ROYALTY

Thai soap ‘mimicking’ Myanmar’s last dynasty angers its royal descendents

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 6:44pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 6:44pm

The family of Myanmar’s last king hit out on Sunday at a Thai soap opera inspired by the palace intrigue of their ancestors, accusing Thailand of double standards in how it treats another country’s royals.

Soe Win, the great grandson of Myanmar’s last monarch King Thibaw, said his family was angered by A Lady’s Flame, a new hit prime-time soap that recounts a bloody dynastic power struggle.

The show is set in a fictional kingdom but almost entirely mimics the final years of the Konbaung dynasty in the 19th century in the country formerly known as Burma.

It portrays the scheming among a key queen and princesses who orchestrated the massacre of nearly a hundred people to ensure Thibaw had no rivals to the throne following his father’s death in 1878.

While the massacre is historical fact, Thibaw’s scions are upset with their family’s portrayal by a country that shields its own monarchy from any criticism.

“We have asked Thais this, would they accept it if one of our companies here did the same thing about their country,” Soe Win said. “If no action is taken, we will ask for help from their [Thailand’s] royalty.”

Thailand ferociously enforces a lèse-majesté law that bans scrutiny or criticism of its monarchy.

Increasing numbers have been jailed in recent years for their comments about the royal family, sometimes for as much as 30 years. It is only supposed to protect senior living royal family members.

But recent cases have been brought against a historian for writing about a Thai king four centuries ago, against students who staged a play about a fictional kingdom and against a man for insulting the favourite dog of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Neighbours Thailand and Myanmar were bitter rivals for centuries and fought a number of bloody wars.

One of the most momentous battles occurred when Myanmar forces attacked the city of Ayutthaya, second capital of the Siamese kingdom, and razed it to the ground in 1767, forcing the inhabitants to abandon the city.

In Thai historical soaps and dramas, the Burmese are often portrayed as having villainous or treacherous tendencies, something that has previously caused anger in Thailand’s western neighbour.

Soe Win said he was particularly incensed by scenes in A Lady’s Flame in which royal family members slapped each other.

“It’s quite insulting, as if we are wild,” he said.

For many Burmese the fall of its monarchy at the hands of the British just a few years after Thibaw took the throne was a deep psychological scar. He died in exile in India though there are plans to return his remains to his homeland.

His family are playing a much more visible role now that the military who suppressed them have given way to a civilian-led government.