Serhat Ünaldi, a PhD candidate at at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin has a long and busy post at New Mandala, looking at the decline of the monarchy.
PPT has been pointing to this trend for some time, and is pleased to see a long article that tries to assess the move to establish succession for a declining monarchy with both the king and queen have been seriously ill and with neither ever likely to have the energy necessary to revive a flagging status.
For us, Ünaldi’s conclusion deserves attention:
Given that the chances of Rama X becoming King Vajiralongkorn are very high one must hope that the promoters of the monarchy have come to realise that royalism is past its prime and, considering the occurrence of overt attacks on the monarchy’s sacred charisma, that it must assume a lower profile to secure its survival. Seen from this angle, the succession would present a solution to, rather than a deepening of, the crisis of royal legitimacy. As the comparison between the birthday celebrations has shown, fewer people are interested in the next king than they are in the current monarchy and, consequently, they do not expect much from the heir to the throne. Lowering the monarchy’s profile would align the institution with these lowered public expectations – whereas a coercive show of force could prove ineffective or, worse than that, lead to disastrous results. Moreover such an institutional realignment would be more in line with modern ideas of how a 21st century monarchy should function.
That’s a point worth considering, especially if the next king can manage to keep his hands off politics. European monarchies have shown that dull princes can be average kings if they can resist the temptation to be politically interventionist. Can a new Thai king do that? And if he can, what does the military do if its raison d’etre for political intervention and murdering opponents is lost?