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.
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.