienthong Nanna says his mission in life is to protect the monarchy.
The director of the private Mongkutwattana General Hospital since taking early retirement from the military seven years ago, the 54-year-old doctor has now handed over the administration of the hospital to others and assumed an advisory role as he focuses his efforts on chasing down anti-royalists.
“If my hospital is affected as a result, so be it," he says, adding that his family, including his three children, fully supports his decisions. “Personal issues are small in comparison.”
His organisation aims to build a network to search out and report anyone who violates the lese majeste law and ensure they face legal action.
Rienthong has come under fire for picking the word “rubbish” for the group’s name but insist it is not too harsh.
“The people who insult the monarchy and their allies deserve to be called rubbish as they are ungrateful. They don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. The monarch has greatly contributed to the country but they insult the Royal Family, saying they are just “criticising” as is their constitutional right. Take a look at the social media and it is clear this is not mere criticism, pictures have been doctored.
“The monarchy has no means of protecting itself. Have you ever seen His Majesty sue a subject? Never. He only grants amnesty. Today, we still have Article 112 [of the penal code, the lese majeste law]. Think how much worse it would be if we didn’t.”
Contrite at having ignored the anti-royalist comments for too long and cognisant that the insults have increased, he says the movement has reached the point where it must be stopped.
“I declare myself as an enemy of the people who insult the monarchy and the people who support them. I am not an enemy of the red shirts or any other particular group of people,” he says.
He is realistic enough to know that love and respect for the monarchy cannot be forced nor will people necessarily change their views.
“You think differently; you don’t love the monarchy, that’s okay. You are not rubbish. But don’t ever insult the monarchy or encourage such insults," he says.
To speed up and reduce the work of the authorities in pursuing incidents of lese majeste, the network gathers evidence both on- and offline. In cases of clear wrongdoing, the individual will face legal action while the person making the report is rewarded at each step.
The network will also take it on itself to report to the family, friends and colleagues of a suspect about his/her behaviour. Social sanctions could start from there.
The evidence, though, must be concrete and anyone who attempts to frame another will also face legal action.
And while Rienthong has plenty of detractors, he also enjoys support: The week the Facebook page was launched, it attracted 144,000 Likes.
Recently, following threats from a group of armed men, Rienthong announced his group would be armed for the purposes of self-defence.
Last week, the group submitted video clips and filed a complaint with the Technological Crime Suppression Division against Thai-British woman Chatwadee Amornpat, who lives in the UK. Her parents had earlier also filed a lese majeste complaint against her. The case is pending.
While Rienthong has yet to decide on an English name for his organisation in the meantime, he is calling himself Van Helsing after the vigilante monster hunter
An avid storyteller, he is full praise for his alma mater Phramongkutklao College of Medicine for giving “a chance to a boy without a future”.
The medical school, which owes its existence to His Majesty the King, enabled him to develop his career and turn a long-cherished dream into reality.
Despite becoming known as the result of the current political conflict, Rienthong says his organisation and its movement has nothing to do with politics. He doesn’t know the People’s Democratic Reform Committee leader Suthep Thaugsuban personally and his only support for the protest has been humanitarian through the provision of medical services.
“Mongkutwattana is the closest hospital to the Chaeng Wattana protest site and even if I were against the PDRC, I would have provided the same level of assistance,” he says adding that his hospital’s staff includes both PDRC and red shirt supporters and that they work together without problem.
While the PDRC announced the “Bangkok Shutdown” on January 13, Rienthong opened the hospital to protesters, offering food and drinks and toilet facilities in addition to ambulances and emergency medical services. Patients were asked to bring their identification cards and the hospital would charge the National Health Security Fund for its services. Rienthong also announced that the hospital would not allow police or strangers to use its multi-storey building as the strategic location for any operation.
On February 14, while the anti-government protesters were chanting on Chaeng Wattana Road, Rienthong went to speak to police officers preparing to disperse the rally. He and his son each pushed on a police shield in an attempt to stop the line, which was moving forward, from reaching the protesters.
His action was praised by the anti-government camp and the pictures were circulated on social media.
He later demanded on Facebook that the national police chief revise operations, adding that if the police officers were sincere, then there would have been no need for them to cover their faces while dispersing the protesters.
Not everyone agreed with his stance: In early March, his hospital was attacked by gunfire. While there were no injuries, the bullet left a hole in the seventh floor. Rienthong refused to file a complaint, explaining that he trusted neither the police nor the government.
Asked if he has ever feared anything, he returns to his mission.
“I have never been afraid, but now I fear that the institution of the monarchy will be destroyed,” he says.