Rules for Pictures of Thai Royalty

A picture of King Rama VI with his governmental ministers

Most people know before they come to Thailand for a holiday, that they shouldn’t criticize or even comment about the Thai royal family. It is a sensitive subject which could lead to 15 years in prison in extreme cases of lese majeste. All of this gives first-timers the wrong impression of the monarchy. Unlike some European royal families, H.M. The King actually does deserve all the adoration he receives. Over his long and full life he has achieved much, not only personally but also for his loyal subjects. He has traveled to all corners of the Kingdom helping people who are in need of assistance.

It has been said that several hundred years ago, you weren’t even allowed to look at royalty. According to some stories, whenever the king left the palace he was accompanied by archers. Their job was to shoot out the eyes of anyone who dared glance at the monarchy. Things have changed, however we still need to make sure we obey all royal protocol. Newspaper editors have to be very careful about where they position pictures of the royal family on the page. In preference it should be above the fold without any other picture above it. Obviously this is not always possible, but they must never juxtapose a picture of the royals with say a murderer or a particularly gruesome car accident. As a webmaster, we also have to be careful. Though of course that isn’t easy with blogs.

Last year the Thai newspaper Thai Rath got into some trouble about a picture they ran. They had a picture of a group of Thai students who had just won an international award for a robot competition. Two of the people in the picture were holding portraits of H.M. The King. It was a good story, but the newspaper didn’t want to run the picture above the fold. Secondly, one of the students holding the picture was sitting on the floor with the image of the H.M. The King near his feet. In Thai society the feet are considered dirty. Other students were standing behind this boy with their heads being higher than the portrait. The editors wanted to run the story but they had a dilema about royal protocol. What they decided to do in the end was to photoshop out the picture of H.M. The King. They were hoping no-one would notice. But of course, everyone did and Thai Rath was accused of being disloyal to the monarchy.

If you want to have your pictures of the royal family published, then here are some tips from Bumrung Phankaek, a royal photographer.

# Avoid a photo that might be lower the family member’s dignity. For instance, if the royal person is very short compared to someone nearby, take a photograph with both sitting on a sofa.

# A photo of the royal person eating or drinking is prohibited.

# Shoot a photo only at an eye-level angle. It’s not possible to publish a royal photograph shot from a high angle because this is considered as defamation of royal honour.

# It is prohibited to take royal photograph during movement from lower and higher ground, such as taking a stair step.

# For a close-up photo of a royal smiling face, always leave some blank space over the top of the photo while taking a shot. This is to avoid missing of some part of the head, in which case you cannot use it.

# You will have to stay at least five metres away while taking a photo.

# Only an SLR or film slide camera is allowed. Compact or digital cameras are prohibited for taking a royal photo due to their ease to edit for improper use.

# Before publishing any royal photograph, it is strongly recommended to ask permission from the royal office.

I have seen quite a few pictures of people posing with royal family members. Nearly always the royalty are sitting on a chair and everyone else is sitting on the floor. No-one wants to be positioned where their head is higher than royalty. What is interesting is the old photo of King Rama VI at the top of this page. Can you spot him among his governmental ministers? He is sitting in the first row, four chairs from the right. You won’t see pictures like that these days.

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