Pavin on #thaistory

Pavin on #thaistory

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, former Thai diplomat and now fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, has published a new article in Indonesian journal Strategic Review on the prospects for Yingluck’s government and the impact of #thaistory on the political debate in Thailand.

An extract:

Yingluck is trying hard to avoid upsetting the Palace. It has been reported that she is now seeking to appoint a number of royalists who have the trust of and access to the Palace to serve in her cabinet. But Yingluck and the Puea Thai government might not be the only threats to the royal establishment. Just two days before the election, another shockwave was felt among Thais following the release of a controversial report on the Thai monarchy. Veteran foreign journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall published what is considered to be another body blow to the Thai royal family.

Marshall was a correspondent with Reuters news agency for 17 years until he resigned on June 3. He has written an account of the Thai monarchy at its critical transition and made it available to the public — an act that will certainly guarantee him a lengthy prison sentence for lèse-majesté. Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code concerns offences deemed to defame, insult or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent or the Regent; the offense of lèse majesté carries a jail sentence of three to 15 years. For defying the draconian law of lèse majesté, Marshall said succinctly in his manuscript, “Besides having to leave a job I loved with a company I had believed in, it also seems likely that I can never visit Thailand again. That feels unbearably sad. But it would have been infinitely sadder to have just accepted defeat and given up trying to write something honest about Thailand. My duty as a journalist, and as a human being, is to at least try to do better than that.”

Marshall’s manuscript has significantly become a part of the ongoing trend of revelations about the much-guarded Thai royal family. True, most of the stories told by Marshall are not new. Many Thais may have already heard them several times before. But Marshall has undoubtedly helped push the boundaries much further as one looks at the present state of the Thai monarchy. Marshall depended heavily on sources such as cables from the United States Embassy in Bangkok that were released by the self-proclaimed whistleblower website WikiLeaks. But such sources do not necessarily reduce the veracity of his interpretation of the monarchy. If anything, the conversations between the American ambassadors and several Thai personalities in high places only reaffirmed certain perceptions among Thais toward the monarchy.

From his childhood and now into the twilight years of his life, Thailand’s much respected King Bhumibol Adulyadej, according to Marshall, has embarked on a life-long project to transform the near-extinct monarchy into the most powerful institution in the country. But with the current political stalemate — one which has its roots deep in the complex relations between the royal institution and politics — Marshall implicitly raised a crucial question: Will the monarchy survive in the post-Bhumibol period? At the crux of this crisis lies the touchy subject of the royal succession. As much as the conservative royalists have attempted to project the royal transition as “normal,” the fact that they have gone on the offensive against anyone discussing this seems to insinuate the opposite. Marshall clearly points out why the transition has remained an aberration.

There is plenty more interesting material in the article which you can read here.

One Comment

  1. I strongly believe the election was a referendum on who supports the monarchy.No-one can persuade me any longer that the King is “widely revered” anymore.Thats if he ever really was.It seems to me that everyone knows who and why this conflict has occured.The gossip and whispers about Prince Vajiralongkorn are legendary and the Queens support for PAD as you mentioned has eroded whatever “reverence” anyone except ultra royalists would have had .But what about the King I hear you ask.Well over the past couple of years I have been asking the same questions to my Thai friends who are living overseas from Thailand.Do you really “love” the king ?,I ask.Even when you know he has been supportive of coups and massacres I foolishly ask. I discovered that once you know someone really well,then they would allow you to peel away the layers and find their real thoughts,and they are quite different from what the automatic and ingrained “we love the king” answer.Some are highly embarrased and just shake their heads.A few have warned me “to be careful what I say” but are never the less understanding of the question.But the majority of overseas Thai’s have answered me this way: “well Darren we are Thai,thats what we have to say”.