Taboo Monument

Taboo Monument is a campaign to raise awareness and questions about the existence of King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square and the monument in Cambridge, MA, which was dedicated to the previous king of Thailand who suppressed democracy and human dignity in the country.

Who deserves a monument and a square named after them on US soil? How about a person who endorsed eleven military coups, supported radical right-wing groups which killed and lynched hundreds of victims, and oppressed freedom of speech? Does that person stand for any ideals Americans believe in?

Taboo Monument
King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square and Birthplace Monument

The square and the monument are at the corner of Eliot and Bennett Streets, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The square was first dedicated on April 8, 1990, by princess Chulabhorn, youngest daughter of King Bhumibol, to commemorate the King's birth at Mount Auburn Hospital on December 5, 1927. Then on November 14, 1992, princess Sirindhorn, representing King Bhumibol, unveiled the plaque installed at the square.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square and King Bhumibol Adulyadej Birthplace Monument at Eliot Street and Bennett Street Cambridge, MA
Cholthanee Koerojna, the president and founder of King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation, and her friends stand next to the monument on the unveiling day.

In 2003, a Thai American group was known as the King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation (KTBF), and the City of Cambridge renovated the square. They installed the current monument by moving an old plaque onto a raised platform, which they claimed makes the plaque more visible. The group also mentioned that the monument was a gift for the King's 76th birthday on December 5, 2003.

Cholthanee Koerojna is installing the King badge on the plaque.

In an interview, Chontanee, the president and founder of the foundation, gave an interesting reason for initiating this project. She didn't want to see any foreigner's bicycles tied at the King's Square, which she believes is disrespectful to the King. Therefore, she used her foundation to renovate the monument to a more 'honorable' state.

A portrait of King Bhumibol giving a speech in one of the events
Who is Bhumibol Adulyadej?

He might have been known as the most beloved king among Thais, the king who has thousands of royal projects to improve Thai society. But in fact, he used his power to make himself the world’s richest monarch. Meanwhile, people in Thailand are not allowed to question or criticize him; otherwise, they might be imprisoned for up to 15 years per offense.

Over a Half-Century of Massive Advertisement Effort

King Bhumibol’s power and influence were maintained through extensive propaganda efforts. Pictures of the King are mandatory in Thailand’s public buildings, schools, and even homes. Reverence for the monarchy is instilled by the public education system, and every evening all television channels broadcast a propaganda program praising the royal family.

Photo of people welcomed King Bhumibol and Queen at a remote village
Photo of King Bhumibol working hard sitting on the floor against a truck
Photo of people sitting down on a floor greeting King Bhumibol

King Bhumibol, the propaganda claims, worked tirelessly to develop Thailand and brought stability to the nation’s turbulent politics. But in reality, neither message is valid. The King’s numerous “development” projects are PR-stunts largely funded with tax-payer money and have never been proven effective or financially accountable. Similarly, the King’s benevolent role in politics is a myth. Bhumibol would often intervene in favor of powerful groups—most often the military—and strengthen rather than heal divisions in Thai society.

Photo of people holding a picture of King Bhumibol blessing him to recover from his illness at Siriraj Hospital
King Bhumibol visited “Village Scout” paramilitary units, one of the groups lynching student protesters in the massacre.
The King’s Support of the Radical Right-wing Groups

In 1976, for example, he supported right-wing militias who murdered hundreds of students demonstrating in Bangkok. This is the infamous ‘6 October Massacre’, an event Thailand’s rulers have long tried to conceal from history. King Bhumibol played a crucial role in bringing about this massacre and returning Thailand to military rule.

The photo of Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn went to a funeral of one of the villager boy scout members, one of the Radical Right-wing Groups, two weeks after the massacre at Wat Phra Sri Mahathat, Bangkok.

The royal family, particularly the crown prince, gave explicit support to the police and right-wing groups inciting violence. In the end, none of the massacre’s perpetrators were held accountable, while more than three thousand innocent students and civilian survivors were detained.

The massacre took place with no evidence that the protesters were a part of any communist group.
A Military Coup Endorser

Since the beginning of his reign in 1946, Bhumibol has endorsed 11 military coups. These coups denied Thais the right to elect their leaders democratically and allowed military regimes to oppress the people.

Besides endorsing the coups, King Bhumibol also appointed most generals involved in the coups to be privy councilors (King's official advisors). He granted them public favors and made it clear the generals were doing their will.

2006-coup-makers and Bhumibol met right after the coup
1991-coup-makers and Bhumibol met after the Black May protests (1992)
2014-coup-makers and Bhumibol met to get the coup endorsed
A 61-year-old guiltless victim passed away in prison during his lèse-majesté case for sending four SMS messages.
An Oppressor of Free Speech

Since 1957, lèse majesté law (which prohibits defaming or insulting the monarch) has been used as a political weapon to criminalize and punish political opponents in Thailand. After 1976, King Bhumibol heavily enforced the lèse-majesté law, which punishes anyone who criticized him and his family with 3-15 years of imprisonment per offense. Throughout his reign, over 1,000 were punished by this law, with the longest sentence being 87 years.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit is a Thai pro-democracy activist and political exile who was considered a lèse majesté offender, abducted by armed men outside his home in Phnom Penh on 4 June 2020.

Some victims are still in prison, some had to flee the country, some were abducted, and others were murdered. Many lèse majesté cases were not publicly revealed because domestic and international media must routinely self-censor their reporting or risk prosecution.

Harry Nicolaides, an Australian writer, spent six months in a Thai prison under the Thai lèse majesté law, for a passage in a 2005 novel that defamed the Thai monarchy.
Joe Gordon, a US Citizen, was convicted for 5-years’ imprisonment. His crime was translating a biography of Bhumibol published by Yale University.
Photo of a group of ultra-royalist Thai Americans attempted to silence the demonstrators by shouting over their speeches and heckling at King Bhumibol Square, Cambridge, MA
Oppression Haunting Here

This monument is not only a symbol of oppression but also a tool for suppressing free speech in Cambridge today.

On November 1, 2020, Thais and Thai Americans gathered in King Bhumibol Square to protest the use of violence against protesters in Thailand. At the time, rubber bullets, tear gas, and military units were being deployed against peaceful protesters in Bangkok.

Photo of Thai and Thai-American protesters confronted a group of ultra-royalist at King Bhumibol Square, Cambridge, MA

However, a group of ultra-royalist Thai Americans attempted to silence the demonstrators by shouting over their speeches and heckling. Afterward, several demonstrators received blackmail texts, threatening to expose their undocumented status and reporting their protest to the Royal Thai Consulate in New York. As demonstrated at the king’s monument, the second threat is potentially very dangerous and could be interpreted as a crime of lèse majesté in Thai law.

A photo of a screenshot of the threatening text message from one of the ultra royalist group that is directly related to the King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation (KTBF)

This is a blatant infringement on the rights to free speech and assembly. King Bhumibol Square and its monument are being used by extremist Thais to violate First Amendment rights on American soil.

Photos of Thai pro-democracy protesters rallied around the square after the blackmail texts received and one royalist lady who tried to stand and shield the monument
The King Never Smiles cover projected on King Bhumibol Birthplace Monument on December 5, 2020
Still Want To Have This Person’s Square and Monument in Your Town?

This monument honors a person who opposed democracy, who supported military rule, and who jailed his critics. King Bhumibol does ot stand for any of the ideals Americans believe in.

We hope that one day, the City of Cambridge will get rid of this stain on American democracy.

We need your help!

We are currently working hard to brainstorm and listen to all ideas to find our next step, so please feel free to share your opinions via email. Also, we will keep you posted if there is any update on our next step.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to learn more about this person from the book The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej, written by Paul M. Handley, published by Yale University, which banned by Thai authorities.