11 July 2024

As soon as political heat rises in the country, the name of ultra-royalist Maj-General Dr Rienthong Nanna starts flashing on the radar. 

Last week he won media coverage not for leading a group of yellow shirts to swear loyalty to the King, but for his haunting statement: “Under the pretext of reforming the monarchy, they undermine the revered institution. I don’t see them as people. I see them as enemies of the King.”

The statement raised fears about possible clashes between royalists and pro-democracy protesters who are pushing for reform of the monarchy. 

Rienthong said it is normal for people loyal to the King to become enraged and violent with protesters who “threaten” the monarchy.

He publicly voiced his views after yellow-shirted royalists skirmished with student protesters at Ramkhamhaeng University’s Huamark campus on Wednesday. 

This former soldier warned of violent clashes if protests he calls “offensive” continue. 

Last week, he sacked a surgeon at his hospital after learning she was among doctors who signed a statement condemning the government’s crackdown on demonstrators at Pathumwan intersection in Bangkok. 

“The Mongkutwattana General Hospital has a clear policy to not hire anyone who aligns with the enemies of the King,” Rienthong announced. 

Early this year, he also publicly told red shirts and those associated with the now-defunct Future Forward Party to not conduct any business or receive services from his hospital. 

Since resigning from the Army in 2007 to take charge of his family-owned hospital, Rienthong has been fierce, outspoken and clear in his stance as the head of the pro-monarchy camp. 

In 2013, he founded the so-called Rubbish Collection Organisation to heap pressure on lese majeste suspects while also promoting Royal projects. 

The “rubbish collectors” now have more than 300,000 followers on Facebook. 

The organisation was set up after the ultra-royalist People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) took to the streets in 2013 in a bid to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government. 

Rienthong welcomed PDRC protesters to his hospital, offering free food, parking space and access to toilets. He even vowed to protect them, saying that former soldiers were on standby. 

Rienthong has been at the forefront of ultra-royalist movements ever since, so as soon as anti-establishment protests began appearing this year, he was quick to mobilise a counter-movement. 

“We will strengthen the people’s army to defend the monarchy,” he declared. 

Brought up in a rough-and-tough community, Rienthong spent much of his childhood around people who worked in his father’s transport business. Many were either reformed rogues or ex-boxers, and Rienthong picked up boxing skills even before he joined kindergarten. 

As a child, Rienthong was brought up to revere His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother, always bowing dutifully before their images. His parents taught their nine children to be grateful to the Royal Family. 

Bypassing the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, he managed to join the army as a doctor thanks to his medical schooling. 

The Nanna family migrated to Thailand from China in the mid-1800s during the reign of King Rama III. My parents told me that I should become a soldier who is ready to sacrifice his life for the King,” Rienthong said. 

Married with three children, his family is pledged to support and repay the Kingdom and its monarchy.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk